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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)

Pegasus in the Yoke

INTO a public fair—a cattle-fair, in short,

Where other things are bought and sold—ah, sad to tell!

A hungry poet one day brought

The Muse’s Pegasus, to sell.

Shrill neighed the hippogriff and clear,

And pranced, and reared, displaying his proud frame,

Till all exclaimed in wonder, who stood near,

“The noble, royal beast! But what a shame

His slender form by such a hateful pair

Of wings is spoiled! He’d set off a fine post-team well.”

“The race,” say others, “would be rare;

But who’d go posting through the air?”

And lose his money no one will.

A farmer mustered courage, though, at length,

“The wings, indeed,” he says, “will be no profit;

But them one might tie down, or crop them off; it

Then were a good horse for drawing—it has strength.

I’ll give you twenty pounds, sir, win or lose.”

The seller, too delighted to refuse,

Cried out, “Agreed!” and eagerly the offer seized.

Hans with his bargain trudged off home, well pleased.

The noble beast was harnessed in,

But felt th’ unwonted burden to be light,

And off he set with appetite for flight,

And soon his wild careering would begin,

And hurled the cart in proudest rage

Over a precipice’s edge.

“Well done!” thought Hans. “We wisdom from experience borrow;

I’ll trust the mad beast with no loads again.

I’ve passengers to take to-morrow;

He shall be put in leader of the train.

By using him, two horses I shall spare;

He’ll learn in time the collar, too, to bear.”

They went on well awhile. The horse was fleet,

And quickened up the rest; and arrow-swift the carriage flies.

But now, what next? With look turned to the skies,

And unaccustomed with firm hoof the ground to beat,

He leaves the sure track of the wheels,

True to the stronger nature which he feels,

And runs through marsh and moor, o’er planted field and plain;

And the same fury seizes all the train.

No call will help, no bridle hold them in,

Till, to the mortal fright of all within,

The coach, well shaken and well smashed, brings up

In sad plight on a steep hill’s top.

“This is not quite the thing! No, no!”

Says Hans, considering, with a frown.

“In this way I shall never make it go.

Let’s see if ’twill not tame the wild-fire down,

To work him hard, and keep him low.”

The trial’s made. The beast, so fair and trim,

Before three days are gone looks gaunt and grim,

And to a shadow shrunk. “I have it! I have found it now!”

Cries Hans. “Come on, now. Yoke me him

Beside my strongest ox before the plow.”

So said, so done. In droll procession now,

See ox and wingèd horse before the plow.

Unwilling steps the griffin, strains what little might

Of longing’s left in him, to take his fond old flight.

In vain: deliberately steps his neighbor,

And Phœbus’ high-souled steed must bend to his slow labor,

Till now, by long resistance spent his force,

His trembling limbs he can no longer trust,

And, bowed with shame, the noble, godlike horse

Falls to the ground, and rolls him in the dust.

“You curseèd beast!” Hans breaks out furious now,

And scolds and blusters, while he lays the blows on;

“You are too poor, then, even for the plow!

You rascal, so my ignorance to impose on!”

And while in this way angrily he goes on,

And swings the lash, behold! upon the way

A pleasant youth steps up so smart and gay.

A harp shakes ringing in his hand,

And through his glossy, parted hair

Winds glittering a golden band.

“Where now, friend, with that wondrous pair?”

From far off to the boor he spoke.

“The bird and ox together in that style?

I pray you, man, why, what a yoke!

But come, to try a little while,

Will you entrust your horse to me?

Look well: a wonder you shall see.”

The hippogriff’s unyoked, and with a smile

The youth springs lightsomely upon his back.

Scarce feels the beast the master’s certain hand,

But gnashes at his wings’ confining band,

And mounts, with lightning-look, the airy track.

No more the being that he was, but royally,

A spirit now, a god, up mounteth he;

Unfurls at once, as for their far storm-flight,

His splendid wings, and shoots to heaven with fierce, wild neigh;

And ere the eye can follow him, away

He melts into the clear blue height.