My First Seventy-Six Years: Autobiography

By Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
An Unpaid Assistant on the "Kleines Journal"

HAVE you ever written anything?" enquired the head of the local news department, HerrFürstenheim, when I presented myself at his office on the morning of the 1st February. He spoke in a loud, sarcastic and somewhat condescending voice.

I was nettled. Had I ever written anything--of course I had! Whole volumes!

"What?" asked Fürstenheim curtly.

"Poems", I said.

I had even had poems published--one, to be exact. And in order to have these verses printed in the Wiener Dichterheim I had had to pay five marks. The Wiener Dichterheim was supported by poets who paid to have their verses printed.

"Ha! Poetry!" barked Fürstenheim. He rummaged in an untidy heap of papers on his desk, pulled out a slip and said, "Go along to the Weidendamm Bridge--it's half completed--and write me twelve lines--understand? No more."

Nothing simpler, I thought, took the slip of paper and set out for the Weidendamm Bridge.

I could easily have written two hundred lines about this magnificent bridge. I could have described the gulls disporting themselves and reflected in the muddy spree, the red-nosed children standing on the bank looking on at the workmen, the workmen themselves, and their tools. But HerrFürstenheim had not asked for two thousand nor even for two hundred; no--he wanted just twelve lines.

I hurried back to the office and mulled over those twelve lines. It seemed to me impossible to compress into twelve lines all the things that crowded into one's mind at the sight of the Weidendamm Bridge in process of construction. But Fürstenheim had asked for it. I sat down and filled three sheets--I deleted a sentence here, another there. Suddenly an editor burst into the office and shouted:

" HerrSchacht, where's your twelve lines? D'you think the Berliners can wait till tomorrow morning for the Journal just so that you can sit and write poetry?" He caught sight of the written sheets and snatched them from under my hand.

-70-

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