Corruption on the Loose

We present this work in honor of the 280th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann
German
1711 – 1740

 

If you’ve stained your matrimonial life, deceived your creditor,
gained by lies your neighbour’s pasture and field;
if you’ve hurt your fellow-being’s coat of innocence or good reputation,
and with guile rendered yours
the token of the oppressed, which you had taken as a pawn:
Then you must not turn despondent, even though how grave they’d sue you at the court.
Soon only endeavor after an attorney, after one
who bears his good conscience in the manner that
he wears his sleeves, as if a priest’s,
who feels amused as highly by disputes,
instances of taking advantage as by quarrels,
as may feel a man, who’s been out at war,
who’s come to find lots of things to plunder,
one whose heart is full of spitefulness,
whose head of trickery,
his soul full of deceit and daring malice,
who writes seven lines only on one page,
but always swells all his writings into twenty folders,
who produces as many expenditures, as what is desired in every cause of conflict,
as he tosses and turns the procedure
until the case will have gone on for many a good year.
Him you ought to fill his bent hands with golden treasures from Ophir,
then soon will he lash out and hit on the rights of the opposite party;
then even turn to the counterpart’s and win that attorney’s favor, too;
bestow him a gift of a stately piece to wear,
a staunch and fat pig,
a barrelful of grape wine, as well as other nice things,
thus you will make that one mild and
he’ll be favouring you, too.
Likewise go and see the judge, and fill his hand –
wild men at hand – with gold from the Hungarian land.
And should he refrain from taking your things; then give them to his wife,
damask, silk and velvet for her body,
ribbons, laces, linen, and furs for her petticoats,
Fill up their store-rooms and kitchen house;
thus you’ll gain for any pending case more time,
your attorney will put things off,
your judge procrastinate them;
although how hard your opponent might attempt to see the final verdict coming.
Should he complain, o dear, tired of all the payments,
asking for justice at long last,

then it will be pointed out:
‘you have no rights.
He who’s been sparing the money shall always be the winner.’

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