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  • Humpty Dumpty. Out: Alice in the mirror land of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson).With illustrations of John Tenniel
  • The old man with a beard. Out: Book of Nonsense of Edward Lear
  • Kannitverstan. Out: Kannitverstan and other stories. J.P. lever with an illustration of Ludwig Richter

 

Alice behind the mirrors
From this:
Humpty Dumpty

But the egg got bigger and bigger, and when she stood only a few meters away from him, she saw that it had eyes and a nose and a mouth. And when she stood very close to it, she saw clearly that it was Humpty Dumpty himself. "It can't be anyone else," she said to herself. "I'm as sure of it as if his name were written on his face."
The name could easily have been written a hundred times on that big face.
Humpty Dumpty sat cross-legged like a Turk on the edge of a high wall - and it was so narrow that Alice couldn't understand how to keep his balance. Since his eyes were always looking in the opposite direction and he didn't take the slightest notice of her, she finally believed that he was just a stuffed figure.
"And how exactly it looks like an egg!" she said aloud and held her hand ready to catch him, because she expected at any moment that he would fall.
"That's very annoying," said Humpty Dumpty, after a long silence, not looking at Alice when he spoke to her, "when someone calls you an egg, really."
"I just said you were like an egg, sir," Alice explained gently, "and some eggs are very pretty," she added. She hoped this would turn her comment into some kind of compliment.
"Some people," said Humpty Dumpty, looking away from her as always, have no more sense than an infant. "
Alice didn't know what to say about it; she didn't feel hit at all because he never said anything to her; his last remark was even apparently addressed to a tree. So she stood and mumbled the nursery rhyme softly to herself:


Illustration: John Tenniel

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again

(Goggle smugglers sat on the wall,
Goggle smuggled fell on the sand
Then the king sent all his horsemen,
But no one can smuggle Goggle back on the wall)
(Poem translated by Christian Enzensberger)

"Don't talk to yourself like that," said Humpty Dumpty, looking at her for the first time. "Better tell me your name and job."
"My name is Alice, but -"
"That's a pretty stupid name," interrupted Humpty Dumpty impatiently. "What does it mean?"
"Does a name have to mean something?" Alice asked doubtfully.
"Of course," said Humpty Dumpty, and gave a short laugh. "My name means my body shape - and it's a very beautiful, good shape. With your name you could have almost any shape."
"Why are you sitting out here all alone?" Alice asked because she didn't want to argue.
"Well, because nobody is with me!" called Humpty Dumpty. "Did you think I didn't know the answer to that? Ask something else!"
"Don't you think you'd be safer down there on the floor?" Alice went on, not at all with the intention of asking him puzzles, but only because she was concerned about the strange being in her good-naturedness. "This wall is really very narrow."
"What a tremendously easy puzzles you pose!" growled Humpty Dumpty. "Of course I don't think so. If I ever fall off - which of course I don't - but if I fall," he chuckled here, looking so grand and solemn that Alice almost laughed out loud. "If I really fell, -" he continued, "then the king has promised me - ah, you can go pale if you want! You didn't think I would say that, did you? The king has me promised in person, - that - that "
"He'll send all of his riders," Alice interrupted, a little carelessly.
"That is unheard of!" cried Humpty Dumpty in sudden anger. "You were listening at doors - and behind trees - and through chimneys - otherwise you wouldn't be able to know."
"Oh no, not at all," said Alice very gently, "it's in a book."
"Oh then! You can write things like that in a book," said Humpty Dumpty, more calmly again. "You call something like that 'History of England'. Now look at me carefully: I'm the one who talked to a king. That's me! You may never see one like that again; and to show you that I'm not proud, I allow you to shake my hand. " He grinned from ear to ear as he leaned over (almost falling off the wall) and held out his hand to Alice. She watched him anxiously as she took his hand.
"If he smiles just a little more the ends of his mouth must meet backwards," she thought, "and then I don't know what is happening to his head. I'm afraid it will fall off."
"Yes, all of his riders," continued Humpty Dumpty. "You'd pick me up in a moment, yeah! But this conversation is going on a little too quickly. Let's get back to the penultimate remark."
"I'm afraid I can't remember exactly," said Alice, very politely.
"In that case we can start over," said Humpty Dumpty, "and now it's my turn to choose a subject -" (He talks about it almost as if it were a board game, thought Alice.) "So So here's a question for you. How old did you say you are? "
Alice did a quick calculation and said, "Seven years and six months."
"Fasch!" exclaimed Humpty Dumpty triumphantly. "You didn't say anything like that!"
"I thought you meant how old I am," Alice explained.
"If I had meant that, I would have said that!" replied Humpty Dumpty.
Since Alice didn't want to argue again, she preferred to keep quiet.
"Seven years and six months," repeated Humpty Dumpty thoughtfully. "It's a very awkward age. If you had taken my advice, I would have told you, 'Don't get that old, stop at seven' - but it's too late now."
"I never take advice when I grow!" said Alice angrily.
"Are you too proud for that?" asked her opposite.
These suspicions enraged Alice even more.
"I mean," she said, "that there is nothing you can do about getting older."
"You may not," said Humpty Dumpty. "You're not a man, you're a girl. If you'd only tried properly, you might have stopped at seven."
"What a nice belt you're wearing," Alice suddenly remarked (she thought you had talked enough about age and if you really took turns choosing topics it was her turn), "or actually, I should have said , a nice tie. No, I mean, it's a belt. I beg your pardon! " she added, in great embarrassment, for Humpty Dumpty looked very offended and she was beginning to wish that she had chosen another subject. If only I knew, she thought to herself, where his neck and where his waist is!
Humpty Dumpty was evidently very angry, although he said nothing for a few minutes. When he did speak again, his voice had turned into a deep rumble.
"It is - very - annoying," he said at last, "when someone cannot tell a tie from a belt."
"I know I am very stupid," said Alice, in a tone so humble that Humpty Dumpty was atoned.
"It is a tie, my child, and a very beautiful one, as you quite rightly say. It is a present from the white king and queen. What do you say now?"
"Really?" Alice said very happily that she had finally chosen a good subject.
"You gave them to me," continued Humpty Dumpty thoughtfully, slapping one leg over the other and folding his hands over one knee, "on my Un birthday
given. "
"I beg your pardon?" Alice asked in astonishment.
"Well," said Humpty Dumpty, making the gesture of handing over.
"I mean what's an un-birthday present?"
"Of course a present that you get when it's not your birthday."
Alice thought a little. "I prefer birthday presents," she said at last.
"You don't know what you're talking about!" called Humpty Dumpty. "How many days are there in the year?"
"365," said Alice.
"And how many birthdays do you have?"
"One."
"And if you subtract one from 365, what's left?"
"364 of course."
Humpty Dumpty looked dubious. "I'd rather have calculated that on paper," he said. Alice had to laugh as she took out her notebook and demonstrated the subtraction for him:

365
1
---
364

Humpty Dumpty took the book and studied it carefully.
"That seems to have been calculated correctly -" he began. .
"You think it's wrong," interrupted Alice.
"Of course," said Humpty Dumpty, happily, as she turned it over to him. "I immediately thought it looked a bit strange. As I said, it seems to have been done right, although I don't have time to look it over now. - And it shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days on which you can give birthdays can get. "
"Of course," said Alice.
"And only one for birthday presents. That means fame to you."
"I don't know what you mean by 'fame'," said Alice.
Humpty Dumpty smiled disdainfully.
"Of course you don't know that as long as I haven't told you. I mean, now you're beaten."
"But 'fame' doesn't mean you're beaten," objected Alice.
"When I use a word," said Humpty Dumpty, rather scornfully, "it means exactly what I want it to mean - nothing more, nothing less."
"The only question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The only question is," replied Humpty Dumpty, "who is the master - only that."
Alice was too amazed to say anything.
So Humpty Dumpty began again after a while: "Some words are very stubborn - especially verbs. They are the proudest. You can do anything with adjectives, but not with verbs. But I can deal with the whole of society; impenetrability! That's mine Opinion!"
"Won't you tell me, please, what that means?" asked Alice.
"Now you speak like a sane child," said Humpty Dumpty, looking very pleased.
"By 'impenetrability' I mean that we've talked enough about the matter and that you'd better say what you're up to now. Because I don't think you will want to stay here the rest of your life!"
"That word should mean a lot at once," said Alice thoughtfully.
"When I put so much work on a word," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay him extra for it."
"Aha," said Alice. She was far too confused to say anything else.
"Yes, just watch them crowd around me on Saturday night," continued Humpty Dumpty, tilting his head from side to side, "to get their weekly wages."
(Alice did not dare to ask him how he would pay her; and therefore, you will understand that, I cannot tell you either.)
"You seem very good at explaining words, sir," said Alice; "would you be so kind as to explain to me what the poem 'Jabberwock' means?"
"Let me hear it," said Humpty Dumpty, "I can explain all the poems that have ever been invented - and a great many that have not yet been invented."
That sounded very hopeful, so Alice recited the first verse:

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrave. "

(It was digestible, and glass cradles
Rotten gorkicht in the mind;
The pluckerwank was completely elump,
And they gave sweat frieze.
Poem and the following paragraph translated by Christian Enzensberger)

"That's enough to start with," interrupted Humpty Dumpty, "there are a lot of difficult words in there."
"That fits very well," said Alice, "and 'glass'?"
"'Glass' means 'smooth and wet'. It's like a box, you understand: two meanings are put together to form one word."
"I get it now!" Alice remarked thoughtfully. "And what are 'Wieben'?"
"So 'Wieben' are something like badgers - and like lizards - and something like corkscrews."
"But they must be very strange creatures."
"I suppose so," said Humpty Dumpty; "They also build their nests under sundials - and besides, they only eat cheese."
"And what is 'rottern' and 'gorkicht'?"
"'Rottern' is the same as 'rotating', that is: turning quickly. 'Gorkicht' means everything that bores into cork."

 

"And then a 'Gem' is probably the free space around a sundial of the kind that you often find in a park?" asked Alice, puzzled by her astuteness.
"Of course. This place is called 'Gemank', because you can go around it to the right, you can go around it to the left -"
"But you can't go under it," concluded Alice.
"Exactly that. Well then: 'elump' means miserable and ragged '(again a box word, as you can see). A' pluckerwank 'is a lean, unsightly bird with its feathers growing all over the place - he sees, for example like a living mop. "
"And the 'gave Schweisel'?" asked Alice; "if it doesn't get too much for you."
"Well, a 'Schweisel' is a kind of green pig; but I'm not exactly sure about 'gabben'. But I think it's abbreviated and means 'off the road' - something like 'lost', you understand?"
"And what does 'they drive' mean?"
"Well, 'drifting' is a cross between barking and sneezing, accompanied by whistling; maybe you hear something drifting - over there in the forest, for example - and then you won't ask any further. Who taught you all that difficult stuff ? "
"I read it in a book. But someone recited a much easier poem for me. I think it was Zwiddeldei."
"As for poetry," said Humpty Dumpty, holding out one of his large hands, "I can recite it as well as anyone when it comes down to it."
"Oh, it doesn't matter," says Alice quickly; she hoped to hold him back.
"The piece I want to recite to you," he continued unconcerned, "was written solely for your entertainment ..."
Alice felt that in this case she really had to listen. So she sat down and said, rather sadly, "Thank you very much."

'In winter, when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight -

(In winter when it's snowing outside
I sing this song that delights you -
Poem translated by Christian Enzensberger)

"I just don't sing it," he added explanatory.
"I can see that," said Alice.
"If you can see whether I am singing or not, then you have sharper eyes than most other people," said Humpty Dumpty sternly.
Alice was silent.

'In spring, when woods are getting green,
I'll try and tell you what I mean. '

("In the spring, when the leaves come out,
Will you get it explained by me?
Poem translated by Christian Enzensberger)

"Thank you very much," said Alice.

"In summer, when the days are long,
Perhaps you'll understand the song:

In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink, and write it down. "

("In summer, when the sun is shining,
Will you understand what it means;

In autumn, when the leaves are blowing,
You should write it down there.
translated by Christian Enzensberger)

"Gladly, if I can remember it that long," said Alice.
"You don't always need to make interferences," said Humpty Dumpty. "You have no point and take me out of the text."

"I sent a message to the fish:
I told them "This is what I wish."
The little fishes of the sea,
They sent an answer back to me.
The little fishes' answer was
"We cannot do it, sir, because -" '

(I let the fish say of me:
"Do what I say, I want it."
The little fish deep in the sea
Sent me an answer to this.
The little fish's answer was:
"We never do that because -"
Poem translated by Christian Enzensberger)

"I don't quite understand, unfortunately," said Alice.
"It'll be easier later," replied Humpty Dumpty.

"I sent to them again to say
"It will be better to obey."
The fishes answered with a grin,
"Why, what a temper you are in!"
I told them once, I told them twice:
They would not listen to advice.
I took a kettle large and new,
Fit for the deed I had to do.
My heart went hop, my heart went thump;
I filled the kettle at the pump.
Then some one came to me and said,
"The little fishes are in bed."
I said to him, I said it plain,
"Then you must wake them up again."
I said it very loud and clear;
I went and shouted in his ear. '

(I wrote: "I am concerned about you
It would be better if you obey. "
The fish just laughed:
"So don't be so upset."
I finally lost my patience.
I said: "Now it is your own fault."
I borrowed a kettle
Which seemed suitable for my purpose.
My heart beat up to my throat;
I carried the pot to the tap.
Then someone came and said with scorn:
"The little fish are already sleeping."
I say simply and clearly:
"Then go and wake her up again."
And loud and clear I told him
I went and yelled it in his ear.
Poem translated by Christian Enzensberger)

Humpty Dumpty almost raised his voice to a roar as he uttered this verse, and Alice thought with a shudder, "I don't want to have been the helper at any cost."

But he was very stiff and proud;
He said "You needn't shout so loud!"
And he was very proud and stiff;
He said "I'd go and wake them, if-"
I took a corkscrew from the shelf:
I went to wake them up myself.
And when I found the door was locked,
I pulled and pushed and kicked and knocked.
And when I found the door was shut,
I tried to turn the handle, but- '

(But he only makes his neck stiff
And said: "Why the nagging!"
And only makes a stiff neck
And said: "I will only wake you if -"
I went when the door was locked
I hit and stamped, hit and tugged.
The door was closed, I could still see that
And pressed the handle, but -
Poem translated by Christian Enzensberger)

There was a long pause.

"It is over?" Alice asked timidly.

"It's over," said Humpty Dumpty. "Farewell!"

It seemed to come to Alice quite suddenly; but after giving such a clear hint that she should go, it would have been impolite to stay there. So she got up, held out her hand and said as cheerfully as possible: "Farewell! See you soon!"
"I wouldn't recognize you if we should meet again," Humpty Dumpty replied sourly, handing her a finger. "You look just like other people."
"You can usually tell the difference in your face," Alice said thoughtfully.
"That's just the stupid thing," explained Humpty Dumpty. "You have exactly the same face as all people - the two eyes like that -" (he indicated their place in the air with his thumb); "the nose in the middle, the mouth underneath; it's always the same. For example, if you had at least the two eyes on the same side of the nose, or the mouth above it - that would be a bit better."
"That wouldn't be pretty," said Alice.
But Humpty Dumpty just closed his eyes and said, "Wait until you've tried it."
Alice waited a while longer to see if he would speak again, but since he neither opened his eyes nor took any further notice of her, she said "Farewell" again, and when she received no answer, she quietly left. But she couldn't help but say as she walked: "Of all unsatisfactory" (she repeated this out loud, for it was a great comfort for her to utter such a long word), "of all unsatisfactory people I have ever met met - "But she never finished the sentence, because at that moment a violent crash shook the forest from one end to the other.

From: Lewis Carroll: Through the looking-glass. Loosely translated from Helene Scheu-Rieß: Alice in the mirror land. Sesame Publishing House. Vienna / Leipzig / New York 1923.
The poems and Humpty Dumpty's explanation of the Jabberwok poem were taken from Christian Enzensberger's translation: Alice behind the mirrors. Insel Verlag. Frankfurt am Main 1963.

You can find the original English text online at: http://xahlee.org/p/alice/lg-ch06.html

* * *

The old man with a beard

by Edward Lear

The old man with a beard

There was an old man with a beard
who said, "It is just as I feard! -
Two owls and a Hen, four larks and a wren
Have all built their nests in my beard. "

 

 

 

Rossipotti: Try translating the poem yourself. By the way: Lark means in German lark, and wrenWren. For those of you who don't have any English in school, Lear's picture tells what's in the poem.
By the way: Lear himself called his poems "learics". It has become a classic of the Limericks.

From: Edward Lear: A book of nonsense. Routledge, Warne & Routledge, London 1861.
Of course there are also newer editions of the "Book of Nonsense". Maybe one of them is even in your library.

* * *

Calendar stories

From this: Kannitverstan

by J.P. lever

Man probably has the daily opportunity in Emmendingen and Gundelfingen, as well as in Amsterdam, to consider the unsteadiness of all earthly things, if he wants, and to be satisfied with his fate, even if there are not many roasted pigeons in the air for him .
But in the strangest detour, a German craftsperson in Amsterdam came to the truth and to its knowledge through error. For when he came to this big and rich trading town full of splendid houses, surging ships and busy people, a big and beautiful house immediately caught his eye, the likes of which he had never seen on his entire journey from Tuttlingen to Amsterdam. For a long time he gazed at this precious building with astonishment, the six chimneys on the roof, the beautiful cornices and the high windows, larger than the door of his father's house at home. At last he couldn't help speaking to a passerby.
"Good friend," he said to him, "can't you tell me the name of the gentleman who owns this beautiful house with the windows full of tulip trees, star flowers and levebunks?"
But the man, who presumably had something more important to do and unfortunately understood just as well of the German language as the questioner of the Dutch, namely nothing, said briefly: "Kannitverstan!" and purred past.
This was just a Dutch word, or three if you look at it right, and in German means something like: "I can't understand you". But the good stranger thought it was the name of the man he had asked for.
"That must be a very rich man, Mr. Kannitverstan," he thought and walked on. Gass 'out, Gass' in, he finally came to the Gulf, which is called: Het Ei, or in German: the Ypsilon. There was now ship to ship and boom to boom, and at first he did not know how he would fight it with his two only eyes to see and contemplate all these strange things enough until a large ship finally caught his attention, that had recently arrived from the East Indies and has just been unloaded. Whole rows of boxes and bales were already standing on top of and next to each other on the land. Several were still being rolled out, and barrels full of sugar and coffee, rice and pepper and salveni mouse droppings underneath. But when he had watched for a long time, he finally asked someone who was carrying a box on his armpit what the name of the lucky man was, to whom the sea was bringing all these goods to land.
"Kannitverstan!" was the answer.

Then he thought: "Haha, does it look out there? No wonder! If the sea washes such riches onto the land, you have put such houses into the world and such tulip trees in front of the windows in gilded shards."
Now he went back again and looked at himself rather sadly, what a poor devil he was among so many rich people in the world. But when he was just thinking: "If only I could get it as good as this Herr Kannitverstan has!", He came around a corner and saw a large funeral procession. Four black-hooded horses pulled a hearse, also covered in black, slowly and sadly, as if they knew that they were leading a dead man to his rest. A long procession of friends and acquaintances of the deceased followed, couple and couple, veiled in black coats and mute. In the distance a lonely bell rang. Now our stranger was seized by a wistful feeling that no good person would pass by when he saw a corpse, and he stood devoutly with his hat in his hands until it was all over. But he went to the last of the train, who was quietly calculating what he could gain from his cotton if the hundredweight hit for ten guilders, took him gently by the coat and asked him sincerely for exkuse.
"That must have been a good friend of yours, too," he said, "for whom the bell is ringing that you are so sad and pensive to go along?" -
"Kannitverstan!" was the answer.
Then a couple of big tears fell from our good Tuttlinger's eyes, and his heart suddenly felt heavy and light again.
“Poor Kannitverstan!” He exclaimed, “what do you have of all your wealth? What I also get from my poverty one day: a death dress and a sheet and of all your beautiful flowers maybe a rosemary on the cold chest or a diamond . "
With this thought he accompanied the corpse, as if he belonged to it, to the grave, saw the supposed Herr Kannitverstand sink into his resting place and was more touched by the Dutch funeral sermon, of which he understood not a word, than by some German ones he was not paying attention. At last he went away with the others with a light heart, ate a piece of Limburg cheese with a good appetite in a hostel where German was understood, and when it was once again difficult for him that so many people in the world were so rich and he was so poor, he thought only of Herr Kannitverstan in Amsterdam, of his big house, of his rich ship and of his narrow grave.

Johann Peter Hebel: Kannitverstan and other stories from the treasure chest of the Rhenish family friend. Reclam Leipzig. 1926.

Rossipotti: Incidentally, I added the illustration by Ludwig Richter. Richter is a classic in the art of illustration, and the picture also seemed to me to fit the story very well.