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A poem for all the politicians

Carl Aastrup, who is 95 years old and retired from his ranch on the Buckhorn, has, with the help of John Harris, translated an old Danish poem that he thinks might provide a timely warning, against lying, to candidates, party members and various partisans.

BY CHRISTIAN FREDERIK EMIL WILSTER

b. 1797, Copenhagen.

A peasant lad whose name was Hans

Traveled a year in foreign lands,

Then proud and pert did he come home

Unto his father’s rental farm,

With tales so wonderful to hear

That all the countryside drew near.

Although a part of it was true,

Many lies were in it too,

For Hans had learned in foreign parts

To tell great lies and really strut. 

Hans understood as well to lie

As horse can run and bird can fly.

 

Some time went by, a month or so

When father and son to town must go,

So in the early morning light

They set out. Shortly, Hans caught sight

Of a big mastiff. “Luckily,”

His father said, “it isn’t free

So mean and big it looks to me.”

The dog charged to the chain’s full length

And reared and roared with all its strength

But none of this impressed young Hans.

“Father, last year in foreign lands

A dog I saw, not far from Stetten

(A town as big as Copenhagen

Ten times as big, I tell you plain),

I stood my ground, I did not run

But here I tell the truth, of course,

It was as big as any horse.”

 

“I am amazed,” said Hans’s father

“But know the world is full of wonder,

And that such things one sees and hears

As make you doubt your eyes and ears.

For instance, on our way to town

There is a bridge of some renown,

And on this bridge there is a stone

Possessed, that trips up anyone

Who on that day has told a lie,

And breaks his leg. From childhood I

Have heard this tale and do not doubt

Such wondrous things there are about.”

 

Hearing these words, Hans was upset

His ears burned red, and beads of sweat

Appeared on his forehead. He called out

“Dear father, on a day so hot

This trip to town was a mistake

You are too old. For heaven’s sake

Let us go back.”  The father smiled

“The bridge is just another mile,

The town close by.” Hans walked awhile

And then he said, “That dog at Stetten,

I think now that I have forgotten

On looking back, I’m thinking now,

It was no bigger than a cow.”

 

They walked on, but Hans had no peace.

The bridge was close, in easy reach,

Not far ahead. He soon gave in,

As round and round his poor head ran,

For surely one can’t be too careful

About one’s legs that are so useful.

“Father,” he said, “I’ve had a thought

About this dog, that it was not

Big as I said, but barely half;

It was no bigger than a calf.”

 

Too soon, the bridge was in plain sight

And Hans was in a fearful fright.

He was now sweating like a sieve.

He pulled upon his father’s sleeve,

“Listen, dear father, you must know,

About that mastiff I misspoke

My story, it was just a joke,

The dogs there, as my name is Hans,

Are just the same as in home lands.”

 

So peasant and son, the two of them,

They crossed that bridge without mayhem,

And since then Hans has never lied,

So truly has that passion died.

Nor would you ever think that Hans

Had ever been to foreign lands.

What do you think about this story?