Schiller: “Pegasus in Harness”




Once to a horse-fair,—it may perhaps have been
Where other things are bought and sold,—I mean
At the Haymarket,—there the muses' horse
A hungry poet brought—to sell, of course.

'The hippogriff neighed shrilly, loudly,
And reared upon his hind-legs proudly;
In utter wonderment each stood and cried:
"The noble regal beast!" But, woe betide!

Two hideous wings his slender form deface,
The finest team he else would not disgrace.
"The breed," said they, "is doubtless rare,
But who would travel through the air?"

Not one of them would risk his gold.
At length a farmer grew more bold:
"As for his wings, I of no use should find them,
But then how easy 'tis to clip or bind them!

The horse for drawing may be useful found,—
So, friend, I don't mind giving twenty pound!"
The other glad to sell his merchandise,
Cried, "Done!"—and Hans rode off upon his prize.

The noble creature was, ere long, put-to,
But scarcely felt the unaccustomed load,
Than, panting to soar upwards, off he flew,
And, filled with honest anger, overthrew
The cart where an abyss just met the road.

"Ho! ho!" thought Hans: "No cart to this mad beast
I'll trust. Experience makes one wise at least.
To drive the coach to-morrow now my course is,
And he as leader in the team shall go.

The lively fellow'll save me full two horses;
As years pass on, he'll doubtless tamer grow."
All went on well at first. The nimble steed
His partners roused,—like lightning was their speed.

What happened next? Toward heaven was turned his eye,—
Unused across the solid ground to fly,
He quitted soon the safe and beaten course,
And true to nature's strong resistless force,

Ran over bog and moor, o'er hedge and pasture tilled;
An equal madness soon the other horses filled—
No reins could hold them in, no help was near,
Till,—only picture the poor travellers' fear!—

The coach, well shaken, and completely wrecked,
Upon a hill's steep top at length was checked.

"If this is always sure to be the case,"
Hans cried, and cut a very sorry face,
"He'll never do to draw a coach or wagon;
Let's see if we can't tame the fiery dragon
By means of heavy work and little food."

And so the plan was tried.—But what ensued?
The handsome beast, before three days had passed,
Wasted to nothing. "Stay! I see at last!"
Cried Hans. "Be quick, you fellows! yoke him now
With my most sturdy ox before the plough."

No sooner said than done. In union queer
Together yoked were soon winged horse and steer.
The griffin pranced with rage, and his remaining might
Exerted to resume his old-accustomed flight.

'Twas all in vain—his partner stepped with circumspection,
And Phoebus' haughty steed must follow his direction;
Until at last, by long resistance spent,
When strength his limbs no longer was controlling,
The noble creature, with affliction bent,
Fell to the ground, and in the dust lay rolling.

"Accursed beast!" at length with fury mad
Hans shouted, while he soundly plied the lash,—
"Even for ploughing, then, thou art too bad!—
That fellow was a rogue to sell such trash!"

Ere yet his heavy blows had ceased to fly,
A brisk and merry youth by chance came by.
A lute was tinkling in his hand,
And through his light and flowing hair
Was twined with grace a golden band.

"Whither, my friend, with that strange pair?"
From far he to the peasant cried.
"A bird and ox to one rope tied—
Was such a team e'er heard of, pray?

Thy horse's worth I'd fain essay;
Just for one moment lend him me,—
Observe, and thou shalt wonders see!"

The hippogriff was loosened from the plough,
Upon his back the smiling youth leaped now;
No sooner did the creature understand
That he was guided by a master-hand,
Than 'ginst his bit he champed, and upward soared
While lightning from his flaming eyes outpoured.

No longer the same being, royally
A spirit, ay, a god, ascended he,
Spread in a moment to the stormy wind
His noble wings, and left the earth behind,
And, ere the eye could follow him,
Had vanished in the heavens dim.