Supplementary Appendix 67.1

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 Ass

How 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