The piper

„I’s gone!“ sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. „So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No!

There it is again!“ he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

„Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,“ he said presently. „O, Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.“ The Mole, greatly wondering, obeyed. „I hear nothing myself,“ he said, „but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.“

The Rat never answered, if indeed he heard. Rapt, transported, trembling, he was possessed in all his senses by this new divine thing that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it, a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.

In silence Mole rowed steadily, and soon they came to a point where the river divided, a long backwater branching off to one side. With a slight movement of his head Rat, who had long dropped the rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the backwater. The creeping tide of light gained and gained, and now they could see the colour of the flowers that gemmed the water’s edge.

„Clearer and nearer still,“ cried the Rat joyously.

„Now you must surely hear it! Ah – at last – I see you do!“

Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade’s cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung there, brushed by the purple loosestrife that fringed the bank; then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvellously still.

On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willowherb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.

Kenneth Grahame: The wind in the willows – 1908

always wanting you to do something

„The bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are moving away altogether. O no, it isn’t what it used to be, at all. Otters, kingfishers, dabchicks, moorhens, all of them about all day long and always wanting you to do something – as if a fellow had no business of his own to attend to!“

Kenneth Grahame: The wind in the willows – 1908

„messing – about – in – boats; messing -„

„Nice? It’s the only thing,“ said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. „Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,“ he went on dreamily:

„messing – about – in – boats; messing -„

„Look ahead, Rat!“ cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt.

The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

„- about in boats – or with boats,“ the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. 

„In or out of ‚em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it.“

„Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.“

„Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?“

The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with a sigh of full contentment, and leaned back blissfully into the soft cushions. „What a day I’m having!“ he said. „Let us start at once!“

Kenneth Grahame: The wind in the willows – 1908


Naivität ist kein Verbrechen, schon gar keines, das mit Übergriffigkeiten von leicht ranzigen Typen bestraft werden sollte. Allerdings wäre es für Fans auch kein Fehler, erst einmal anzunehmen, dass jeder „Star“ von zu viel Geld, zu viel Drogen und zu viel Arschkriechern bis in den Boden seiner bankrotten Seele korrumpiert wurde und man keine menschenähnlichen Verhaltensweisen erwarten darf. So lange, bis das Gegenteil bewiesen ist, gilt die Verrottungsvermutung.

Susanne Fischer,
14.6.2023 taz

Jeder Mann mußte dieses Mädchen ernst nehmen

Aber es scheint, daß die Bildung eines jungen Mädchens seinen Reizen schadet. Denn als Karoline in das Alter kam, das zwar noch nicht mannbar genannt werden kann, aber in dem das Interesse für die Männer zu erwachen hat, erwies es sich, daß sie gar kein Interesse hatte, weder für ihre eigene Erscheinung noch für die Männer. Ja, Karoline trug das knisternde, widerspenstige und aufreizende Haar glatt und zurückgestrichen, und man sah infolgedessen, daß sie eine hohe, weiße, gewölbte Mathematikerstirn hatte und schöne kleine Ohrmuscheln, deren Zartheit verloren ging in Anbetracht der bedeutungsvollen Stirn. Jeder junge Mann bekam Angst vor dieser Stirn. Jeder Mann mußte dieses Mädchen ernst nehmen und konnte sich demzufolge nicht in es verlieben.

Und Karoline studierte wirklich Mathematik und Physik und wurde in irgendeinem wissenschaftlichen Institut Assistentin. Da legte sie Sandalen ohne Absätze an, ein blaues Arbeiterinnenkleid und nahm einen männlichen Regenschirm zur Hand …

Joseph Roth
© 1978 Verlag Allert de Lange Amsterdam
und Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch Köln
Schutzumschlag und Einband Hannes Jähn
Gesamtherstellung Becker Graphischer Betrieb Kevelaer
ISBN 3 462 01263 0