The Petit Bourgeois, by Robert WalserTranslated by Daniele Pantano

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From The Poems, which will be published next month by Seagull Books. This is the first time the poem has appeared in English. Translated from the German.

All you have to do is praise him a little,
right away he will feel unbelievably aloft;
how dependent he is,
how his petty cunning fails him;
he is just as shrewd
as he is backward;
if you dare to love him,
he will honor you with a beating;
I for one would never laud
him without trembling,
there is absolutely nothing
noble about his character;
he has no tact,
he has nothing but profit
in his eyes and cannot see
how life passes him by,
how day after day flees,
how the earth goes on without him;
the petit bourgeois never thanks his Maker,
for there is no poetry in him.

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