THE WOMEN OF WEINSBERG
It was the good King Konrad with all his army lay
Before the town of Weinsberg full many a weary day;
The Guelph at last was vanquished, but still the town held out;
The bold and fearless burghers they fought with courage stout.
But then came hunger, hunger! That was a grievous guest;
They went to ask for favor, but anger met their quest.
"Through you the dust hath bitten full many a worthy knight,
And if your gates you open, the sword shall you requite!"
Then came the women, praying: "Let be as thou hast said,
Yet give us women quarter, for we no blood have shed!"
At sight of these poor wretches the hero's anger failed,
And soft compassion entered and in his heart prevailed.
"The women shall be pardoned, and each with her shall bear
As much as she can carry of her most precious ware;
The women with their burdens unhindered forth shall go,
Such is our royal judgment--we swear it shall be so!"
At early dawn next morning, ere yet the east was bright,
The soldiers saw advancing a strange and wondrous sight;
The gate swung slowly open, and from the vanquished town
Forth swayed a long procession of women weighted down;
For perched upon her shoulders each did her husband bear--
That was the thing most precious of all her household ware.
"We'll stop the treacherous women!" cried all with one intent;
The chancellor he shouted: "This was not what we meant!"
But when they told King Konrad, the good King laughed aloud;
"If this was not our meaning, they've made it so," he vowed,
"A promise is a promise, our loyal word was pledge;
It stands, and no Lord Chancellor may quibble or map hedge."
Thus was the royal scutcheon kept free from stain or blot!
The story has descended from days now half forgot;
'Twas eleven hundred and forty this happened, as I've heard,
Translated by Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker
Die Trompete von Gravelotte
Aug. 16, 1870
Death and Destruction they belched forth in vain,
We grimly defied their thunder;
Two columns of foot and batteries twain,
We rode and cleft them asunder.
With brandished sabres, with reins all slack,
Raised standards, and low-couched lances,
Thus we Uhlans and Cuirassiers wildly drove back,
And hotly repelled their advances.
But the ride was a ride of death and of blood;
With our thrusts we forced them to sever;
But of two whole regiments, lusty and good,
Out of two men, one rose never.
With breast shot through, with brow gaping wide,
They lay pale and cold in the valley,
Snatched away in their youth, in their manhood's pride--
Now, Trumpeter, sound to the rally!
And he took the trumpet, whose angry thrill
Urged us on to the glorious battle,
And he blew a blast--but all silent and still
Was the trump, save a dull hoarse rattle,
Save a voiceless wail, save a cry of woe,
That burst forth in fitful throbbing--
A bullet had pierced its metal through,
For the Dead the wounded was sobbing!
For the faithful, the brave, for our brethren all,
For the Watch on the Rhine, true-hearted!
Oh, the sound cut into our inmost soul!--
It brokenly wailed the Departed!
And now fell the night, and we galloped past,
Watch-fires were flaring and flying,
Our chargers snorted, the rain poured fast--
And we thought of the Dead and the Dying!
Like the sun’s uprising light
Shines that maid, before whom fade
Other charms, however bright;
As the stars at break of day,
Late so brilliant, fade away.
When my spirit light had flown
Wanton forth in pleasure’s quest,
Then those beaming have shone
O’er the rover’s path, and led
Home to her from whom it sped.
When again its wing it took
Falcon-like for joy to soar,
Ne’er the gentle spell it broke;
Soon again it sought its home
In that breast it wandered from.
O’er its fear was ever coming
Lest its mistress, at the thought
That for other loves ‘t was roaming,
Vengeful all its joys might blight;
Therefore back it winged its flight.‘
And yet the essential element of him,
As of all such men,
Is not scorching fire…
But shining illuminative light.
Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt. 1869.
Illustrations by Harry Clarke.
Nacht und Träume
Holy night, you sink down;
Dreams also float down
As your moonlight fills the room,
Fills the sleeping hearts of men.
They listen with pleasure;
Crying, when the day awakes:
Return, fair night!
Fair dreams, return!
CHAMOUNY AT SUNRISE
.From the deep shadow of the silent fir-grove,
I lift my eyes, and trembling look on thee,
Brow of eternity, thou dazzling peak,
From whose calm height my dreaming spirit mounts
And sours away into the infinite!
Who sank the pillar in the lap of earth,
Down deep, the pillar of eternal rock,
On which thy mass stands firm, and firm hath stood,
While centuries on centuries rolled along?
Who reared, up-towering through the vaulted blue,
Mighty and bold, thy radiant countenance?
Who poured you from on-high with thunder-sound.
Down from old winter’s everlasting realm,
O jagged streams, over rock and through ravine?
And whose almighty voice commanded loud,
“Here shall the stiffening billows rest awhile!”
Whose finger points yon morning star his course?
Who fringed with blossom-wreaths the eternal frost?
Whose name, O wild Arveiron , does thy din
Of waves sound out in dreadful harmonies?
“Jehovah!” crashes in the burning ice;
Down through the gorge the rolling avalanche
Carries the word in thunder to the vales.
“Jehovah!” murmurs in the morning breeze.
Along the trembling tree-tops; down below
It whispers in the purling, silvery brooks.