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Extracts from The Ass

From Odes and Ballads

Extract 1: Unknown translator

An Ass ran down the hill of science with furious stride.
"Thy name?" said Kant. "'Tis Patience," said the Ass, with pride.
"Yes, 't is my name, and I have earned it by good right,
For thence I come where man alone has stood, -- that height
Which he calls knowledge, reason, art philosophy.
O Kant! to wear the halter round your neck, you see;
From youth up beaten, and forever on the march;
Your backbone worn quite raw beneath the saddle's arch;
Forced to obey from morn till eve the electric shock
Of seasoned ox-hide , or perchance the oaken stock;
To perish half with cold, or stifle with the heat;
Snapped at by curs, and stoned by boys, and beat;
To fall from one to t'other, north and south, --
Escape the stone and rush into the bull-dog's mouth;
To live, made hunchbacked by a weight of half a ton,
Your bones pressed through your skin, worn out, completely done;
To get so many blows o'er sides and ribs and back
You get more zebra-like with every sounding whack, --
All this, that must seem hard to you, is simply naught!
The lash is bu an air from far AEolia brought,
The drubbing's but as evening rest when day is done
Beside of this, -- to take a course at the Sorbonne!
To sit for months, ay, more, and strain your wits,
Beneath a wooden chair on which a pedant sits;
To prick your ears to hear the scientific rage
Of wise professors, and the virtures of the sage;
To read old Vossius, and Grotius on the law,
And listen well to hear how mankind says hee-haw!"

Extract 2: Translated by Walt Whitman

My brother, man, if you would know the truth,
We both are by the same dull walls shut in;
The gate is massive and the dungeon strong.
But you look through the key-hole out beyond,
And call this knowledge; yet have not at hand
The key wherein to turn the fatal lock.