Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Ballad of Imitative Instinct

This is a translation of the German poem "Die Ballade vom Nachahmungstrieb" by Erich Kästner. Unfortunately - due to translating - cadence and rhyme of the poem got lost. Nevertheless the statement of the poem stays the same and it is definitely worth thinking about it.

The Ballad of Imitative Instinct

It is true after all: nothing spoils a man like poison! The human being, and be he still a minor, is, concerning the vices of the world, of quick apprehension and eager to catch on.

In February, I don’t recall the exact day, it so happened that the children playing in the backyard, decided upon a sudden inspiration by one of them, to hang Naumann’s little Fritz by his neck.

They were accustomed to the stories of police and murder from the news. And so they came to the conclusion that it was proper to execute Naumann for, what they called, the crime of robbery.

They adjusted the rope. Karl was the Pastor, lamenting a lot, and telling him that if he were to scream, the others would call him a spoil sport.

Fritz Naumann expressed no worries. The others led him along, gravity on their faces. They flung the rope over the carpet rail. And then they began to pull him in the air.

He struggled. It was too late. He dangled. They fixed their end of the rope. Fritz twitched, because he still had a little life left. A young girl pinched him in the leg.

He fidgeted noiselessly and moments later a children’s game turned murder. Realizing this the seven little rogues ran away terrified.

Nobody yet knew about the poor child’s fate. The yard was quiet. The sky was red as blood. Little Naumann was swaying in the breeze. He didn’t feel it. As he was dead.

Widow Zickler, who shuffled past the scene, ran across the street and started yelling, although yelling wasn’t approved of in that street. And around six the police appeared.

The mother fainted in front of her boy. Both were swiftly taken inside. Karl, who was arrested, coldly stated: “we just did like the grown-ups do”.

* * * * * * *

Erich Kästner (February 23, 1899 – July 29, 1974) was one of the most famous German authors, screenplay writers, and satirists of the 20th century. His popularity in Germany is primarily due to his humorous and perceptive children's literature and his often satirical poetry. “Die Ballade vom Nachahmungstrieb” (The Ballad of Imitative Instinct) is one of his most famous poems. Some of his other works are: “Emil and the Detectives”, “Lottie and Lisa” (Filmed as “The parent Trap”), “Fabian, the story of a Moralist” and “The flying Classroom”

No comments: