Manfred Kyber - The Day's Work before Sunrise

There was a smithy and a smith. But the smith was a special smith, because his day's work lay before sunrise. This is a very hard day's work. One becomes tired and sad in the process. One becomes silent and patient in the process. It calls for a lot of strength. For one dwells lonely and forges in the dawn.

Now it was at night and the smith was not in his smithy. The fire spirit in the hearth was sleeping. Only its breath glowed under the ashes and from time to time scattered a flying spark into the darkness. But the spark died qickly. Only a faint glow of light remained and hurried searching and wandering though the smithy's darkness.

The bellows let fall its stomach in nothing but grumpy folds. It looked like a thick gentleman who has suddenly lost weight. One could have laughed about it but in the smithy there as noone who knew to laugh.

The anvil turned its fat head with the pointed mouth slowly around in all directions and looked a the scrap metal that was about to be forged today. It wasn't much. Just a few pieces. They lay in a corner and were dirty and dusty, like people who have gotten through a long and arduous journey.

The anvil was annoyed. What a jumped-up riffraff has come together here! What luck that it has to go into the hearth first before it is placed on my shiny head. It would be too unappetizing otherwise. Thanks a million! The likes of us are clean.

The anvil scornfully turned up his big mouth and turned its back to the scrap metal. The anvil was stubborn. It did not realize that it also was made of iron and that the scrap metal that had journeyed so far would also become so shiny when the fire spirit grabbed it and the hammer forged it. He believed that there was only shiny iron and dirty and dusty iron — from the start — and that was the end of it. It was really stubborn and it also didn't know how arduously his master had gathered this scrap metal to forge it in the dawn.

The scrap metal felt very relieved as the anvil had turned its back on it and it no longer felt its cold looks. It had felt them clearly even though it was so dirty and so dusty. Now it started to speak in a whisper.

The scrap metal pieces that were of very different ages. There were very old ones that really belonged in the collection of rare objects. There were also quite young ones who were in the world only a few years. But in their appearance they were just the same.

You are so rusty, an old chain compassionately said to an old sword, that is a very bad disease. You certainly do not feel well?

The old sword sighed creakingly between handle and blade.

It is an old illness, it said, I'm suffering from it already many hundred years. It is bloodstains. I have seen terrible hing on my life's journey. I was passed though many hands. One took me away from another to kill others again. All the blood and all the tears have eaten their way into me. I have had little rest. I have waded in blood, and the one who spilled the most blood rang the bells with the same hands and called that his victory.

I am only a few years old, a young saber said, but I have experienced quite the same.

I have seen other victories, an old rusty bolt said. I saw people who had triumphed over themselves and the world with their thoughts. I bolted the door behind that one imprisoned them. They sat and went to pieces in their dungeon. But their thoughts went through the dungeon door, past me and went out into all streets.

I am far younger than you, another bolt said, but I had to do the same and have seen the same.

The fire spirit in the hearth breathed stronger, and the first glow of dawn fell onto the scrap metal. It became very embarrassed and depressed because the many stains now stood out even clearer than in the light of the fire spirit that breathed with difficulty in its cramped hearth. The scrap metal looked sadly on its dirty body and talked confused and lamenting, all at the same time.

I had to hold a murderer, the chain moaned, it was in his last night. Beside him sat a man in a cassock and held a book in his hand that had a golden cross on it.

I had to work in a slaughterhouse, a long knive said, I have looked into the horrified eyes of thousands of creatures before they became lifeless. I have seen thousand animal souls wandering around in a house full of blood and horror. Yet a piece of me formerly was a bead in the rosary of an old quiet man. It was in India, and the old quiet man swept the path before him with weak arms, not to tread on any creature. He called the worm his brother and asked it for its gods' blessing. He talked of the chain of things. The drew the swastika in the sand and humbly fidded with his rosary when the wind blew it apart. The foreign priests from Europe jeered the old man's faith.

Now we have Europe and its culture, the saber said furiously and shook off a golden tassel that hung at it.

We have to walk though many forms, the knive said, that I know from the old man in India. I just don't know which one we shall get.

We cannot stay in this form! the shouted all at the same time. We are dirty and full of stains. We want to be reforged. We want to go to the fire spirit and ask for another form. But we don't want to wait until the sun rises. we don't want the sun to find us in this state. Then it will shine on our dirt and our stains. But the smith will not come so soon. Certainly, he's still sleeping.

There a spark from the hearth fell into the middle of the scap metal.

The smith does not sleep. He will come soon, the spark hissed, it is a special smith. His day's work is before sunrise.

Then the spark died.

The door opened and the smith entered. He was a serious, quiet man with sad eyes. That was because of his day's work. He trod the bellows that it opened up all its belly folds and swelled up really thick. The fire spirit awoke in its cramped hearth, and the smith put all the iron into the fire. Then he liftet it out of the baptism of fire and put it on the anvil.

What will become of us — which form — which form? the scrap metl asked, and the knive thought of the old man in India.

The smith stroke. The sparks flew.

He forged only one form, the last of all forms. He forged the iron's soul.

It way his day's work.

As it was finished, a shining plowshare stood on the dew-damp soil in front of the smithy.

There the sun rose.

Unfortunately, it is only a fairy tale…


From: Das Manfred Kyber Buch, Rowohlt, December 1985
Translation: Ulrich Messerle, March 2015
Published on:

Text Version: 2015-03-15 (a)