Visit on the
Feldberg - The
Hark ye, fellows o' Todtnau, if ever I told
you the Scythe-Ghost[C]
Was a spirit of Evil, I've now got a different
Out of the town am I,?yes, that I'll honestly
Related to merchants, at seven tables free to
But I'm a Sunday's child; and wherever the ghosts
at the cross-roads
Stand in the air, in vaults, and cellars, and
Guardin' hidden money with eyes like fiery
Washin' with bitter tears the spot where
Shovellin' the dirt, and scratchin' it over
with nails all so bloody,?
Clear as day I can see, when it lightens.
Ugh! how they whimper!
Also, whenever with beautiful blue eyes the
Deep in the night, in silent, sleepin'
Peekin' in at the windows, and talkin'
together so pleasant,
Smilin' one at the t'other, and settin'
outside o' the house-doors,
So that the pious folks shall take no harm
while they're sleepin':
Then ag'in, when in couples or threes they
walk in the grave-yard,
Talkin' in this like: "There a faithful
mother is layin';
And here's a man that was poor, but took no
advantage o' no one:
Take your rest, for you're tired,?we'll waken
ye up when the time comes!"
Clearly I see by the light o' the stars, and I
hear them a-talkin'.
Many I know by their names, and speak to,
whenever I meet 'em,
Give 'em the time o' day, and ask 'em, and
answer their questions.
"How do ye do?" "How's y'r watch?"
"Praise God, it's tolerable, thank you!"
Believe it, or not! Well, once on a time my
cousin, he sent me
Over to Todtnau, on business with all sorts o'
Where you've coffee to drink, and biscuit
they give you to soak in 't.
"Don't you stop on the road, nor gabble
whatever comes foremost,"
Hooted my cousin at startin', "nor don't you
let go o' your snuff-box,
Leavin' it round in the tavern, as gentlemen
do, for the next time."
Up and away I went, and all that my cousin
Fairly and squarely I fixed. At the sign o'
the Eagle in Todtnau
Set for a while; then, sure o' my way, tramped
off ag'in, home'ards,
Nigh by the village, I reckoned,?but found
myself climbin' the Feldberg,
Lured by the birdies, and down by the brooks
the beautiful posies:
That's a weakness o' mine,?I ran like a fool
after such things.
Now it was dusk, and the birdies hushed up,
settin' still on the branches.
Hither and yonder a starlie stuck its head
through the darkness,
Peekin' out, as oncertain whether the sun was
in bed yet,?
Whether it mightn't come, and called to the
other ones: "Come now!"
Then I knowed I was lost, and laid myself
down,?I was weary:
There, you know, there's a hut, and I found
an armful o' straw in 't.
"Here's a go!" I thinks to myself, "and I
wish I was safely
Cuddled in bed to home,?or 't was midnight,
and some little spirit
Somewhere popped out, as o' nights when it's
twelve they're accustomed,
Passin' the time with me, friendly, till winds
that blow early o' mornin's
Blow out the heavenly lights, and I see the
way back to the village."
Now, as thinkin' in this like, I felt all over my
Dark as pitch all around,?and felt with my
finger the hour-hand,
Found it was nigh onto 'leven, and hauled my
pipe from my pocket,
Thinkin': "Maybe a bit of a smoke'll keep
me from snoozin'":
Thunder! all of a sudden beside me was two
of 'em talkin',
Like as they'd business together! You'd
better believe that I listened.
"Say, a'n't I late a-comin'? Because there
was, over in Mambach,
Dyin', a girl with pains in the bones and terrible
Now, but she's easy! I held to her mouth the
drink o' departure,
So that the sufferin' ceased, and softly lowered
Sayin': 'Sleep, and in peace,?I'll waken
thee up when the time comes!'
Do me the favor, brother: fetch in the basin o'
Water, ever so little: my scythe, as you see,
must be whetted."
"Whetted?" says I to myself, "and a spirit?"
and peeked from the window.
Lo and behold, there sat a youngster with
wings that was golden;
White was his mantle, white, and his girdle
the color o' roses,
Fair and lovely to see, and beside him two
lights all a-burnin'.
"All the good spirits," says I, "Mr. Angel,
God have you in keepin'!"
"Praise their Master, the Lord," said the angel;
"God thank you, as I do!"
"Take no offence, Mr. Ghost, and by y'r good
leave and permission,
Tell me, what have you got for to mow?"
"Why, the scythe!" was his answer.
"Yes," says I, "for I see it; and that is my
What you're goin' to do with the scythe."
"Why, to mow!" was his answer.
Then I ventur'd to say: "And that is my question
What you're goin' to mow, supposin' you're
willin' to tell me."
"Grass! And what is your business so late up
here in the night-time?"
"Nothin' special," I answered; "I'm burnin'
a little tobacco.
Lost my way, or most likely I'd be at the
Eagle, in Todtnau.
But to come to the subject, supposin' it isn't
Tell me, what do you make o' the grass?"
And he answered me: "Fodder!"
"Don't understand it," says I; "for the Lord
has no cows up in heaven."
"Not precisely a cow," he remarked, "but
heifers and asses.
Seest, up yonder, the star?" and he pointed
one out with his finger.
"There's the ass o' the Christmas-Child, and
Breathin' the starry air, and waitin' for grass
that I bring 'em:
Grass doesn't grow there,?nothin' grows but
the heavenly raisins,
Milk and honey a-runnin' in rivers, plenty as
But they're particular cattle,?grass they
must have every mornin',
Mouthfuls o' hay, and drink from earthly
fountains they're used to.
So for them I'm a-whettin' my scythe, and
soon must be mowin':
Wouldn't it be worth while, if politely you'd
offer to help me?"
So the angel he talked, and this way I answered
"Hark ye, this it is, just: and I'll go wi' the
greatest o' pleasure.
Folks from the town know nothin' about it:
we write and we cipher,
Reckon up money,?that we can do!?and
measure and weigh out,
Unload, and on-load, and eat and drink without
All that we want for the belly, in kitchen,
pantry, and cellar,
Comes in lots through every gate, in baskets
Runs in every street, and cries at every
'Buy my cherries!' and 'Buy my butter!'
and 'Look at my salad!'
'Buy my onions!' and 'Here's your carrots!'
and 'Spinage and parsley!'
'Lucifer matches! Lucifer matches!' 'Cabbage
'Here's your umbrellas!' 'Caraway-seed and
Cheap for cash, and all to be traded for sugar
Say, Mr. Angel, didst ever drink coffee?
how do you like it?"
"Stop with y'r nonsense!" then he said, but
he couldn't help laughin';
"No, we drink but the heavenly air, and eat
nothin' but raisins,
Four on a day o' the week, and afterwards five
on a Sunday.
Come, if you want to go with me, now, for
I'm off to my mowin',
Back o' Todtnau, there on the grassy holt by
"Yes, Mr. Angel, that will I truly, seein'
Seems to me that it's cooler: give me y'r
scythe for to carry:
Here's a pipe and a pouch,?you're welcome
to smoke, if you want to."
While I was talkin', "Poohoo!" cried the
angel. A fiery man stood,
Quicker than lightnin', beside me. "Light us
the way to the village!"
Said he. And truly before us marched, a-burnin',
Over stock and rock, through the bushes, a
"Handy, isn't it?" laughin', the angel said.
?"What are ye doin'?
Why do you nick at y'r flint? You can light
y'r pipe at the Poohoo.
Use him whenever you like: but it seems to
me you're a-frightened,?
You, and a Sunday's-child, as you are: do you
think he will bite you?"
"No, he ha'n't bit me; but this you'll allow
me to say, Mr. Angel,?
Half-and-half I mistrust him: besides, my tobacco's
That's a weakness o' mine,?I'm afeard o'
them fiery creeturs:
Give me seventy angels, instead o' this big
"Really, it's dreadfle," the angel says he,
"that men is so silly,
Fearful o' ghosts and spectres, and skeery
without any reason.
Two of 'em only is dangerous, two of 'em hurtful
One of 'em's known by the name o' Delusion,
and Worry the t'other.
Him, Delusion, 's a dweller in wine: from
cans and decanters
Up to the head he rises, and turns your sense
This is the ghost that leads you astray in forest
Undermost, uppermost, hither and yon the
ground is a-rollin',
Bridges bendin', and mountains movin', and
Hark ye, keep out of his way!" "Aha!"
I says to the angel,
"There you prick me, but not to the blood: I
see what you're after.
Sober am I, as a judge. To be sure, I emptied
Once, at the Eagle,?once,?and the landlord
'll tell you the same thing,
S'posin' you doubt me. And now, pray, tell
me who is the t'other?"
"Who is the t'other? Don't know without
askin'?" answered the angel.
"He's a terrible ghost: the Lord forbid you
should meet him!
When you waken early, at four or five in the
There he stands a-waitin' with burnin eyes
at y'r bed-side,
Gives you the time o' day with blazin switches
Even prayin' don't help, nor helps all your
When you begin 'em, he takes your jaws and
claps 'em together;
Look to heaven, he comes and blinds y'r eyes
with his ashes;
Be you hungry, and eat, he pizons y'r soup
with his wormwood;
Take you a drink o' nights, he squeezes gall
in the tankard;
Run like a stag, he follows as close on y'r trail
as a blood-hound;
Creep like a shadow, be whispers: 'Good! we
had best take it easy';
Kneels at y'r side in the church, and sets at
y'r side in the tavern.
Go wherever you will, there's ghosts a-hoverin'
Shut your eyes in y'r bed, they mutter:
'There 's no need o' hurry;
By-and-by you can sleep, but listen! we've
somethin' to tell you:
Have you forgot how you stoled? and how
you cheated the orphans?
Secretly sinned?'?and this, and t'other;
and when they have finished,
Say it over ag'in, and you get little good o'
So the angel he talked, and, like iron under
Sparked and spirited the Poohoo. "Surely,"
I says to the angel,
"Born on a Sunday was I, and friendly with
many a preacher,
Yet the Father protect me from these!" Says
he to me, smilin':
"Keep y'r conscience pure; it is better than
crossin' and blessin'.
Here we must part, for y'r way turns off and
down to the village.
Take the Poohoo along, but mind! put him
out, in the meadow,
Lest he should run in the village, settin' fire
to the stables.
God be with you and keep you!" And then
says I: "Mr. Angel,
God, the Father, protect you! Be sure, when
you come to the city,
Christmas evenin', call, and I'll hold it an
honor to see you:
Raisins I'll have at your service, and hippocras,
if you like it.
Chilly 's the air, o' evenin's, especially down
by the river."
Day was breakin' by this, and right there was
Todtnau before me!
Past, and onward to Basle I wandered, i' the
shade and the coolness.
When into Mambach I came, they bore a dead
girl to the grave-yard,
After the Holy Cross, and the faded banner o'
With the funeral garlands upon her, with sobbin'
Ah, but she 'd heard what he said! he'll
waken her up when the time comes.
Afterwards, Tuesday it was, I got safely back
to my cousin;
But it turned out as he said,?I'd somewhere
forgotten my snuff-box!
[Footnote C: Dengle-Geist, literally, "Whetting-Spirit." The exact
meaning of dengeln is to sharpen a scythe by hammering the edge of the
blade, which was practised before whetstones came in use.]
[Footnote D: According to an old legend, Fridolin (a favorite saint with
the Catholic population of the Black Forest) harnessed two young heifers
to a mighty fir-tree, and hauled it into the Rhine near S?kingen,
thereby damming the river and forcing it to take a new course, on the
other side of the town.]