Peter Schlemiel and Icarus

What’s in a Shadow, Dear Michal?

“ Sell me Thy shadow” entreated the obsequious man
in the gray coat. No treachery in asking
‘What’s in a shadow that lures you so, my man’
‘Shlemiel, for thy lovely, lovely shadow
I give you Fortunatus magic purse’

What’s in a shadow , I beg you Michal,
that riches can’t buy?
That’s how for glitter of imagined gold
I’ve come to roam the world
One hell of an illness t’was without a shadow:
The gray man disappeared without a trace
Like a shadow

Oh Michal,
Beware of grayness,
The pareve color of Treachery
The Devil is not as black as they like to paint him.
Outcast, I turned gray nurturing
The torturous worm of conscience in my heart
Things are not black and white for me anymore

The Gray Man had me once bound to him
By the tinkle of his gold
For no shadow of a doubt will I not
Sell that infernal gray stranger my soul
For my shadow back, whatever the bitter interest
I must pay for the debts I amassed.

Oh Michal,
One heaven of an illness t’was without a shadow
Though cast out from human society because of my early trespasses
The earth had been given me a fertile garden to tend
With leaps and bounds of seven-league boots on my feet
I now have a new life as an independent naturalist

What’s in a shadow, dear Michal?
You haven’t seen a human until you’ve seen
her shadow from the sky
You haven’t seen Icaria until you’ve lost and found again
Your shadow


quotes collage inspired from
*Peter Schlemiel, the man who sold his shadow by Adelbert von Chamisso. A new translation by Peter Wortsman.

Men in GreyToday’s Fool’s Message

And you, my dear Chamisso, I have chosen as the executor of my wondrous story, so that once I no longer walk the earth my story may yet serve as a moral lesson to some of its citizens. But to you, my dear friend, I say that if you wish to live among your fellow man, learn to value your shadow more than gold. If, on the other hand, you choose to live only for the sake of your own better self, then you need no advice from me.

(Two last sentences of Peter Schlemiel*)


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