She looks on them with fond elation,
They are her wealth, her treasure rare,
Her age’s pride and consolation,
Hoarded with all a miser’s care.
She dons the sark each Sabbath day,
To hear the Word that faileth never;
Well-pleased she lays it then away,
Till she shall sleep in it forever.
Would that my spirit witness bore me
That, like this woman, I had done
The work my Master put before me,
Duly from morn till set of sun.
Would that life’s cup had been by me
Quaff’d in such wise and happy measure,
And that I too might finally
Look on my shroud with such meek pleasure.
THE WONDERFUL HISTORY OF PETER SCHLEMIHL (1814)
By ADALBERT VON CHAMISSO TRANSLATED BY FREDERIC H. HEDGE
After a fortunate, but for me very troublesome voyage, we finally reached the port. The instant that I touched land in the boat, I loaded myself with my few effects, and passing through the swarming people, I entered the first, and most modest house, before which I saw a sign hang. I requested a room; the boots measured me with a look, and conducted me into the garret. I caused fresh water to be brought, and made him exactly describe to me where I should find Mr. Thomas John. He replied to my inquiry—“Before the north gate; the first country-house on the right hand; a large new house of red and white marble, with many columns.”
“Good!” It was still early in the day. I opened at once my bundle; took thence my new black cloth coat; clad myself cleanly in my best apparel; put my letter of introduction into my pocket, and immediately set out on the way to the man who was to promote my modest expectations.
When I had ascended the long North Street, and reached the gate, I soon saw the pillars glimmer through the foliage. “Here it is, then,” thought I. I wiped the dust from my shoes with my pocket-handkerchief, put my neckcloth in order, and in God’s name rung the bell. The door flew open. In the hall I had an examination to undergo; the porter, however, permitted me to be announced, and I had the honor to be called into the park, where Mr. John was walking with a select party. I recognized the man at once by the lustre of his corpulent self-complacency. He received me very well—as a rich man receives a poor devil—even turned toward me, without turning from the rest of the company, and took the offered letter from my hand. “So, so, from my brother! I have heard nothing from him for a long time. But he is well? There,” continued he, addressing the company, without waiting for an answer, and pointing with the letter to a hill, “there I am going to erect the new building.” He broke the seal without breaking off the conversation, which turned upon riches.
“He that is not master of a million, at least,” he observed, “is—pardon me the word—a wretch!”