translation of “Der Narr” from 1904 by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

He wasn’t dumb. His intellect was sound
Enough to get him through his daily round.
It’s just that he
Thought he was pope. He said it happily
And so often that they were alarmed
And finally sent him to the funny farm.

A good friend visited while he rehearsed
Distraught complaints—in fact, he cursed:
“Tarnation! What is with these guys?
They say I’m crazy and I don’t know why.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what people do.
They have enough of Popes with one.
You’re number two.
And that is just what they can’t bear.
Listen, you should be aware:
The smart keep mum.”

The crazy man went still as if in thought,
And his good friend went quietly on out.

And see, it wasn’t even two whole weeks
Before they met each other on the street.

“Hey,” called his friend, “Now what’s the scoop?
I guess you had to give up being pope?”

He slyly answered, “Oh, I get it.
You sure are a nosy one!
I know exactly how it works.
We all have our little quirks
But you’re crazy to admit it.
The wise keep mum.”
1 July 2012
The original relies on the ambiguity of the word “Narr”, which can mean a crazy person or a foolish person. English doesn’t seem to have a noun with the same ambiguity, but the adjective “crazy” works.