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A poem by Joseph Victor Scheffel


Title:     Asphaltum
Author: Joseph Victor Scheffel [More Titles by Scheffel]

Bestreuet aie Häupter mit Asche,
Verhaltet die Nasen euch bang,
Heut giebt's bei trübfliessender Flasche
Einen bituminösen Gesang.

Strew, strew all your heads with ashes,
Hold your noses firmly and long;
I sing by the lightning's pale flashes
A wild and bituminous song.

The wind of the desert is sweeping,
Like fire by the dead Dead Sea;
There a Dervish appointment is keeping,
With a maiden from Galilee.

'Twas ever a salty engulpher,
In horrors excessively rich;
In Lot's time there were lots of sulphur,
And to-day it is piteous on pitch.

No washwoman comes with a bucket,
No thirsty man comes with a mug;
For the one who would venture to suck it
Would wish that his grave had been dug.

Not a breath of a breeze is blowing,
No waves on the waters fall,
Though a strong smell of naphtha is flowing,
They said, 'We don't mind it at all.'

Two dark brown lumps were lying
Like rocks on the Dead Sea shore,
And while tenderly loving and sighing
They sat down there--to rise no more.

For the rock was pitch-naphtha which would not
Allow them to stir e'en a stitch,
And seated in concert, they could not
Rise up above concert pitch.

Then all the disaster comprising,
They wailed aloud: 'Allah is great!
We stick and we stick--there's no rising,
We stick and forever must wait!'

There they sat like a lost pot and kettle,
Their wails o'er the wilderness passed;
They mummified little by little,
And were turned to Asphaltum at last.

A little bird flew for assistance,
Away to the townlet of Zoar;
But benumbed it fell down in the distance,
It smelt so, it fluttered no more.

And shuddering and pale as if flurried,
A pilgrim procession went in--
From the smell of the benzine it hurried
So fast you'd not say 't had been seen.


In love or in turning a penny
Always study the field of your luck;
In petroleum and naphtha full many
Ere now have been terribly 'stuck.'

[The end]
Joseph Victor Scheffel's poem: Asphaltum