englisch The Guinness parable

The Guinness parableThe barman’s teachings as expounded in ‘The Brazen Head’, Dublin

Translator: Hans-Christian Oeser
Original title: Das Guinness-Gleichnis (07/02/2008)
published in:
Sphärenmusik – Music of the Spheres – Ceol na Sféar
published in:
Die Sekunden danach
– Germanistik in Ireland. Hg. H.-W. Schmidt-Hannisa u. F. Krobb. Vol.3/2008; A. Leitner u. G. Trinckler (Hg.): Gedichte für Nachtmenschen. München 2008; enth. in: Die Sekunden danach



Stop! said the barman, not so hasty there!
when I’d already grabbed the glass which he’d placed
so casually on the counter: A Guinness,
that takes time, it’s still alive when drawn
from the keg below, don’t you see yourself
how it’s churning – ash-grey, startled –
before it settles? Another three, four
minutes and it’s set, quite black
in the glass, quite white the froth, no higher than
half a priest’s collar and so solid that a mouse
could trot across, leaving not the slightest
trace. Not until then! Yes, then it’s ready,
then you’ll have the perfect pint! But until then:


Abashed I looked around: eight hundred years of thirst
concealed in dark wood panelling; and
when my time had come, the barman used the tap
to carve the outline of a harp into the froth,
the logo of his brewery. But: Stop! says he
as I was reaching for the glass again, for he had
realized I was a stranger to his town and thick
besides: Not quite so greedy there! Take every swig
in moderation so that eventually you’ll have one
booze ring after the other inside your glass, a precise
measure of your thirst and, on top of everything,
a parable. That so? Of what? He wouldn’t say. Come on,
then, cheers!


There I stood. In front of me the glass, and in it
black smoke and mist, a smell of turf, and song …
the whole of Ireland awaiting me. The barman
at the far end of the counter pointing out to all
and sundry that he’d almost ruined
some moron’s thirst: him over there,
that stranger! Who now, most cautiously, reached
for his glass at last and, instead of gulping it,
just sipped.