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Richard Dehmel, "Sermon for the People of a Metropolis" (1906) and "The New Dignity" (1903)

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A clever stork gently raised its leg
and chattered quite deliberately: no, no,
Highly regarded Mr. Professor, what counts on earth
is just to become more and more simple.
And so the animals, large and small,
wild and tame all together,
gave Mr. Professor their gracious advice,
when suddenly from this congregation of well-wishers
a beautifully adorned bird of paradise
flew up and chuckled: as I have come to know you,
dear artist friend, you will now pretend to yourself,
that you should embellish our Goddess nature,
and you will resent your new dignity
and want to become ever more crusty.
And then Mr. Professor growled something into his beard
and looked genuinely determined
and stretched in dismay all four limbs.
There appeared at last in his quarters
the wildest and most tame of animals:
a woman. She spoke: dear husband, your dignity
is of course an artificial dignity.
But then we humans never really act
as naturally as the rest of the beasts;
even the naked bride wears on her finger
a little ring as a chaste vow.
Look, with all our clothes, adornments and medals
the old sorceress wants to trick nature
so that her earthly costume ball
does not seem even more bestial.
And so, artist, simply let yourself be glorified;
and to keep your worshippers from becoming rude,
learn how to conduct yourself as a worthy role model,
since man wants—always to become more human.
Then the new Mr. Professor laughed,
bowed to his wife adoringly
and clipped his heavenly hair.
Since this time the high professors
of the German art academies
are no longer denounced as beasts of burden.

Source: Richard Dehmel, „Die neue Würde“ [“The New Dignity”] (1903), in Gesammelte Schriften in drei Bänden [Collected Writings in Three Volumes]. Berlin, 1913, vol. 1, pp. 106-09.

Translation: Richard Pettit

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