Tag Archives: Stray Leaflets From the German Oak


The present poem first appeared in The Dublin University Magazine in June of 1840 as one in James Clarence Mangan’s series of “Stray Leaflets From the German Oak”. Mangan was an admired translator out of various tongues, but had as well earned a reputation for intricate literary hoaxes and a sort of “reverse plagiarism” (what he himself called “the antithesis of plagiarism”, i. e., passing off one’s own writings as the work of another) which he perpetrated complete with invented exotic origins, sly foot-notes and punning pseudonyms. As with many of the assumed Oriental oversettings he made “From the Ottoman” under various noms de plume, the Irish author claimed to have translated verses from the German of a certain poet named “Selber” (Ger. selber, “oneself” ; Ich selber, “myself”). Hood-winked readers were led along page by page with a battery of critical interpretations and a mockery of marginalia :


Nobody can translate Selber to advantage : his peculiar idiosyncrasy unfortunately betrays itself in every line he writes— and there exists, moreover, an evident wish on his part to show the world that he possesses
“A life within himself, to breathe without mankind.”


No evidence ever emerged to confirm that person’s existence, and any act, on Mangan’s part, of “translating” Herr Selber must have only held to Quince’s sense of metamorphosis in Shakespeare : “Thou art translated !”

Be all that as it may, this nostalgic poem breathes a comfortable sort of fireside melancholy, and the mention of the poet Kerner, in a touch of seriocomic rivalry, is significant : Mangan made real English versions of Kerner’s verses for his famous Anthologia Germanica. ~Q~





O, the rain, the weary, dreary rain,
++How it plashes on the window-sill !
Night, I guess too, must be on the wane,
+++Strass and Gass around are grown so still.
Here I sit, with coffee in my cup—
++Ah ! ’twas rarely I beheld it flow
In the taverns where I loved to sup
+++Twenty golden years ago !

Twenty years ago, alas !— but stay,
++On my life, ’tis half-past twelve o’clock !
After all, the hours do slip away—
+++Come, here goes to burn another block !
For the night, or morn, is wet and cold,
++And my fire is dwindling rather low :—
I had fire enough, when young and bold,
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Dear ! I don’t feel well at all, somehow :
++Few in Weimar dream how bad I am ;
Floods of tears grow common with me now,
+++High-Dutch floods, that Reason cannot dam.
Doctors think I’ll neither live nor thrive
++If I mope at home so— I don’t know—
Am I living now ? I was alive
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Wifeless, friendless, flagonless, alone,
++Not quite bookless, though, unless I chuse,
Left with nought to do, except to groan,
+++Not a soul to woo, except the Muse—
O ! this, this is hard for me to bear,
++Me, who whilome lived so much en haut,
Me, who broke all hearts like chinaware
+++Twenty golden years ago !

P’rhaps ’tis better :—Time’s defacing waves
++Long have quenched the radiance of my brow—
They who curse me nightly from their graves
+++Scarce could love me were they living now ;
But my loneliness hath darker ills—
++Such dun-duns as Conscience, Thought and Co.,
Awful Gorgons ! worse than tailors’ bills
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Did I paint a fifth of what I feel,
++O, how plaintive you would ween I was !
But I won’t, albeit I have a deal
+++More to wail about than Kerner has !
Kerner’s tears are wept for withered flowers,
++Mine for withered hopes ; my Scroll of Woe
Dates, alas ! from Youth’s deserted bowers,
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Yet, may Deutschland’s bardlings flourish long !
++Me, I tweak no beak among them ;— hawks
Must not pounce on hawks ; besides, in song
+++I could once beat all of them by chalks.
Though you find me, as I near my goal,
++Sentimentalising like Rousseau,
Oh ! I had a grand Byronian soul
+++Twenty golden years ago !

Tick-tick, tick-tick !— Not a sound save Time’s,
++And the wind-gust, as it drives the rain—
Tortured torturer of reluctant rhymes,
+++Go to bed, and rest thine aching brain !
Sleep !— no more the dupe of hopes or schemes ;
++Soon thou sleepest where the thistles blow—
Curious anticlimax to thy dreams
+++Twenty golden years ago !

++++++++++++++++++++++++J. C. M.







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