Das Schlauraffen Landt; Land of Milk and Honey

[This page by Madeleine Brook]

Das Schlauraffen Landt; Land of Milk and Honey (1530)

Sachs’s comic poem – comprising 110 lines of Knittelvers – of a fantasy land in which everything is topsy-turvy is, like much of his other work, also a moralising text.

The first half of the poem – exactly 55 lines – paints a deceptively positive picture of a land in which everything is easy. Here, houses are edible, bread grows in the fields, milk flows in the streams, and animals are ready cooked. Those too lazy to catch the roast chicken, goose, or pigeon need only open their mouth – the bird will simply fly into it. Moreover, there is a fountain of youth (ll. 52-53) in which everyone can reverse their physical ageing.

The second half, however, gradually reveals the true nature of Schlauraffenland. This section starts with a list of things that are done in Schlauraffenland that in the real world would be considered at best undesirable and at worst sinful: laziness, gambling, bad manners, debt, drunkenness, and telling falsehoods (ll. 55-75). The worst in everything is rewarded: sloth is paid by the hour, not work (ll. 62-64), and lies are rewarded with a crown (ll. 75-76). People of sense and reason, those who work hard, are unwelcome here and will be run out of the land. Instead, Schlauraffenland’s ‘nobility’ is comprised of fools (ll. 85-98).

The closing lines (ll.100-110) reveal the didactic nature of the poem:

Wer also lebt wie obgenant,

Der ist gut ins Schlauraffen Landt,

Das von den alten ist erdicht,

Zu straff der jugent zu gericht,

Die gwönlich faul ist vnd gefressig,

Vngeschickt, heyloß vnd nachlessig,

Das mans weiß ins land zu Schlauraffn,

Damit jr schlüchtisch weyß zu straffn,

Das sie haben auff arbeyt acht,

Weyl faule weyß nye gutes bracht.

Whosoever lives in the way described above is well suited to Schlauraffenland, which was made up by the ancients in order to punish youth, which is often lazy and gluttonous, boorish, bad, and negligent – to point out Schlauraffenland to them and so to punish their indolent ways, so that they might have more respect for work, for bad ways never brought good.