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Excerpt, “Borrowed Plumes: Translations from German Poets.” James D.B. Gribble. 1888..
I dreamt that I was young and hale again,
It was the mansion in my native land;
I ran along the pathway to the vale,
Ran with Ottilia, racing hand in hand.
How neatly formed, her tiny figure looks!
Those sweet green eyes have such a roguish play,
And on those little feet she stands so firm,
A type of grace and strength’s united sway.
Her voice’s music is so sweet and true
You almost fancy through her heart to see;
And all she says is clever, full of sense;
Her ruddy lips a budding rose might be!
It is not sensuous longing that I feel;
I’m not in love; my senses calm remain,
And yet her manners have a wondrous charm,
And as I kiss her hand I thrill with pain.
Methinks at last I plunked a lily fair,
And gave it to her, saying: from my heart
Accept my troth, Ottilia, be my own,
That I may be as gentle as thou art.
The answer that she gave I ne’er shall know
For I awake to find myself in tears, —
That I am ill and lying on my bed,
Forlorn as I have been these many years.
THE GLOVE (1797)
Before his lion-court,
To see the gruesome sport,
Sate the king;
Beside him group’d his princely peers;
And dames aloft, in circling tiers,
Wreath’d round their blooming ring.
King Francis, where he sate,
Raised a finger–yawn’d the gate,
And, slow from his repose,
A LION goes!
Dumbly he gazed around
The foe-encircled ground;
And, with a lazy gape,
He stretch’d his lordly shape,
And shook his careless mane,
And–laid him down again!
A finger raised the king–
And nimbly have the guard
A second gate unbarr’d;
Forth, with a rushing spring,
A TIGER sprung!
Wildly the wild one yell’d
When the lion he beheld;
And, bristling at the look,
With his tail his sides he strook,
And roll’d his rabid tongue;
In many a wary ring
He swept round the forest king,
With a fell and rattling sound;–
And laid him on the ground,
The king raised his finger; then
Leap’d two LEOPARDS from the den
With a bound;
And boldly bounded they
Where the crouching tiger lay
And he gripped the beasts in his deadly hold;
In the grim embrace they grappled and roll’d;
Rose the lion with a roar!
And stood the strife before;
And the wild-cats on the spot,
From the blood-thirst, wroth and hot,
Now from the balcony above,
A snowy hand let fall a glove:–
Midway between the beasts of prey,
Lion and tiger; there it lay,
The winsome lady’s glove!
Fair Cunigonde said, with a lip of scorn,
To the knight DELORGES–“If the love you have sworn
Were as gallant and leal as you boast it to be,
I might ask you to bring back that glove to me!”
The knight left the place where the lady sate;
The knight he has pass’d thro’ the fearful gate;
The lion and tiger he stoop’d above,
And his fingers have closed on the lady’s glove!
All shuddering and stunn’d, they beheld him there–
The noble knights and the ladies fair;
But loud was the joy and the praise, the while
He bore back the glove with his tranquil smile!
With a tender look in her softening eyes,
That promised reward to his warmest sighs,
Fair Cunigonde rose her knight to grace;
He toss’d the glove in the lady’s face!
“Nay, spare me the guerdon, at least,” quoth he;
And he left forever that fair ladye!
The Knight scorns Cunigonde
by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), “Song of the Imprisoned Huntsman” from The Lady of the Lake, The Guard Room, XXIV.
Set by Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) , “Lied des gefangenen Jägers”, op. 52 no. 7, D. 843 (1825).
“Lied des gefangenen Jägers”
My hawk is tired of perch and hood.
My idle greyhound loathes his food,
My horse is weary of his stall
And I am sick of captive thrall.
I wish I were, as I have been,
Hunting the hart in forest green,
With bended bow and bloodhound free,
For that’s the life is meet for me.
I hate to learn the ebb of time
From yon dull steeple’s drowsy chime,
Or mark it as the sunbeams crawl,
Inch after inch, along the wall.
The lark was wont my matins ring,
The sable rook my vespers sing;
These towers, although a king’s they be,
Have not a hall of joy for me.
No more at dawning morn I rise,
And sun myself in Ellen’s eyes,
Drive the fleet deer the forest through,
And homeward wend with evening dew.
Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.” Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville. 1853.
To My old Friend
After long years once more thy writing lay
Before me, and – how wonderful – forth flew
Back on my heart our youthful friendship’s day,
When in the world’s great school we yet were new.
I now am an old man; my hair is grey,
And false shame I have long learned to subdue,
Yes! I will call thee friend, as I did then,
Will hail thee mine, and tell it unto men!
My poor, poor friend! the joggling fiend hath not
Me, as thyself, so treacherously undone;
Still have I striven, still hoped a brighter lot,
And truly, in the end, have little won’
Yet the Grey Man will boast not to have got
Hold of my shadow; nor hath ever done.
Here lies my native shadow, free unfurled:
I never lost my shadow in the world.
Yet, guiltless as a child, on me descended
The scorn men for thy nakedness did feel,
What! is our likeness then so subtly blended?
They shouted, “Where’s thy shadow, O Schlemihl?”
And when I showed it, laughing, they pretended
Blindness, and still laughed endless peal on peal.
What help? We learn in patience to endure;
Nay more – are glad – feel we our conscience pure.
And what then is the shadow? May I know it?
As I myself so oft am catechised?
Thus monstrously, and higher far to show it,
Than the harsh world itself it e’er hath prized?
Yes! and to nineteen thousand days we own it
Which passing o’er us, thus have us advised –
As formerly to shadow we gave being,
We now see life, a shadow, from us fleeing.
And thereupon we give our hands, Schlemihl!
On we will go, and to the Old One leave it;
How little for the whole world will we feel,
But our own union, firm and firmer weave it.
As thus unto our goal we nearer wheel,
Who laughs or blames — we’ll hear not, nor conceive it;
Till, ‘scaped from all the tempests of the deep
We’ll enter port, and sleep our soundest sleep.
Berlin, August 1834
Adelbert von Chamisso
Excerpt, “The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemihl” by Adelbert von Chamisso. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. Paternoster Row. 1843. Translated by William Howitt. Illustrated by A. Fleischmann.
.Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.
My heart, I fain would ask thee,
What call’st thou love, expound?
“Two souls with one thought between them,
Two hearts with one pulse-bound!”
And say, from whence love cometh:
“She comes, and lo, she’s there!”
And say, how doth love vanish?
“If so, love never were.”
And when is love the purest?
“When she herself excludes!”
And when is love the deepest?
“When silentest she broods!”
And when is love the richest?
“Then when with gifts she’s fraught!”
And say, what is’t love speaketh?
“She loves, but speaketh nought!”
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!
Historic Heidelberg – 1815, Carl Anton Joseph Rottman
An die Sonne
Regal morning sun,
I greet you in your bliss,
I greet you heartily in your splendour!
The hills are already flowing with the gold
of your robes, and the birds
in every wood are all awake.
Everything feels your blessing;
the meadows beneath you sing;
everything becomes harmony:
and you listen with pleasure to the choir
of the merry woods; o listen,
listen also to my song of praise.
Excerpt, Edgar Taylor: “Lay of the Minnesingers, or German Troubadours of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.” London: 1825.
Walther von der Vogelweide, one of the most distinguished of the Minnesingers, was born in the latter half of the Twelfth Century of a noble family belonging to the Upper Thurgau. The name Vogelweide (Bird-meadow) appears to have been taken from that of their castle. The poet led a wandering life; sometimes at the court of Frederic, the Duke of Austria and Stiria; then kindly received by Philip Augustus, King of France.
But he remained long at the magnificent court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, the great patron of the poets of his age, who instituted the poetical contest called the War of Wartburg, in which Walther took part. A work is still preserved called “The Wartburg War,” consisting of the alternate songs of the bards who took part in this poetical joust.
Tradition places the date of this tuneful tourney in the year 1207, the most brilliant epoch of ancient German poetry, not only for the illustrious names which have been handed down to our day, but for the impulse given to the ancient national and heroic poetry by unknown minstrels. Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia, had gathered round his court many of the most famous Minnesingers, who had celebrated in lays and ballads the warlike deeds of his martial house.
Heinrich von Ofterdingen appears as the champion of the Austrian prince. He throws down the gauntlet to all the poets, and offers to maintain the virtues of his hero against all the singer tribe, under penalty of being hanged in case of defeat.
Walther, as court poet of the Thuringian prince, accepts the challenge, and enters the lists against Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Walther regrets that he is obliged to declare against the Duke of Austria and his brave cavaliers; then he praises the King of France, Philip Augustus, in whose reign the poetry of the North of France rivaled the glory of the Provençal muse.
This the poet could testify from his own knowledge, for he had crossed the Rhine and visited the banks of the Seine. But in the course of the contest he partially recants, and sets the gracious Duke above the monarch, calling him the Sun; but the Landgrave he compares to the brightness that precedes the Sun.
Ofterdingen complains of Walther, accuses him of playing an unfair game, and resorts to Klinsor of Hungary to sustain the supremacy of Austria. The other champions call for Stempfel of Eisenach, who stands ready the halter; but Ofterdingen is protected by the Landgravine, who intercedes in his defense.
The place of the scene was the great Wartburg castle, a hall that still exists, and is shown as a monument of the joust…
Walther seems to have adopted all the habits and manners of the wandering minstrels of the times. He traveled from court to court, generally received with honor, tarrying with the German princes who protected the arts of poetry and music, and sometimes at foreign courts, and was welcomed everywhere.
When from the sod and the flowerets spring,
And smile to meet the sun’s bright ray,
When birds their sweetest carols sing,
Is all the morning pride of May.
What lovelier than the prospect there?
Can earth boast anything more fair?
To me it seems an almost heaven,
So beauteous to my eyes
That vision bright is given.
But when a lady chaste and fair,
Noble, and clad in rich attire,
Walks through the throng with gracious sir,
As sun that bids the stars retire –
Then, where are all thy boastings, May?
What hast though beautiful and gay,
Compared with that supreme delight?
We leave thy loveliest flowers,
And watch that lady bright.
Wouldst thou believe me – come and place
Before thee all this pride of May;
Then look but on my lady’s face,
And which is best and brightest say,
For me, how soon (if choice were mine)
This would I take, and that resign,
And say, “Though sweet thy beauties, May
I’d rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay!”
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