My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology

  Another Poem Translation

Erich Kästner (1899-1974). German writer, best known for his YA fiction, but he also wrote adult books and poetry, often with satirical tones. He became a pacifist after WW1 and thus he was at odds with Hitler's Reich albeit he never fled Germany. His books were forbidden, though, and published in Switzerland.

The poem represents the status of science at about 1930.

You can find more information about Erich Kästner here.

Fortschritt der Menschheit
(Progress of Mankind)

Once, the guys sat in the trees,
Ugly, and with angry faces.
They were coaxed out of the wood;
And their world was storeyed up
Right to the thirtieth floor.

There now they sat, fled from the fleas,
In central heated rooms.
There now they sit, using the phone,
And using still the same ol' tone
As back in jungle trees.

They listen far, they watch TV.
They are in touch with the universe.
They brush their teeth. They breathe clean air.
The earth is an educated star
With lots of water flushing.

They shoot letters through a tube,
And hunt and breed microbes.
They equip nature with comfort;
And rocket right up to the sky
And stay there for two weeks.

They turn to cotton the remains
Of what their body didn't digest.
They cleave atoms and they heal incest,
And divine by analysis of style
That Caesar had flat feet.

Thus they created with head and mouth
Progression of mankind.
But that aside,
And seen by light, they still remain
The same ol' hairy apes.

For Tess Gerritsen who recently had to suffer from someone who obviously has problems with human evolution.

Translation is mine, done right on the spot, because her blogpost reminded me of the poem.
In case someone is interested in the original:

Einst haben die Kerls auf den Bäumen gehockt,
behaart und mit böser Visage.
Dann hat man sie aus dem Urwald gelockt
und die Welt asphaltiert und aufgestockt,
bis zur dreißigsten Etage.

Da saßen sie nun, den Flöhen entflohn,
in zentralgeheizten Räumen.
Da sitzen sie nun am Telefon.
Und es herrscht noch genau derselbe Ton
wie seinerzeit auf den Bäumen.

Sie hören weit. Sie sehen fern.
Sie sind mit dem Weltall in Fühlung.
Sie putzen die Zähne. Sie atmen modern.
Die Erde ist ein gebildeter Stern
mit sehr viel Wasserspülung.

Sie schießen die Briefschaften durch ein Rohr.
Sie jagen und züchten Mikroben.
Sie versehn die Natur mit allem Komfort.
Sie fliegen steil in den Himmel empor
und bleiben zwei Wochen oben.

Was ihre Verdauung übrig lässt,
das verarbeiten sie zu Watte.
Sie spalten Atome. Sie heilen Inzest.
Und sie stellen durch Stiluntersuchungen fest,
dass Cäsar Plattfüße hatte.

So haben sie mit dem Kopf und dem Mund
den Fortschritt der Menschheit geschaffen.
Davon mal abgesehen und
bei Lichte betrachtet sind sie im Grund
noch immer die alten Affen.
Not surprised to hear about Tess's problems with readers. If people *want* to be offended they will be. If someone decided to make an archaeologist the murderer, I'd just applaud and laugh :-)

In general, the will to be offended carries to all areas. At one re-enactment show, I saw a parent drag his child away from our camp saying 'Come away from those Romans - they killed Jesus!' Never mind I do Late Romans, and many were Christian (including my own character). Duh.
Oh dear. In the Middle Ages the Jews got the blame for that particular death, but that's not PC today, so the Romans have to take it. :)
Guten Tag from Alaska! I've really enjoyed your blog. My sweet mother-in-law is German, so we are acquinting our children with Germany as much as we can. I was also a history major in college. I've enjoyed your intelligent comments on Kristin Nelson's blog too.
Hi Kimber An,

I remember you from Forward Motion. I hope your Star Captain's Daughter makes good progress. Is Junior still trying to get her head through the wall, metaphorically speaking? :)
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The Lost Fort is a travel journal and history blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, as well as some geology, illustrated with photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.
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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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