Anxiety for the Future


Korf, whom worry easily attacks,
Can already see the skies
Filled by balloons of every size,
So all day he prepares whole stacks
Of draughts for bylaws and statutes
Of a society for resolute
Maintenance of a zone designed
To keep balloon-egress confined.

Yet even now he can smell doom:
His club already falls behind;
The air, it seems to him, goes blind,
All the landscape turns gloom and tomb.
Therefore he puts down his pen,
Turns on the light (they all will, THEN!)
And goes at once to Palmstrom's place;
They sit together, face to face.

After four long hours, finally,
This nightmare is overcome.
First to break the spell is Palmstrom:
"Be a man now, Korf;" says he,
"You've got hold of the wrong era;
As yet, this is a vain chimera
That tricks your intellect away,
Bobbing over your head today."

Korf recovers his own clear sight–
No one is flying in the golden light!
He snuffs his candle, silently;
Then, points to the sun suddenly
And speaks: "If not today, sometime!
One day you will no longer shine,
At least for us–it makes one's teeth
Chatter–the masses underneath! . . ."

Thereafter, von Korf once again
Sits in his room and takes his pen
Drawing up a vast design
For the protection of sunshine.


     German; trans. William Snodgrass


Christian Morgenstern, German, trans. William Snodgrass, Mademoiselle, Street & Smith Publications, 1961.