II. “The New Dignity” (1903)
An artist had become a German professor,
with the prospect of further offices, titles and decorations;
and because he was by nature a sculptor,
there appeared before him a whole horde
of great, greatest and greatest of all animals,
which he was accustomed to modeling,
in order to congratulate him most graciously.
A baboon growled: Mr. Professor,
I hope you are now chiseling better and better!
Yes, yelled a donkey: one should perform one’s difficult duties,
Mr. Professor, more and more nobly.
An old plodding workhorse
whinnied with a contorted mouth:
Dear Mr. Professor, it is essential to carve in wood
with ever more truthfulness the suffering of existence.
A disciplined watchdog grumbled: bow wow—
A tom cat yowled in between: meow, meow—
Mr. Professor, the world is quite full of horror,
one must cut it clear to make it more beautiful.
Ugh! grunted a pig: I would like to plead,
Mr. Professor, for morals that are ever purer.
A few camels begged most strenuously:
Worthy Mr. Professor, kindly excuse us,
we recommend that you cast life’s malice
ever more clearly in bronze.
An elephant sounded his trumpet:
Highly esteemed Mr. Professor, I represent
the old wisdom of the Brahmins;
allow yourself to anticipate the ever more profound!
Eeech—squeaked one of two rabbits:
we want to advance ourselves higher and higher!
Four amused hamsters, however, cowered in a circle,
they snuffled in their overfed fashion:
Dear Mr. Professor, need teaches us to pray,
learn to knead your clay ever more purposefully!
And—warned a gobbling turkey:
Be, of course, more and more orderly!
Just the opposite! screeched a bearded vulture:
Be, naturally, more and more free!
A lion bellowed: I recommend only that you
assume an ever more proud posture!
A kangaroo hopping mysteriously
Walzed by and whistled its advice:
Mr. Professor, they only want to confuse you,
You must elaborate the form ever more elegantly.