Father was a painter,
Mother was a painter.
They rhymed together
And were of like minds.
Father came from the north,
Mother lived on the Rhine.
There the son of a blacksmith
Courted the patrician’s daughter.
She was no fool
And made the right choice.
Her cheerful father
Was general of the cavalry
And son of a Rhinish art collector.
His family had been saving their coins
For over five hundred years now.
Now, father’s father
Was an anchor-smith.
He sounded his hammer song
In Wismar on the Baltic.
And received his old forge
From his father before him
He was really vexed
When his own son never
Became a smith.
That is my family tree
On both father’s and mother’s side
Here hangs the youngest apple
And isn’t he clever?
Once there was a young man that looked at the world with somewhat different eyes than those that lived around him. He dreamed at noon and around midnight thoughts would flutter out that those sitting around him found very foolish. They called him a butter yellow fool. But he believed he was a poet.
When they laughed at his verses he laughed too and they didn’t notice how much it hurt him. It hurt him so much that he went outside and walked to the Rhine whose muddy floodwaters were slapping against the shack on the old toll bridge. It was only a coincidence that he didn’t jump into the waters that time. It was only because he met a friend that said, “Come along with to the tavern!”
The Water Corpse
While on the way to elementary school in sixth grade I always encountered the banker Löwenstein. He was coming back from his morning ride wearing a cap, spats and swinging a whip. He was small and fat, wore a monocle in his left eye. The entire right side of his face was covered with a large blue-violet strawberry mark.
I said to myself, “That’s why he wears a monocle. If he wore a Pince-nez and there was some jolt the entire blue side of his nose would rub off.”
I was tormented with the thought that if I got too near him my jacket button would get stuck on his face and if I tried to pull it off his whole face would pop off! I dreamed of it during school hours and at night in bed. Finally I made a big detour and went to school down another street just to avoid him.
The Blue Indians
He had gone to a different university, had passed his exams. Then he had sat in a hole in Lorraine–busy as a junior attorney–Busy? Bah, he had set out in life thinking he would travel when he got out of college. He was popular with the women, and with those that loved a loose life and wild ways. His superior viewed him very unfavorably.
Oh yes, he worked, a bit here and there–for himself. But it was always what his superior called public nuisance cases. He sneaked away when he could, traveled to Paris. It was better at the house on Butte Sacrée than in court. He didn’t know for sure where it would all lead. It was certain that he would never be a jurist, attorney, judge or other public servant. But then, what should he do? He lived there, got into more debt every day–
He was an attorney down on the lower Rhine. The district court judge didn’t like him from the first day on, and even less with every week and every month.
That is why he hated the district court judge, like he hated everyone that couldn’t tolerate him. Today he smiled about it. Most certainly the district court judge was right. Why had he become an attorney? The district court judge didn’t give him much work, naturally only the most unpleasant and most boring. But it was only a little bit of work, God—three or four hours a day, and then going along to the tavern in the evening, so he could pay.
Also, there was being clerk of court one morning a week, and playing skat one evening a week. That was cheap, that was fair, but what did that have to do with legal training? So he didn’t play skat. He did go to the tavern, but only once and didn’t go again. He declared that it bored him.
—Boring? To him, to an attorney?—He didn’t go visiting either. Not with the mayor, the governor, the counselor of the consistory or the director of the university.
The district court judge talked to him, and he told the judge that he had seen the gentlemen in the tavern, a closer association wasn’t needed. Once and only once he was clerk of court at a hearing. When he laid the document down in front of the district court judge to sign, the judge became red, then pale and then red again.
And he asked:
“Herr, what is this?”
He answered, “My notes.”
The district court judge slammed the document down onto the table. Oh, he would have gladly torn it up if he could have, but the notes had to be written into the minutes of the hearing, they had to be. So he coughed and painfully signed it.
Then he said, once more pale, very pale, “In my twenty years—twenty years of practice as a Prussian Judge such sloppy work has never come before me.”
The attorney thought a bit, “I find it pretty bad as well.”
The district court judge stared at him, searched for something that would offend him. Finally he snarled, “Herr!—Herr! Go to a school teacher and learn how to write better!”
He replied, “Thanks, but it’s not worth the effort.”
He was useless. He always came to court an hour too late, skipped whenever he could. He forgot everything, was unreliable and awkward. He was impossible, entirely impossible and it was really the best when he stayed away entirely.
The district court judge was beside himself.
“Hopeless,” he growled, “Completely hopeless.”
But one time the judge had his revenge. He called him in, gave him a beautiful speech, cheerful, almost fatherly. He wanted to have a calm talk with him—sine ira et studio! (without anger and study) What was he really thinking? Where was all this going to lead?
Then he said, “I don’t think its going anywhere at all. Everything is boring to me.”
Then the district court judge took pity on him, gave him a good talking to, reproached him for all his crimes, placing them beautifully in the light. It was a fine dressing down and ironing.
Then he said scornfully, “Dear God, Herr District Court Justice, report it to the president of the Supreme Court! Write it down in my list of moral and professional qualities!”
That was it, the district court judge blew up.
“Herr,” he said. “Herr, who do you think I am? Do you think I’ve ruined your career? Me? You are getting the same beautiful “F” grade that I have written a hundred times! Do whatever you want!—Thank you!—You can go!”
It was a smooth and all around victory. That was why he hated the district court judge.
That was his nature now, driving everything to the limit, sensitive and thin skinned to every little word, taking offence at even the slightest provocation. He always said harsh things to others but couldn’t endure the softest rebuke or criticism himself.
Any work which another can do as well as myself, I gladly turn over to them.
Epilogue to Oscar Panizza
Moreover, he was lucky in everything he set his hand to, he was popular everywhere and made a point to go everywhere as well. He did whatever he could with whomever he could, drank, crammed, played tennis and rode. The longer he was at the university, the more he borrowed money. Soon he had debts like a cavalry captain, all on his happy face.
The Crucified Minstral
This face was smoothly shaven, narrow and sun burned. The eyes were of no special color, they could have been blue or green or even gray. Over the high forehead—lightly arching over delicate brows—confused strands of ash blonde hair fell. The lip was pulled back a bit under the half open mouth. —This face appeared young, appeared to be very young—and yet again it could have been older—but how old? The languid opal eyes laughed, harmless, almost good natured.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice