Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > German
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XII: German
 
Equality of Man and Beast
By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
 
From “Atta Troll”

WOULD that I, alas! could once more
Lick thy well-belovèd muzzle,
My dear Mumma, which so sweetly
Stroked me over, as with honey!
 
Would that I again could snuffle        5
That sweet smell, thy own peculiar,
Oh, my dear and swarthy Mumma,
Charming as the scent of roses!
 
But, alas! my Mumma’s pining
In the fetters of those rascals,        10
Who, the name of men adopting,
Deem themselves creation’s masters.
 
Death and hell! these men unworthy,
Aristocracy’s arch-emblems,
Look down on the an’mal kingdom        15
Proudly and disdainfully;
 
Take away our wives and children,
Fetter us, ill-treat us, even
Kill us, for the sake of selling
Our poor hide and our poor carcass!        20
 
And they think themselves permitted
Wicked deeds like this to practise
’Gainst us bears especially;
And the “rights of man” they call it!
 
“Rights of man,” indeed! Fine rights, these!        25
Tell me who bestow’d them on you?
Nature certainly ne’er did so,
For she’s not unnatural!
 
“Rights of man,” indeed! Who gave you
This great privilege, I wonder?        30
Reason certainly ne’er did so,
For she’s not unreasonable!
 
Men, pray, are ye any better
Than we others, just for eating
All your dinners boil’d or roasted?        35
In a raw state we eat ours;
 
Yet is the result the same
To us both. No, food can never
Make one noble; he is noble
Who both nobly feels and acteth.        40
 
Men, pray are ye any better
Just because the arts and science
With success ye follow? We, now,
Never give ourselves the trouble.
 
Are there not such things as learnèd        45
Dogs, and horses too, who reckon
Just like councilors of commerce?
Do not hares the drum play finely?
 
Are not many beavers adepts
In the art of hydrostatics?        50
Were not clysters first invented
By the cleverness of storks?
 
Write not asses criticisms?
Are not apes all good comedians?
Is there any greater mimic        55
Than Batavia, long-tail’d monkey?
 
Are not nightingales good singers?
And is Freiligrath a poet
Who can sing of lions better
Than his countryman the camel?        60
 
I myself the art of dancing
Have advanced as much as Raumer
That of writing. Writes he better
Than I dance—yes, I, the bear?
 
Men, why are ye any better        65
Than we others? Upright hold ye,
It is true, your heads, but in them
Low-born thoughts are ever creeping.
 
Men, pray are ye any better
Than are we, because your skin is        70
Smooth and glist’ning? This advantage
Ye but share with every serpent.
 
Human race, two-leggèd serpents!
Well I see the reason why ye
Breeches wear; with foreign wool ye        75
Hide your serpent-nakedness!
 
Children, guard yourselves against those
Hairless and misshapen creatures!
My dear daughters, never marry
Any monster that wears breeches!
*        *        *        *        *
        80
 
If each bear but thought as I do,
If all beasts but thought so too,
With united forces would we
Take up arms against the tyrants.
 
Then the bear would form alliance        85
With the horse, the elephant
Twine his trunk in loving fashion
Round the valiant ox’s horn.
 
Bear and wolf of every color,
Goat and monkey, e’en the hare,        90
For a time would work in common,
And our triumph would be certain.
 
Union! union is th’ essential
Requisite. Alone, we’re conquered
Easily, but, joined together,        95
We would overreach the tyrants.
 
Union! Union! And we’ll triumph,
And monopoly’s vile sway
Be o’erthrown, and we’ll establish
A just kingdom for us beasts.        100
 
Full equality for all, then,
Of God’s creatures, irrespective
Of their faith, or skin, or odor,
Be its fundamental maxim!
 
Strict equality! Each donkey        105
Be entitled to high office;
On the other hand, the lion
Carry to the mill the sack.
 
As respects the dog, indeed he
Is a very servile rascal,        110
Since for centuries has man
Like a dog ne’er ceased to treat him.
 
Yet in our free state we’ll give him
Once again his olden rights,
His prescriptive birthright, and he        115
Soon again will be ennobled.
 
Yes, the Jews shall then enjoy, too,
All the rights of citizens,
And by law be made the equals
Of all other sucking creatures.        120
 
Only, dancing in the market
For the Jew shall not be lawful;
This amendment I insist on
In the interest of my art.
 
For a sense of style, of rigid        125
Plastic art in motion’s wanting
To that race, who really ruin
What there is of public taste.
 
 
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