There is mythological evidence from the middle ages, suggesting the Swabians were a jolly, lively people then, full of vigour and joy. You wouldn’t think it today, and the introductory section of this book, meant to show Swabians in the best possible light and endowed with a preface by Cleverle Späth, is a case in point. The most salient features of the Swabian mind, his thriftyness, his shrewdness, his xenophobia, take some stretching to be made into qualities, and with some, most notably the Kehrwoche, even Larson’s well meaning prose fails to create any appeal or sense. The anecdote of Larson interacting with Willy Reichert, Arnulf Klett and the likes are positively painful, but admittedly that might be just to me, and just because they hit too close to home.
Much more interesting and entertaining are his broad sweeps through Swabian history, overloaded in places with genealogical details of the Dukes, or obscure military history of possible interest to his American military audience, but quite boring to me. The book is valuable for its benevolent outsider’s view on my home, that contrasts interestingly with my malevolent insider’s perspective.
Most interesting, however, was this response to the infamous Lied der Schwaben, which, though reviled by true Swabians for its unflattering depiction of local customs, I remember being hung on a plate in our home when I was a kid. I never thought the Lied der Schwaben problematic, in fact considered it quite accurate and liked it for its candidness, if not literary quality. The response, on the other hand, in its attempt to restore Swabian honor is quite utterly horrible. So here you go:
Das “Lied der Schwaben”? –
Der dies ausgebrütet,
aus welchem and`ren deutschen Stamm er sei.
Wo Roheit in der Gossensprache wütet,
sind Art und Herkunft weltweit einerlei!
Der Schwabe liebt ihn tiefer, leiser;
als Geistesfunke stillvergnügter Welt.
Die Leute leben hierzulande weiser
als grobe Torheit grölend dargestellt.
Das Lied der Schwaben:
Uhland hat`s gesungen!
Es schwingt im Fleiß, in Daseinsheiterkeit!
In Schiller, Mörike ist`s aufgeklungen –
und in Motoren dröhnt es erdenweit!
Das Kraftzitat des Götz von Berlichingen
ist menschheitsalter Allgemeinbesitz, –
drum hört man`s auch im Schwabenland erklingen:
zum Beispiel für “Poeten” ohne Witz!