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
 
An Asinine Election
By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
 
From “Latest Poems”

BEING tired of freedom for some time past,
  The beasts’ republic decided
To be with a single ruler at last
  As its absolute head provided.
 
Each kind of beast prepared for the strife;        5
  Electoral billets were written;
Intrigues on every side were rife;
  With party zeal all were bitten.
 
By long-eared gentry at its head
  The asses’ committee was aided;        10
Cockades, whose colors were black, gold, and red,
  They boastfully paraded.
 
A small party there was of friends of the horse,
  Who yet were afraid of voting,
So greatly they dreaded the outcry coarse        15
  The long-eared party denoting.
 
But when one of them ventured the horse to name
  As a candidate, greater and greater
Waxed the noise, and an old long-ear, to his shame,
  Shouted out, “Thou art only a traitor!        20
 
“A traitor art thou! in thy veins doth not flow
  One drop of asses’ blood proper.
No ass art thou, and I almost know
  That a foreign mare was thy dropper!
 
“From the zebra perchance thou art sprung; thy striped hide        25
  Quite answers the zebra’s description;
The nasal twang of thy voice is allied
  To the Hebrew as well as Egyptian.
 
“And if not a stranger, thou art, thou must own,
  A dull ass, of an intellect paltry;        30
The depths of ass-nature to thee are unknown;
  Thou hear’st not its mystical psalt’ry.
 
“But with sweet stupefaction my soul drinks in
  That sound which all others surpasses;
An ass am I, and each hair in the skin        35
  Of my tail the hair of an ass is.
 
“I am not a papist, I am not a slave;
  A German ass am I solely—
The same as my fathers, who all were so brave,
  So thoughtful, demure, and so holy.        40
 
“They were not addicted to doing ill,
  Or practising gallantry gaily,
But trotted off with the sack to the mill
  In frolicsome fashion daily.
 
“Our fathers still live. In the tomb only lie        45
  Their skins, their mortal covering;
Their happy spirits, high up in the sky,
  Complacently o’er us are hovering.
 
“Ye glorified asses, ye need not doubt
  That we fain would resemble you ever;        50
And from the path that duty points out
  We’ll swerve a finger’s breadth never.
 
“Oh, what a delight an ass to be,
  From such long-eared worthies descended!
From every housetop I’d fain shout with glee,        55
  ‘An ass I was born—how splendid!’
 
“The noble jackass who gave me birth
  Was of genuine German extraction;
From my mother, a German ass of worth,
  I sucked milk with great satisfaction.        60
 
“An ass am I, and fully intend,
  Like my fathers, who now are departed,
To stand by the asses—yes, stand to the end
  By the asses, so dear and true-hearted.
 
“And since I’m an ass, I advise you all round        65
  To choose your king from the asses;
A mighty ass-kingdom we thus will found,
  They being the governing classes.
 
“We all are asses. Hee-ha! Hee-ha!
  As ostlers we will not demean us;        70
Away with the horses! Long live, hurrah,
  The king of the asinine genus!”
 
Thus spake the patriot. Through the hall
  The asses cheered him proudly;
They all, in fact, were national,        75
  And with their hoofs stamped loudly.
 
An oaken wreath on the orator’s head
  They put as a decoration;
He wagged his tail (though nothing he said)
  With evident gratification.        80
 
 
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