Christian Gellert, “Der grüne Esel,” Fabeln und Erzählungen (Leipzig 1746). Translation here from The Dublin University Magazine 7 (1836) 41 (May 1836), 521–22 (illustration from Gustav Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationallitteratur, [Marburg 1887], 151):
The Green AssHow oft a demi-booby, if he choose A little recreation, may amuse Himself by practising upon the folly Of those who happen to be boobies wholly! One of those demi-boobies, primed with whim, Once took an Ass and painted him All over of a beautiful pea-green, Then led him through the streets as a phenomenon. The populace, of course, began to gape and stare — "Good lack!" they all exclaimed, "what an uncommon 'un! Was ever such a wonder seen Before as this is, here or anywhere? He's positively of a bright pea-green! Our annalists must hand it down, That in this most remarkable of periods A Green Ass was paraded through out town!" Meanwhile the streets and lanes are filled with myriads; They stretch their necks from cellars under To see the Ass, the latest wonder! From every balcony and casement Groups gaze upon the Ass in dumb amazement. They throng the roofs both left and right To snatch one glimpse of the astounding sight! For all are eager to behold him pass, But all can not accompany the Ass. The first two days no query could be heard But, "Have you seen the Pea-green Ass?" On other topics there was scarce a word From any man of any class. All raved and dreamed about the Pea-green Ass. What talk! what clack and clatter! what Remarks were people heard to pass, Both of amaze and admiration! The sick, the bed-rid even, forgot Their pains whene'er the Pea-green Ass Became the theme of conversation. And when the mother or the nursery lass Desired to lull the restless babe asleep, She ceased to sing about the Coal-black Sheep, And told the story of the Pea-green Ass. But lo! three days were scarcely gone Ere every soul began to tire Upon the subject; and the fourth day none Were found to testify the least desire To see the pea-green Wonder longer; For newer curiosities were talked of, And other fresh anxieties grew stronger; And so the Pea-green Ass was walked off. However silly anything may be, If new, 'tis sure to catch immediately. In vain philosophers declaim; The world has always been the same. Experience of his folly is the mirror Wherein each man must wait to see his error: Nor need our lecturers idly fancy That all depends on a didactic tone: This is no part of Nature's necromancy — She works improvements but by Time alone.
© 2014 Doug Stott