Adelbert von Chamisso: “The Toy of the Giant’s Child”
Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker, Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London: Edward Lumley. 1900.
The Toy of the Giant’s Child
Burg Niedeck is a mountain in Alsace, high and strong,
Where once a noble castle stood—the giants held it long;
Its very ruins now are lost, its site is waste and lone,
And if ye seek for giants there, they are all dead and gone.
The giant’s daughter once came forth the castle-gate before;
And played, with all a child’s delight, beside her father’s door;
Then sauntering down the precipice, the girl did gladly go,
To see, perchance, how matters went in the little world below.
With few and easy steps she passed the mountain and the wood;
At length near Haslach, at the place where mankind dwelt, she stood;
And many a town and village fair, and many a field so green,
Before her wondering eyes appeared; a strange and curious scene.
And as she gazed, in wonder lost, on all the scene around,
She saw a peasant at her feet, a-tilling of the ground;
The little creature crawled about so slowly here and there,
And, lighted by the morning sun, his plough shone bright and fair.
“Oh, pretty plaything!” cried the child, “I’ll take thee home with me;”
Then with her tiny hands she spread her kerchief on her knee,
And cradling horse, and man, and plough, all gently on her arm,
She bore them home with cautious steps, afraid to do them harm!
She hastes with joyous steps and quick (we know what children are),
And spying soon her father out, she shouted from afar:
“O father, dearest father, such a plaything I have found,
I never saw so fair a one on our own mountain ground.”
Her father sat at table then, and drank his wine so mild,
And smiling with a parent’s smile, he asks the happy child,
“What struggling creature hast thou brought so carefully to me?
Thou leap’st for very joy, my girl; come, open, let us see.”
She opes her kerchief carefully, and gladly you may deem,
And shews her eager sire the plough, the peasant, and his team;
And when she’d placed before his sight the new-found pretty toy,
She clasped her hands, and screamed aloud, and cried for very joy.
But her father looked quite seriously, and shaking slow his head,
What hast thou brought me home, my child? —this is no toy,” he said;
“Go, take it quickly back again, and put it down below;
The peasant is no plaything, girl, —how could’st thou think him so?
“So go, without a sigh or sob, and do my will,” he said;
“For know, without the peasant, girl, we none of us had bread:
‘Tis from the peasant’s hardy stock the race of giants are;
The peasant is no plaything, child—No!—God forbid he were!”