Category Archives: KÖRNER

C. Theodor Körner: “Goldner”

Excerpt, “German Stories: Tales and Traditions Chiefly Selected from the Literature of Germany.” 1855. 



A Fairy Tale Told by Körner

It may be two thousand years ago, or more, since a poor herdsman lived in a thick forest, where he had built a hut in which he dwelt with his wife and six children, all of whom were boys.  There was a clear cool spring near the little hut, and a small garden; and when the father was in the fields with his cattle, the children would oftentimes carry a refreshing draught to him from the spring or some cherry-cheeked apples from the garden.

The parents had called the youngest of their children Goldner; for his hair was bright and shining like gold, and although he was the youngest, yet was he taller and stronger than any of his brothers.  Whenever any of the children were abroad into the fields or the forest, Goldner went before them with a large stick in his hand.   Without him none of the other children would venture to leave the neighborhood of the hut, lest they should be carried off, or devoured by wild beasts, or some evil mischance peradventure should befall them; but under his guidance they would wander without fear through the thickest and gloomiest parts of the forest,–even though it was night-fall, and the moon had risen above the mountains.

One evening the boys, while returning home, had amused themselves long in the fields, and Goldner particularly had been so eager in the sport that his cheeks glowed like the crimson of the evening sky.  “Let us go home,” said the eldest, “for it seems to grow dark.”

“Look, there is the moon,” said the second; and all at once a clear light shows upon them, and they beheld a woman fair and radiant as the moon, seated on a mossy stone among the dark fir trees.  As the children gazed upon so beautiful a sight, they saw her twirling a crystal spindle, from which she spun a marvelous thread, which glittered brightly through the dark night; and ever as she spun, she nodded to Goldner, and sung these words:

“The snow-white Finch, and the gold Rose tree,

And the Crown that lies hidden beneath the sea.”

Perhaps she would have sung longer, and added other words than these, but her thread suddenly snapped in twain, whereupon she vanished like a light which is suddenly extinguished.  It was now quite dark, and the children seized with terror hastened away in different directions, over rocks and cliffs, till they had all lost sight of one another.

Long Goldner wandered in the thick forest, but he neither found his brothers, nor could perceive his father’s hub, or any trace of men; for all around him the trees of the forest grew close and thick together, and high mountains towered above his head to the very skies, while deep ravines crossed his path.  But for a few bramble-berries which he picked here and there, poor Goldner would have died of hunger and exhaustion.  But on the third day—some say that it was not until the sixth—the forest became clearer and clearer, and Goldner at last got out of it, and came to a beautiful green meadow.

The brave boy now felt his heart lightened, and began to breathe with delight the fresh air. There were a number of snares placed on the meadow,which belonged to a bird-catcher who dwelt near the spot, and who gained a livelihood by catching the beautiful singing-birds which came out of the forest, and selling them in the neighbouring town.

“It is just such a young spark as this I stand in need of,” thought the bird-catcher to himself, when he first perceived the gallant boy standing alone on the green meadow, and gazing upwards on the wide blue sky as if he never could tire at the sight.  So the bird-catcher thought he would play a trick on the young stranger, and drew his nets, whereupon poor Goldner was suddenly caught, and lay under the snare quite unable to comprehend what had happened to him.

“Thus we catch all foolish birds when they venture out of the forest,” said the bird-catcher, laughing aloud.  “Your crimson feathers just please me, brave boy, and methinks you are a sly one too, so be content to stay with me, and I shall teach you how to catch birds.”

Goldner was very well-pleased with this proposal; for it seemed to him that one would lead a very merry life among the gay birds, and he could not hope soon to regain his father’s hut.

“Come, let us see what you have learned,” said he bird-catcher one day to the boy.  So Goldner and he went out with the nets; and on his first trial Goldner caught a marvelous Finch that was as white as snow.

“Begone with your white Finch!” exclaimed the bird-catcher, when he beheld so rare a bird.  “Begone, sirrah; for you must be in compact with the Evil One!”  So he drove Goldner away from the meadow, and with many curses crushed the pretty white Finch beneath his feet.

Goldner knew not why the bird-catcher should have been so angry at his success; but he cheerfully took his way back into the forest, intending once more to seek his father’s hut.  Far he traveled through the thick and gloomy forest, among rocks and stones and decayed trees, till on the third day the forest became clearer and clearer, and on emerging from it, he found himself in a fine sunny garden, full of lovely flowers.

The boy had never before beheld so charming a site, and long he stood and gazed on the beautiful plants and flowers.  But when the gardener drew nigh and beheld Goldner standing in the midst of a plot of sunflowers, with his long golden locks glittering in the light of the sun, as radiant as the flowers with which he was surrounded, he thought to himself:  “It is just such a stripling as this I stand in need of.”  So he hastily shut the gate of the garden, and Goldner was well-pleased to stay with him, for he  thought he would lead such a pleasant life among the pretty flowers, especially as his hopes were now fainter of reaching his father’s hut.

“Go,” said the gardener one morning to Goldner, “go and fetch me a wild rose-bush from the forest, that I may graft my garden-roses upon it.”  So Goldner went to the forest, and soon returned with a marvelous bush of gold-coloured Roses, which looked as beautiful as if every flower and bud had been wrought by the most skillful goldsmith to ornament the table of a king.

“Begone with your golden Roses!” exclaimed the gardener, when he saw so rare a plant.  “Some evil thing befriends thee, thou vile one!” And with these words he pushed the wandering boy out of the garden, and trampled the beautiful Roses under his feet.

Goldner again took his way cheerfully back into the forest, and resolved once more to seek the way to his father’s hut.  On the third day of his wanderings the forest became clearer and clearer, and Goldner on getting out of it beheld the blue sea and spreading out before him into the infinite distance. The sun shone upon the liquid mirror, which glowed like burnished gold; and there were beautifully adorned ships, with gay pendants and silken sails, gliding majestically over the surface of the waters.  Goldner was ravished with so brave a sight, and having stepped into an elegant pinnace which lay moored to the shore, he gazed and gazed more delightfully on the wide waters and the azure sky.

Read the rest of this brief Antique German Story in Translation in its entirety here!


Theodor Körner: “Men and Knaves”


Battle of Nations 1813





The storm is out; the land is roused;

Where is the coward who sits well-housed?

Fie, on thee, boy, disguised in curls,

Behind the stove, ‘mong gluttons and girls!

   A graceless, worthless wight thou must be;

   No German maid desires thee,

   No German song inspires thee,

   No German Rhine-wine fires thee.

       Forth in the van,

       Man by man,

   Swing the battle-sword who can!


When we stand watching, the livelong night,

Through piping storms, till morning light,

Thou to thy downy bed canst creep,

And there in dreams of rapture sleep.




When, hoarse and shrill, the trumpet’s blast,

Like the thunder of God, makes our hearts beat fast,

Thou in the theatre lov’st to appear,

Where trills and quavers tickle the ear.




When the glare of noonday scorches the brain,

When our parched lips seek water in vain,

Thou canst make the champagne corks fly,

At the groaning tables of luxury.




When we, as we rush to the strangling fight,

Send home to our true loves a long “Good night,”

Thou canst hie thee where love is sold,

And buy thy pleasure with paltry gold.




When lance and bullet come whistling by,

And death in a thousand shapes draws nigh,

Thou canst sit at thy cards, and kill

King, queen, and knave, with thy spadille.




If on the red field our bell should toll,

Then welcome be death to the patriot’s soul.

Thy pampered flesh shall quake at its doom,

And crawl in silk to a hopeless tomb.

   A pitiful exit thine shall be;

   No German maid shall weep for thee,

   No German song shall they sing for thee,

   No German goblets shall ring for thee.

       Forth in the van,

       Man for man,

   Swing the battle-sword who can!



Excerpt, “German Lyric Poetry:  A Collection of Songs and Ballads.”  Translated from the Best German Lyric Poets, with Notes by Charles Timothy Brooks.  1863.




Noisy day is done; its bright hues fade;

Redder glows the sun’s declining ray;

Here, beneath your spreading twilight shade,

Prompts my swelling heart the pensive lay.

True old chroniclers of ages gray,

Ye are still in life’s fresh green arrayed,

And the mighty forms of years gone by

Still are with us in your majesty.


Many a noble form has death laid low;

Many a flower too early snatched away;

Through your softly glimmering twigs e’en now

Steals the farewell smile of dying day.

Yet, unheeding Time’s remorseless flow,

Ye have bid defiance to decay;

In your twigs I hear a voice that saith,

Whispering, “What is great shall live through death!”


And ye have lived on! Ye tower on high,

Bold and fresh, in vigorous green arrayed.

Haply, not a pilgrim, journeying by,

But shall rest him in your soothing shade.

What though pale-faced Autumn, with a sigh,

Marks your leafy children fall and fade?

E’en in death they keep a precious trust;

Your spring glories bloom from out their dust.


Fair image of old German loyalty,

As in better days it has been known,

When, with glad devotion fired, the free,

Dying, laid their country’s cornerstone—

Why should I renew the pang? Ah me!

’Tis a pang each bosom feels its own!

Mightiest of the mighty, German land,

Thou art in the dust—thy old oaks stand!

Carl Theodor Körner: Wallhaide

Excerpt, “Ballads from the German.”  Translator, Henry Englis.  1864.

Where yonder crumbling ruins lower,

Where the evening light lies gleaming,

Once stood a lordly castled tower,

Now in its desolation dreaming.

Now hurtles the shower

Through hall and bower,–

And the spirits of the dead have power

At the midnight hour.


In the days of ancient chivalry,

There lived a wild and warrior knight;

Stern and grave in his home was he,

And a fiery champion in fight;–

But his daughter, she

Had the gentle glee

Of sunlight on the summer sea.



Calm was her course of household care,

Far from the world’s turmoil and strife;

Yet had this maiden vowed to wear

A lover’s memory for life;

And a courser rare

Her Rudolph bare,

The treasures of her heart to share.


And as the sunbeams sank to rest,

She glided down the sylvan dell,

Soft as a zephyr from the west,

To meet Love’s lonely sentinel;

And to her breast

He held her pressed,

In the silence of that sylvan nest.


Awhile, in momentary bliss,

All Eden was around them;

But straight the gathering bloom,

From lovers’ dream unbound them.

Can tongue express

The last caress,

The unutterable tenderness

Of kiss for kiss?


Swiftly the summer waned away;

But waxing passion doth not wane,

But still is driven by delay

To an intensity of pain;

And one sad day

Heard Rudolph pray,

“Give me thy daughter, sire, for aye,



Fiercely the haughty knight replied,

Disdain upon his gloomy brow:

What means this puling tone?” he cried;

“My child is not for such as thou!

She may weep and chide,

But a Baron of pride

Claims her in the morning tide

For his bride.”


It was as if his knell had tolled;

And Rudolph vaulted on his steed.

Through sinew and bone of his mortal mould

He shivered like a winter reed;

And the rider bold

Rode deathlike from the grim stronghold.


And then some gleams of hope appear,

And the dead heart is born again;

A phantom to his vision clear

Has called him back to living men,

And whispers near,

“Be of good cheer;

Jehovah bends a willing ear

True love to hear.”


And as the sunbeams sank to rest,

She glided down the sylvan dell,

Soft as a zephyr from the west,

To meet Love’s lonely sentinel;

And to his breast

He held her pressed,

In the silence of that sylvan nest.


Awhile in Eden they abide,

But Rudolph spoke these words at last:

“At midnight, when the shadows hide,

When treason lies in slumbers fast,

I and my bride,

East side by side,

To a far distant land shall ride;

My joy and pride!”


Next moment saw the maiden lie

Enraptured on his bosom dear;

Another moment heard her sigh

These trembling words of hope and fear:

“Oh! The walls are high,

The warders nigh

The livelong night—

And how shall I to Rudolph fly?


“And yet, though gates and turrets rear

Their barriers ’gainst a timid maid,

The shield of Love shall blunt the spear,

The torch of Love shall light the shade;

When Love is near,

Shall lover fear,

E’en though he lie in dungeon drear?

My  Rudolph, hear!


“When Wundehold of yore was heir

Of yonder dismal mountain dwelling,

He had a daughter bright and fair,

A flower all others flowers excelling:

Her name I bear,

Her fate I share;

For she was loved beyond compare,

Yonder there.


“Her lover held her faith and plight,

For life to last, through good and ill;

And in her cruel sire’s despite

She kept her plighted promise still;

And she chose for flight

The dark midnight,

With the torch of Love to bear the light,

This maiden bright.


“But treason hath a deadly sting,

The dastard foeman of the brave;

And the bird of night still flaps his wing

Above a long and bloody grave;

And the minstrels sing

Of a fearful thing,

How the maiden’s shriek was heard to ring

Through the wild winds’ swing.


“Her wandering spirit knows no rest,

No slumber taketh in the tomb;

Still by the postern is her quest

At midnight in the ghostly gloom,

That she may be pressed

To her lover’s breast:

He still obeys her heart’s behest

The phantom-guest.


“For many a year this hapless bride,

In blood-besprinkled garments dressed,

Is cherished here, and far and wide.

A silent solitary guest

Through the portals wide

Is seen to glide,

And the warders long have ceased to chide,

But stand aside.


“So, as for love her blood was shed,

To love her spirit will incline:

She will permit these robes of red

For a brief season to be mine;

And when guards have fled

From the waking dead,

Through the ghostly gloom I shall freely tread

In her stead.


“Now wait ye at the postern door,

And when the hour of twelve has tolled,

In breezy garments stained with gore,

The spirit of the dead behold!

Thou wilt restore

The form she wore,

And thy steed shall bear us for evermore

To some distant shore.”


“Oh, glorious maiden, peerless flower!”

Thus whispered Rudolph to his fair;

“Once let us quit this fatal tower!

Away with doubt, away with care:

Hail to the dower

Of the wedlock bower!

Adieu in joy! I will wait the power

Of the midnight hour.”


Ah, how their lips and hearts entwine!

But Rudolph must no longer dally;

She wafted him a parting sign

As he went speeding down the valley:

“Love, thou art mine—

Love, I am thine;

Thou shalt be mine, and I be thine,

Though Heaven and Hell combine.”


And when the night waxed dark and late,

Came Rudolph riding up the vale:

That valley’s gloom was black as hate,

And the starlight glimmered pale:

And he hasted straight

To the castle gate,

There at her bidding to await

His fate.


And when the hour from the tower-clock tolled,

Wallhaide was seen to glide;

A waving veil’s exsanguined fold

Her form and lineaments to hide;

And the rider bold,

In her mantle rolled,

Has borne her far by wood and wold

From the grim stronghold.


And long they rode, and silently;

The bride was leaning on his heart:

“My love, how chanceth it,” quoth he,

“That thou so light of burden art?”

“Oh, list to me:

That well may be,

For my robes are light as the mists that flee

O’er the dewy lea.”


Then shuddered he from head to feet,

As he clasped her shadowy form:

“Thou art icy cold,” he said, “my sweet,

Though the fire of love is warm.”

“Ah, yes! There is heat

When lovers meet;

But my bed was cold as a winding sheet

Of the winter sleet.”


Onwards they rode, with the pale moonshine

And the glimmer stars above.

“Though cold thy form incarnadine,

Thy faithful bosom glows with love.”

“Love, I am thine,

And thou art mine;

Thou shalt be mine, and I be thine,

Though Heaven and Hell combine.”


And ever they rode by the pale moonshine,

And the night hours flitted past.

“My spirit now shall cease to pine;

I have found my love at last:

Love, I am thine,

And thou art mine;

Thou shalt be  mine, and I be thine,

Though Heaven and Hell combine.”


Slow dawned the morning’s ashen hue:

They wended on by hold and hill;

More motionless the maiden grew,

And colder and colder still:

Then the cock crew

The night’s adieu,

And she glided to the ground, and drew

Her lover too.


“Hush! How the morning breezes blow,

Contending with the storms of night!

I hear the cock’s shrill clarion-crow;

We will be bed, my heart’s delight;

Come, let us go,

For weal or woe;

There is no Heaven nor Hell, I trust,

Down below.”


And kisses cold as winter snow

Upon his pallid lips are pressed,

And corpse-like vapours float and flow,

And clasp him in their folds unblessed;

And the pulses slow

Have ceased to glow;

And her lover she has found, I trow,

Down below.


Carl Theodor Körner

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