The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #168780   Message #4077820
Posted By: michaelr
01-Nov-20 - 11:34 PM
Thread Name: Folklore: city that sank into the sea
Subject: RE: Folklore: city that sank into the sea
I finally found time to translate this classic German poem from 1882. Rungholt was an actual town in North Frisia (the west coast of northern Germany) that was submerged in the Second Marcellus-Flood in 1362. "Blanke Hans" ("Shiny Jack") was the common moniker of Frisians for the North Sea ("...die Nordsee, die Mordsee"). "Halligs" are small islands off the coast, some of which are submerged by the tide twice daily, others built up enough to be permanently occupied.

Defiance, Shiny Jack (Detlef von Liliencron)

Today I traveled over Rungholt
The town went under six hundred years ago.
Still the waves beat wild and indignant
As back when they destroyed the marshes.
The steamer's engine shuddered, moaned,
Frome the waters the call came unholy, scorning:
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

By the Noth Sea, the murder sea, divorced from the mainland
The Frisian Islands lie at peace.
And witness to the world-destroying rage,
Hallig and Hallig appear from the fleeing tide.
The seagull argues on growing mudlands,
The seal suns itself on sandy flats.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

In the middle of the ocean is sleeping this hour
A monster, deep on the sea floor.
Its head rests near the English strand,
Its tailfin plays by Brazil's sand.
It draws in breath for six hours
And drives it out again for six hours.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

But once each century the gills expel
Enormous masses of water.
Then the monster takes a deeper breath,
and whips the waves and falls asleep once more.
Many thousands of people in the Northland drown,
Many rich towns and lands go under.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

Rungholt is rich and keeps getting richer,
No more grain fits into the largest stores.
As in the heyday of ancient Rome
The stream of humanity jams up daily.
Litters carry Syrians and Moors
With gold leaf and glitter in their noses and ears.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

At all the markets, in all the alleys
Noisy people, drunken masses.
In the evening they crowd onto the dike:
We defy you, Shiny Jack, North Sea pond!
And as they threateningly shake their fists
The Kraken quietly retracts its claws from th mud.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

The waters ebb, the birds are resting,
Our dear God walks on quietest shoes.
The moon calmly traces its path in the sky,
Smiling at the showy Rungholters' madness.
From Brazil shines unto Norway's reefs
The sea like sleeping, honed steel.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

And everywhere peace, at sea and at land.
Suddenly, like the call of a tied predator:
The monster turned, breathed deep,
And closed its eyes and went back to sleep.
And rushing, black, long-maned waves
Come flying like racing horses.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack.

A single scream - the town is sunk,
And hundreds of thousands have drowned.
Where yesterday there was noise and lusty feast,
The next day swam the mute fish.
Today I traveled over Rungholt,
The town went under six hundred years ago.
        Defiance, Shiny Jack?