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,
The flower of German princes thought shame to break his word.
Translated by Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker
Prussian Cuirassiers at Battle of Gravelotte – Franco-Prussian War
Juliusz Kossak, 1871
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!
Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.” Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville. 1853.
The Right Word
Deep ’neath the Rhine’s green billow
A golden treasure lies,
Knew’st thou the spell of magic
’Twould at thy voice arise;
That magic word which holdeth,
With but a single sound,
The mighty torrent’s surges,
As if in fetters bound.
Deep in the valley buried
A sword all-conqu’ring lies,
And he who can possess it
Against the world may rise.
One word must first be spoken,
The earth then opens, and lo!
From out her rocky chambers
The steel will brightly glow.
And there on yonder mountains,
Deep in the shaft profound,
By dwarfs and gnomes well guarded,
There may a key be found;
It opens every portal,
For ever ’tis thy own,
Know’st thou ’mong words unnumbered
That one right word alone.
How have I mused already
In vain so long, so long,
Till, word by word commencing,
It ended in a song!
But still as yet lie hidden
That treasure, key, and sword,
And what I sang so often
Was never the right word.
Excerpt, “Translations from the German Poets of the 18th and 19th Centuries.” By Alice Lucas. London: 1876.
Excerpt, “Lay of the Minnesingers, or German Troubadours of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.” London: 1825. Translator: Edgar Taylor.
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.‘
Excerpt, “Poems from the German of Ferdinand Freiligrath.” Edited by his daughter. Kate Freiligrath. Leipzig: 1871.
Théodore Géricault by Alexandre Colin, 1816.
And yet the essential element of him,
As of all such men,
Is not scorching fire…
But shining illuminative light.
1814 – The Wounded Cuirassier
Portrait of Lord Byron
The Kiss 1822
Cheval Gris Pommele
Horse-Market: Five-Horses-at-the-Stake 1816-19
Marie de Medici.
Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt. 1869.
Illustrations by Harry Clarke.
Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.
by Matthäus Kasimir von Collin (1779-1824), “Nachtfeier”
By Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828), “Nacht und Träume”, op. 43 no. 2, D. 827 (1822?), published 1825. Translation © by KarenL.
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.
Frederike Sophie Christiane Brun
Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry: A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices. ” Translated by Joseph Gostick. London: 1845.
Excerpt, “A Book of Ballads from the German.” Translated by Percy Boyd, Esq. 1848.
Excerpt, “The Lock and Key Library: Classic Mystery and Detective Stories – German.” Edited by Julian Hawthorne, 1909.
Melanchthon was dancing with the Bat, whose costume represented her in an inverted position. the wings were folded close to the body, and in the claws she held a large gold hoop upright, which gave the impression that she was hanging, suspended from some imaginary point. The effect was grotesque, and it amused Melanchthon very much, for he had to peep through this gold hoop, which was exactly on a level with his face, while dancing with the Bat.
She was one of the most original masks — and at the same time one of the most repelling ones — at the fete of the Persian prince. She had even impressed his highness, Mohammed Darasche-Koh, the host.
“I know you, pretty one,” he had nodded to her, much to the amusement of the bystanders.
“It is certainly the little marquise, the intimate friend of the princess,” declared a Dutch councilor in a Rembrandt costume. He surmised this because she knew every turn and corner of the palace, to judge by her conversation. And but a few moments ago, when some cavalier had ordered felt boots and torches so that they might go down into the courtyard and indulge in snowballing, the Bat joined them and participated wildly in the game. It was then — and the Dutchman was quite ready to back it with a wager — that he had seen a well-known bracelet on her wrist.
“Oh, how interesting,” exclaimed a Blue Butterfly. “Couldn’t Melanchthon discreetly discover whether or not Count Faast is a slave of the princess?”
“Don’t speak so loud,” interrupted the Dutch councilor. “It is a mighty good thing that the orchestra played the close of that waltz fortissimo, for the prince was standing here only a moment since.”
“Better not speak of such things,” whispered an Egyptian, “for the jealousy of this Asiatic prince knows no bounds, and there are probably more explosives in the palace than we dream. Count de Faast has been playing with fire too long, and if Darasche-Koh suspects…”
A rough figure representing a huge knot dashed by them in wild flight to escape a Hellenic warrior in shimmering armour.
“If you were the Gordian knot, Mynherr, and were pursued by Alexander the Great, wouldn’t you be frightened?” teased the inverted Bat, tapping the Dutchman coquettishly on the end of the nose with her fan.
“The sharp wit of the pretty Marquise Bat betrays her,” smiled a lanky Satan with tail and cloven foot. “What a pity that only as a Bat are you to be seen with your feet in the air.”
The dull sound of a gong filled the room as an executioner appeared, draped in a crimson robe. He tapped a bronze gong, and then, resting his weight on his glittering cudgel, posed himself in the center of the big hall.
Out of every niche and lobby the maskers streamed toward him — harlequins, cannibals, an ibis, and some Chinese, Don Quixotes, Columbines, bayaderes and dominoes of all colors.
The crimson executioner distributed tablets of ivory inscribed with gold letters. “Oh, programmes for the entertainment!” chorused the crowd.
“THE MAN ON THE BOTTLE”
Marionette Comedy in the Spirit of Aubrey Beardsley
By Prince Mohammed Darasche-Koh
The Man in the Bottle …. Miguel, Count de Faast
The Man on the Bottle …. Prince Mohammed Darasche-Koh
The Lady in the Sudan Chair ….. ???
Vampires, Marionettes, Hunchbacks, Apes, Musicians
Scene of Action: A Tiger’s Maw
“What! The prince the author of this marionette play?”
“Probably a scene out of the “Thousand and One Nights.”
“But who will play the part of the Lady in the Sedan Chair?”
“Oh, there is a great surprise in store for us,” twittered a seductive Incroyable, leaning on the arm of an Abbe. “Do you know, the Pierrot with whom I danced the tarantelle was the Count de Faast, who is going to play the Man in the Bottle; and he confided a lot of things to me: the marionettes will be very grewsome — that is, for those who appreciate the spirit of the thing — and the prince had an elephant sent down from Hamburg — but you are not listening to me at all!” And the little one dropped the arm of her escort and bolted into the swirling crowd.
New groups of masks constantly poured out of the adjoining rooms through the wide doorways into the big hall, making a kaleidoscopic play of colors, while files of costumed guests stood admiring the wonderful mural frescoes that rose to the blue, star-dotted ceiling. Attendants served refreshments, sorbets and wines in the window niches.
With a rolling sound, the walls of the narrow end of the hall separated and a stage was pushed slowly into view. Its setting, in red brown and a flaming yellow proscenium, was a yawning tiger’s maw, the white teeth glittering above and below.
In the middle of the scene stood a huge glass bottle in the form of a globe, with walls at least a foot thick. It was about twice the height of an average man and very roomy. The back of the scene was draped with pink silk hangings.
Then the colossal ebony doors of the hall opened and admitted a richly caparisoned elephant, which advanced with majestic tread. On its head sat the crimson executioner guiding the beast with the butt of the cudgel. Chains of amethysts dangled from the elephant’s tusks, and plumes of peacock feathers nodded from its head. Heavily embroidered gold cloths streamed down from the back of the beast, skirting the floor; across its enormous forehead there was a network of sparkling jewels.
The maskers flocked around the advancing beast, shouting greetings to the gay group of actors seated in the palanquin; Prince Darasche-Koh with turban and aigrette, Count de Faast as Pierrot, marionettes and musicians, stiff as wooden puppets. The elephant reached the stage, and with its trunked lifted one man after another from its back. There was much applause and a yell of delight as the beast seized the Pierrot and sliding him into the neck of the bottle, closed the metal top. Then the Persian prince was placed on top of the bottle.
The musicians seated themselves in a semicircle, drawing forth strange, slender instruments. The elephant gazed at them a moment, then turned about and strode toward the door. Like a lot of happy children, the maskers clung to its trunk, ears, and tusks and tried to hold it back; but the animal seemed not to feel their weight at all.
The performance began, and somewhere, as if out of the ground, there arose weird music. The puppet orchestra of marionettes remained lifeless and waxen; the flute player stared with glassy, idiotic eyes at the ceiling; the features of the rococo conductor in peruke and plumed hat, holding the baton aloft and pressing a pointed finger mysteriously to his lips, were distorted by a shrewd, uncanny smile. In the foreground posed the marionettes. Here were grouped a humpbacked dwarf with chalky face, a gray grinning devil, and a sallow rouged actress with carmine lips. The three seemed possessed of some satanic secret that had paralyzed their movements. The semblance of death brooded over the entire motionless group.
The Pierrot in the bottle now began to move restlessly. He doffed his white felt hat, bowed and occasionally greeted the Persian prince, who with crossed legs sat on the cap of the bottle. His antics amused the audience. The thick walls of glass distorted his appearance curiously; sometimes his eyes seemed to pop out of his head; then again they disappeared, and one saw only forehead and chin; sometimes he was fat and bloated, then again slender with long legs like a spider’s.
In the midst of a motionless pause the red silk hangings of the background parted, and a closed sedan chair was carried on by two Moors, who placed it near the bottle. A ray of pale light from above now illuminated the scene. The spectators had formed themselves into two camps. The one was speechless under the spell of this vampiric, enigmatic marionette play that seemed to exhale an atmosphere of poisoned merriment; the other group, not sensitive enough to appreciate such a scene, laughed immoderately at the comical capering of the man in the bottle.
He had given up his merry dancing and was trying by every possible means to impart some information or other to the prince sitting on the cap. He pounded the walls of the bottle as though he would smash them; and to all appearances he was screaming at the top of his voice, although not the slightest sound penetrated the thick glass.
The Persian prince acknowledged the movements of the Pierrot with a smile pointing with his finger at the sedan chair.
The curiosity of the audience reached its climax when it saw that the Pierrot had pressed his face against the glass and was staring at something in the window of the sedan chair. Then suddenly, like one gone mad, he beat his face with his hands, sank on his knees and tore his hair. Then he sprang furiously up and raced around the bottle at such speed that the audience saw only a fluttering cloth in his wake.
The secret of the Lady in the Sedan Chair puzzled the audience considerably — they could only see that a white face was pressed against the window of the chair and was staring over at the bottle. Shadows cut off all further view.
Laughter and applause rose to a tumult. Pierrot had crouched on the bottom of the bottle, his fingers clutching his throat. Then he opened his mouth wide and pointed in wild frenzy to his chest and then to the one sitting above. He folded his hands in supplicaton, as though he were begging something from the audience.
“He wants something to drink! Such a large bottle and no wine in it? I say, you marionettes, give him a drink,” cried one of the maskers.
Everybody laughed and applauded.
Then the Pierrot jumped up once more, tore his garments from his chest and staggered about until he measured his length on the bottom of the bottle.
“Bravo, bravo, Pierrot! Wonderfully acted!” yelled the maskers.
When the man in the bottle did not stir again and made no effort to repeat his scene, the applause gradually subsided and the attention of the spectators was drawn to the marionettes. They still remained motionless in the poses they had assumed, but in their miens there was now a sense of expectancy that had not been there before. It seemed as if they were waiting for a cue.
The humpbacked dwarf, with the chalked face, turned his eyes carefully and gazed at the Prince Darasche-Koh. The Persian did not stir.
Finally, two figures advanced from the background, and one of the Moors haltingly approached the sedan chair and opened the door.
And then something very remarkable occurred — the body of a woman fell stiffly out on the stage. There was a moment of deathly silence and then a thousand voices arose: “What has happened?”
Marionettes, apes, musicians all leaped forward; maskers climbed up on the stage.
The princess, wife of Darasche-Koh, lay there strapped to a steel frame. Where the ropes had cut into her flesh were blue bruises, and in her mouth there was a silk gag.
A nameless horror took possession of the audience.
“Pierrot!” a voice suddenly shrilled. “Pierrot!” Like a dagger, indescribable fear penetrated every heart.
“Where is the prince?”
During the tumult, the Persian had disappeared.
Melanchthon stood on the shoulders of Mephisto, but he could not lift the cap on the bottle, and the air valve was screwed tightly shut.
“Break the walls of the bottle! Quick!”
The Dutch councilor tore the cudgel from the hand of the crimson executioner and with a leap landed on the stage.
A grewsome sound arose, like the toiling of a cracked bell. Like streaks of white lightning the cracks leaped across the surface of the glass. Finally the bottle was splintered into bits. And within it lay the body of the Count de Faast , his fingers clawing his breast.
Silently and with invisible pinions the gigantic ebony birds of terror streaked through the hall of the fete.