Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Germany
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII.  1876–79.
 
Mohrin, the Lake
The Great Crab in Lake Mohrin
August Kopisch (1799–1853)
 
Translated by C. T. Brooks

IN the town of Mohrin they never sleep,
But day and night in the lake they peep:
May no good Christian child live to see
The day when once the great crab gets free!
  He ’s fastened in the lake there        5
    With fetters down below,
  Else would he work the country
    A dreadful, dreadful woe!
 
The creature ’s miles in length, they say,
And often turns over, and woe ’s the day        10
When he once gets loose: he ’s on the land,—
No power can ever his march withstand:
  And, as advancing backward,
    The way with crabs, you know,
  Why backward, nolens volens,        15
    All things must with him go.
 
Such going backwards that will be!
The meat you put in your mouth, d’ ye see?
Will not stay there, but straightway trot
Back to the plate, and then to the pot!        20
  The bread will turn to wheat again,
    The meal will turn to corn,
  And everything will be just what
    It was before ’t was born.
 
The timber from the house ’ll get free,        25
And back to the woods, a rustling tree;
The tree will creep back to a shoot, as of yore,
The mortar turn to lime once more,
  The ox will be a calf again,
    The calf go back to the cow,        30
  And the cow again, in her turn,
    Be what the calf is now!
 
Back to the flower will go the wax,
The shirt on the back will turn to flax,
The flax to linseed change, and then        35
Into the ground creep back again.
  And first the Burgomaster
    Will suffer change, they say;
  The people all shall see him
    A sucking child that day.        40
 
And after him the councilmen,
And all the talented writers, then;
And the corporation stripped shall be
Of its corporate capacity.
  The rector on the school-bench        45
    Will sit, a scholar small;
  In short, the world grow back again
    To children, one and all.
 
All shall go back to earth’s green sod,
And each, with Adam, be a clod.        50
The winged tribes will keep longest about,
But they, too, will at last give out.
  The hen will be a chicken,
    And into the egg creep back,
  Which the great crab instanter        55
    With his great tail will crack.
 
Heaven grant we never so far may get!
The world is living and thriving yet:
Good care is taken by the powers that be
That the old great crab shall never be free.        60
  Just think how this poor ditty
    Would share the wretched fate,
  Drawn through Fame’s trumpet’s mouthpiece
    Back to the ink-horn straight!
 
 
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