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Colorized version of the spanking scene in Silen.

Silen is an illustrated German poem (a picture story) by Wilhelm Busch, originally published in Die Haarbeutel in 1878. Busch was 46 when he drew this.

The story is metaphoric and narrates an encounter of two characters from Greek/Roman mythology: Silen, a corpulent Dionysus-like figure, and Amor (Eros, Cupid), the god of love, a young naked boy with wings. Silen is Busch's take at the classic motif of Punished Cupid.


The work is set in metric, unrhyming verse. The meter is a elegiac distich; the first line of each pair is a dactylic hexameter and the second line is a dactylic pentameter. Each pair of lines is accompanied by an illustrating drawing in Busch's typical cartoon style.

This form of verse was used in antiquity for the composition of elegies and other tragic and solemn verse, as well as love poetry that was sometimes light and cheerful.


Spoiler warning

Silen has spent some pleasant time with a nymph (note: Dionysus stereotypically had nymphs in his retinue) and wine. He climbs his donkey, takes his thyrsus (note: the thyrsus was Dionysus's attribute, a giant fennel staff topped with a pine cone, a sacred instrument used at religious rituals and fetes) and rides off. He rides with some difficulty as he is very drunk. On his way, Amor hides behind a bush to play a trick on him. Amor shoots a dart at Silen's donkey. (Note: the word Lausbub is used here, which means rascal, scallywag, prankster. Instead of the usual bow, Busch's Amor uses a blowgun, which seems to have been a popular child's toy weapon in Busch's days.) The donkey is hit in his rear end and bucks off Silen. Silen tries to catch Amor, but fails because Amor flies off. Silen then thinks of a trick: he pretends he has gone to sleep. Amor falls for it, comes near to further tease him, and is caught. Silen punishes the captured little prankster with joy. He first spanks Amor, in the head-between-legs position, with his thyrsus. Meanwhile, the donkey relieves himself of, and onto, Amor's arrow. After the spanking, Silen displumes Amor by plucking the feathers from his wings so he can no longer fly. Silen finally rides triumphantly off on his donkey, taking Amor's blowgun, pan flute, and feathers with him. Amor, beaten and defeated, is left behind, crying.

The story[edit]

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 11.png

Siehe, da sitzet Silen bei der wohlgebildeten Nymphe.
Gern entleert er den Krug, was er schon öfters getan.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 12.png

Endlich aber jedoch erklimmt er den nützlichen Esel,
Wenn auch dieses nicht ganz ohne Beschwerde geschah.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 13.png

Fast vergißt er den Thyrsus, woran er sein Lebtag gewöhnt ist;
Käme derselbe ihm weg, wär’ es ihm schrecklich fatal. —

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 14.png

Also reitet er fort und erhebt auf Kunst keinen Anspruch;
Bald mal sitzet er so, bald auch wieder mal so.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 15.png

Horch, wer flötet denn da? Natürlich, Amor der Lausbub;
Aber der Esel erhebt äußerst bedenklich das Ohr.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 16.png

Schlimmer als Flötengetön ist das lautlos wirkende Pustrohr;
Pustet man hinten, so fliegt vorne was Spitzes heraus.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 17.png

Ungern empfindet den Schmerz das redlich dienende Lasttier;
Aber der Reiter hat auch manche Geschichten nicht gern.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 18.png

Leicht erwischt man den Vogel durch List und schlaue Beschleichung;

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 19.png

Wenn er es aber bemerkt, flieget er meistens davon.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 1A.png

Mancher erreichet den Zweck durch täuschend geübte Verstellung;
Scheinbar schlummert der Leib, aber die Seele ist wach.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 1B.png

Schnupp! Er hat ihn erwischt. Laut kreischt der lästige Vogel,
Während der handliche Stab tönend die Backe berührt.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 1C.png

Übel wird es vermerkt, entrupft man dem Vogel die Feder;
Erstens scheint sie ihm schön, zweitens gebraucht er sie auch.

440px-W Busch Der Haarbeutel 1D.png

Heimwärts reitet Silen und spielt auf der lieblichen Flöte,
Freilich verschiedenerlei, aber doch meistens düdellütt!