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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Songs of Hiddigeigei, the Tom-Cat
By Joseph Viktor von Scheffel (1826–1886)
 
From ‘The Trumpeter of Säkkingen’

I
BY the storms of fierce temptation
  Undisturbed I long have dwelt;
Yet e’en pattern stars of virtue
  Unexpected pangs have felt.
 
Hotter than in youth’s hot furnace,        5
  Dreams of yore steal in apace;
And the Cat’s winged yearnings journey,
  Unrestrained, o’er Time and Space.
 
Naples, land of light and wonder,
  Cup of nectar never dry!        10
To Sorrento I would hasten,
  On its topmost roof to lie.
 
Greets me dark Vesuvius; greets me
  The white sail upon the sea;
Birds of spring make sweetest concert        15
  In the budding olive-tree.
 
Toward the loggia steals Carmela,—
  Fairest of the feline race,—
And she softly pulls my whiskers,
  And she gazes in my face;        20
 
And my paw she gently presses;—
  Hark! I hear a growling noise:
Can it be the Bay’s hoarse murmur,
  Or Vesuvius’s distant voice?
 
Nay, Vesuvius’s voice is silent,        25
  For to-day he takes his rest.
In the yard, destruction breathing,
  Bays the dog of fiendish breast,—
 
Bays Francesco the Betrayer,
  Worst of all his evil race;        30
And I see my dream dissolving.
  Melting in the sky’s embrace.
 
II
EARTH once was untroubled by man, they say;
  Those days are over and fled,
When the forest primeval crackling lay        35
  ’Neath the mammoth’s mighty tread.
 
Ye may search throughout all the land in vain
  For the lion, the desert’s own;
In sooth we are settled now, ’tis plain,
  In a truly temperate zone.        40
 
The palm is borne, in life and in verse,
  By neither the Great nor the Few:
The world grows weaker and ever worse,
  ’Tis the day of the Small and the New.
 
When we Cats are silenced, ariseth the Mouse,        45
  But she too must pack and begone;
And the Infusoria’s Royal House
  Shall triumph, at last, alone.
 
III
NEAR the close of his existence
  Hiddigeigei stands and sighs;        50
Death draws nigh with fell insistence,
  Ruthlessly to close his eyes.
 
Fain from out his wisdom’s treasure,
  Counsels for his race he’d draw,
That amid life’s changeful measure        55
  They might find some settled law.
 
Fain their path through life he’d soften:
  Rough it lies and strewn with stones;
E’en the old and wise may often
  Stumble there, and break their bones.        60
 
Life with many brawls is cumbered,
  Useless wounds and useless pain;
Cats both black and brave unnumbered
  Have for naught been foully slain.
 
Ah, in vain our tales of sorrow!        65
  Hark! I hear the laugh of youth.
Fools to-day and fools to-morrow,
  Woe alone will teach them truth.
 
All in vain is history’s teaching:
  Listen how they laugh again!        70
Hiddigeigei’s lore and preaching
  Locked in silence must remain.
 
IV
SOON life’s thread must break and ravel;
  Weak this arm, once strong and brave;
In the scene of all my travail,        75
  In the granary, dig my grave.
 
Warlike glory there I won me;
  All the fight’s fierce joy was mine:
Lay my shield and lance upon me,
  As the last of all my line.        80
 
Ay, the last! The children’s merit
  Like their sires’ can never grow:
Naught they know of strife of spirit;
  Upright are they, dull and slow.
 
Dull and meagre; stiffly, slowly,        85
  Move their minds, of force bereft;
Few indeed will keep as holy
  The bequest their sires have left.
 
Yet once more, in days far distant,
  When at rest I long have lain,        90
One fierce caterwaul insistent
  Through your ranks shall ring again:—
 
“Flee, ye fools, from worse than ruin!”
  Hark to Hiddigeigei’s cry;
Hark, his wrathful ghostly mewing:—        95
  “Flee from mediocrity!”
 
 
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