Bürger: "From the Peasant to His Illustrious Tyrant" (From German)

Gottfried August Bürger had a rather irritating life: a meager income, three catastrophic marriages (two of which were with sisters), and a huge problem with booze. He was also a poet. It began with his ballad Lenore which (although I do not feel it is worth translating, at least for me in this day and age) became a literary manifesto of Romanticism in its day. He also earned himself a reputation as "the people's poet" first by writing political essays against absolutism and tyranny, and then doing the same thing in verse (to even greater effect.) The following, written in 1773, is one such poem.

From the Peasant to his Illustrious Tyrant
By Gottfried August Bürger
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original German

Prince, who are you so shamelessly
To maul me down with wagon wheels,
To maim me with your horse?

Prince, who are you that through my flesh
Your friend, your unwhipped hunting hound
May jam his jaws and claws?

Who are you that your whooping hunt
Can drive me over crop and crag
Panting like some wild game?

The crop you trample with your hunt;
What you, your horse and dog devour,
That bread, Prince, is all mine!

Prince, you have never sweated out
The harvest heat with plow and rake.
Mine! Mine's the bread and work!

Pfah! Your authority from God?
God blesses; all you do is rob!
God did not send you, Tyrant.

The Original:

Der Bauer an seinen Durchlauchtigen Tyrannen

Wer bist du, Fürst, daß ohne Scheu
Zerrollen mich dein Wagenrad,
Zerschlagen darf dein Roß?

Wer bist du, Fürst, daß in mein Fleisch
Dein Freund, dein Jagdhund, ungebleut
Darf Klau' und Rachen hau'n?

Wer bist du, daß, durch Saat und Forst
Das Hurra deiner Jagd mich treibt,
Entatmet, wie das Wild? -

Die Saat, so deine Jagd zertritt,
Was Roß, und Hund, und du verschlingst,
Das Brot, du Fürst, ist mein.

Du Fürst hast nicht bei Egg' und Pflug,
Hast nicht den Erntetag durchschwitzt.
Mein, mein ist Fleiß und Brot! -

Ha! du wärst Obrigkeit von Gott?
Gott spendet Segen aus; du raubst!
Du nicht von Gott, Tyrann!

1 comment:

  1. Hans-Werner HattingAugust 30, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    I think in general the translation is good and fits the rhythm of the original. The only deviation is in the last line, where the German has a male rhyme (Tyránn) and you have a female rhyme - or do you stress tyrant on the second syllable?