Category Archives: Ballad


Ballad: “Prince Eugene “

Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker,  Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London:  Edward Lumley. 1900

Prince Eugene

 

Prince Eugene

.

Prince Eugene once in Swabia paid visits far and wide,

And ‘mong the rest to Reutlingen this favour did betide.

Now, what a stir the hero made my verses scarce can tell.

Or how the honour to express that to the mayor fell,

As he a council gathered quick to signify the same,

And by some act to shew his sense of Eugene’s mighty name.

.

Much argued they what best to do, or what was best to say ;

Whether with shouts and cheers to hail the hero on his way.

With feast and dance to bid him speed, and tell his great renown,

Or with the victor’s golden wreath his honoured brows to crown.

.

Long the debate and eloquent that hatched the bright design,

To pledge him in a flowing cup of famed Reutlingen wine.

And now unto the prince they brought a bowl with quantum suff.

Of this true wine of Reutlingen—right sour and nauseous stuff!

.

With heart of grace Prince Eugene quick despatched the potion down,

Though sorely rued he on such terms to gratify the town.

“Ay,” thought the cits, to see him so imbibe their griping wine,

“That beaker had the genuine smack, by such a potent sign ;

Haste, bring another, quick as thought, a bowl both large and wide.

.

That now the prince our famous wine may quaff in flowing tide !”

Alas, poor prince, how ached thy jaws to hear so dire a speech !

As if his latest hour were come, he gravely did beseech

To taste no more in hall or bower of such a nauseous stuff.

Of which I wot he felt right well his skin had quantum suff.

With thanks and bows Prince Eugene then addressed the mayor’s train :

.

“Much rather, honoured councillors, I’d storm Belgrade again.

Than face another such a draught of sour Reutlingen wine.

Take my advice, if stuff like this you swallow when you dine.

Drink it, and welcome, but to ask your luckless guests refrain ;

For rather, through the smoke and flame, I’d storm Belgrade again.”

 

 

Ballad: “The Well of Wisdom”

Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker,  Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London:  Edward Lumley. 1900.

well of wisdom

The Well of Wisdom

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In Swabia there stood of old a town of honest fame,

A sparkling fountain in the midst had gained a wondrous name;

For in its virtues lay a power to make the foolish wise :

The Well of Wisdom it was called, a rare and welcome prize !

.

Free access to that stream was had by all within the town,

No matter what their thirst might be, unchecked they drank it down :

But strangers, ere they dared to taste, must first permission gain

Of the mayor and his counselors, of such an honour vain.

.

A horseman once passed through the town, and saw that

fountain play,

And stopped to let his thirsty steed drink of it by the way.

Meanwhile the rider gazed around on many a structure fair,

Turret and spire of olden times that pierced the quiet air.

.

Such boldness soon attracted round the gaze of passers-by, —

The mayor ran in robes of state, so quick was rumour’s cry,

That man and horse were at the well, the latter drinking down

The precious gifts of Wisdom’s Well, unsanctioned by the town.

.

How swelled the mayor’s wrath ! how loud his tones, as thus he spoke,—

“What’s this I see ? Who’s this that hath our civic mandate broke ?

What wickedness mine eyes behold ! that wisdom, wasted so

Upon a brute ; as punishment, from this you shall not go.

But stop a prisoner until our council’s mind we hear!”

.

The rider stared ; but wiser grown, his steed pricked up his ear.

And, turning round, he left the town more quickly than he came.

While watch and ward were gone to guard his exit from the same ;

.

Forgetting what the horse had drank, they all had gone in state

To keep their prisoners secure, by guarding the wrong gate.

Henceforward ’twas a law, declared by solemn wig and gown,

No rider with a thirsty horse should e’er pass through the town!

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wisdom2

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Ballad: “The Hermit and the White Wolf”

Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker,  Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London:  Edward Lumley. 1900.

white-wolf

The Hermit and the White Wolf

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Under the shade of the sullen pine,

Where cliffs o’erhang a rugged shore,

A little chapel and a shrine

Stands, with a cross above the door ;

And in the shadow of the cross

Is built a low and rustic cell.

With roof of thatch and floor of moss.

Wherein two holy hermits dwell.

.

Darkly frowned the rocks around,

And the mighty cliffs by age embrowned ;

The tossing sea did chafe and start

Like visions in a troubled heart ;

The wide and heavy skies were spread

Like a black pall above the dead ;

And pathless wilds of sombre trees

Wearied the gazer’s straining eye—

Even so remorse in terror sees,

Vague, drear, and dark—Futurity!

.

A solemn charge those hermits bore,

They watched as warders on the shore,

For by no earthly race, ’twas said.

Those gloomy scenes were tenanted ;

And, but for that lone temple there.

And those two watchers, strong in prayer,

The demon troops of shame and sin

Had broken on the lands within,

And carried ravage, woe, and wrong,

Amid the simple peasant throng.

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A grey-haired warrior was the one,

His comrade was his valiant son ;

Each had lived a life of fame.

Each had earned a glorious name ;

Though the heart of age in scorn

Coldly turns from earth’s bright things.

Seldom in youth’s cloudless morn

Spirits fold their weary wings ;

Yet Sir Conrad gazed not now

Wistfully on life’s bright track.

For his hand was on the plough,

And not once his heart looked back :

Toil and prayer from sun to sun,

Thus his days were gliding by ;

Meanest things a beauty won

From his soul’s strong energy.

.

And yet a lone and lovely life

Methinks those watchers must have led,

Their hearts unworn by worldly strife,

By worldly hopes untenanted ;

Their only pomp the gorgeous hues

Which sunset flings upon the hills,

Their only gems the scattered dews

Which sparkle from the leaping rills ;

Their comrades the ancestral deep,

The chainless wind, the wild cascade.

The eagle, whose embattled keep

Yon solemn mountain-crest hath made ;

And for the petty din and jar

Of city-strife and human war.

The brawling of the angry stream,

The roaring of the wrathful sky—

Reality to them a dream,

And dreams their best reality.

.

Sir Conrad the hermit went forth at eve,

The wood of the stately pine to cleave ;

He was ware of a wolf, so white and so grim.

It came through the thicket and scowled at him.

.

He hurled his axe at the grim wolf’s head,

Starting and yellng the creature fled ;

But it sinks in its blood, and it strives to rise.

And it stares on the knight with piteous eyes.

Then did the heart of Sir Conrad change

To a causeless softness, sudden and strange;

Down by the bleeding wolf he knelt,

And he stanched its wounds with his woodman’s belt.

.

The moonshine streamed on its face so white,

And its wide eyes gleamed with a human light ;

And much was the heart of Sir Conrad moved,

As though he had slain a thing beloved.

.

He lifted it gently from the earth,

And he bore it home to his lowly hearth.

And he laid it down on his couch, bestrown

With odorous thyme and with grass new-mown.

.

What sound is this, so full of woe.

Like the sob of a woman, plaintive and low ?

Sir Conrad turned to the couch, and there

Lay the form of a maiden, bright and fair.

.

And through her golden locks, dispread

In beauty over that lowly bed,

The blood was dropping—a piteous sight—

From a wound in the arm so soft and white.

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“Oh, mercy’, mercy, sir knight!” she cried.

And her clear blue eyes shone wild and wide,

“I am the child of a wizard of might ;

I was gathering herbs for my sire by night.

.

“I saw thee pass, and I meant not harm.

But thine axe hath shattered my tender arm :

Oh, slay me not, though life be pain !

Oh, take me back to my home again!”

.

Scarce need I say what gentle care

The knight bestowed on the damsel fair :

He watched her couch by night and day,

As a mother watches a babe asleep ;

And when eve’s melting shadows lay

In softness over land and deep,

Or sparkled wood, and wave, and lawn,

Clad in the pomp of glittering dawn,

The warrior-hermit kneeled to pay

Meet service to his God, and pray.

Sweetly in that low cot arose

The voices of the sire and son.

Still craving pardon, ere repose.

For guilt incurred, or good undone ;

Or praying, when their toils begin,

“Lord, keep us this day without sin !”

.

Half in amaze, and half in awe,

The silent maiden heard and saw ;

Heard, how—as strains that fall and rise

In congregated harmonies,

Still oft return, and ever close

On the same note whence first they rose ;—

In all their prayers repeated came

One holy and familiar Name,

One point, where all must meet and blend,

Crown, key, and centre, source and end ;

Saw how, whene’er that Name they spake,

“Forgive us, Lord, for Jcsu’s sake !”

The holy light of placid hope

Came down upon each upturned face.

As generous streams, from clouds that ope.

Fall sweetly on some barren place.

Until the deadness and the gloom

Break into beauty, song, and bloom.

.

‘Twere long to tell how change was wrought

Within her musing spirit there :

Meekly the Christian’s God she sought;

Sweet to the teacher as the taught

Those holy hours of praise and prayer ! ,

As, rim by rim, and hue by hue,

The shells of inner ocean grow ;

So, deep in Conrad’s bosom grew

A feeling he might scarcely know.

Until the waves of passion bore

Its finished beauty to the shore ;

And much he marvelled so to see

His own heart’s birth of mystery.

Enough—they loved!—the narrow cell

Became a palace, and the waste

A paradise, where angels dwell,

By fear and sorrow undefaced ;

Alas that, as in Eden’s bowers,

The serpent lurked beneath the flowers !

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‘Twas eve—before the shrine, apart.

The sire held commune with his heart;

At dawn, upon the maiden’s head.

Should, by his reverend hands, be shed

Those waters by whose living tide

The soul is cleansed and sanctified ;

Fitly to meet so high a rite,

He prayed and fasted through the night.

Before the chapel’s lowly gate

In sweet discourse the lovers sate,

Or silence sweeter still, whereby

Eye spake, with eloquence, to eye.

.

The twilight heavens were spread above,

One steadfast sheet of pallid blue;

And wailing, like forsaken love,

The wind among the mountains blew ;

The waves came heavily and slow,

Like measured steps of patient woe ;

And on the far horizon’s rim

The severed clouds lay low and dim,

Like crests of phantom-bands afar,

Slow rising, and portending war.

It was an eve to hold the breath,

And muse how life but leads to death !

.

“Oh, come, beloved!” the maiden said;

“Seek we that blessed spot again,

Where by thy ruthless hand I bled,

And won this rapture by that pain ;

Fain would I tread, secure with thee.

Haunts of forgotten sorcery!”

.

They wandered forth, and, as they went,

The grey clouds slowly towered around.

And the wild breeze’s low lament

Was by the wrestling billows drowned ;

“Nay, fairest, turn !” Sir Conrad said;

But Ella tossed her graceful head.

Like steed that on the blast can hear

A tone familiar to his ear.

And strangely did her eye’s vague light

Fall on the spirit of the knight ;

“Onward!” she cried; and “onward!” still

Faint echoes answered from the hill.

.

And now, their noiseless footsteps fall

Upon the forest’s shadowed floor,

Where sombre fir-trees, black and tall,

Rustle in winds that sweep the shore ;

And with that leafy murmur seemed

A sound of hollow laughter blent.

And wan, and white, and fitful streamed

The struggling moonshine as they went,

Where’er the parting boughs unshroud

A sky all dark with gathering cloud !

.

“No earthly storm is rising here !”

Sir Conrad cried ; “oh, turn thee back !”

“Fear’st thou?—for me, I know not fear!”

She said, and shook her tresses black ;

And half in shame, and half in love.

Still at her side the knight must move.

.

And now they reach that well-known place,

Amid the clustered trees a space

Where bare above their heads are seen

The wheeling clouds that veil the skies,

And the roar of waves is heard between

The shrieking wind’s appalling cries ;

Yet through the tumult, low and chill.

That hollow laugh is ringing still !

Ah, see! a sudden flash!—ah, gaze!

What hideous sights its gleam betrays !

A thousand shapes around them stand.

With mocking lip and beckoning hand ;

They move, they circle, they advance,

They weave a wild and spectral dance,

Closing around the hapless pair.

With howls that cleave the startled air !

With arms outstretched, and face upraised.

The maiden gazed, and, as she gazed,

The mocking smile, the phantom-stare.

Were mirrored in her face so fair ;

And her wild eyes, so wide, so bright.

Grew less than human in their light !

.

From her lover’s arm she burst—

She hath joined the troop accurst !—

Through the rising of the storm

Her ghastly laughter rings,

And she seems a spectre-form.

And she treads as if on wings.

She is here and she is there,

Like a bubble on the air.

Rising, sinking, seen—but such,

That it melts beneath the touch ;

So she passes from his hands:

‘Tis a fir-branch in his hold !

Helpless, hopeless, now he stands ;

And the night grows black and cold;

And the phantom-voices die.

And the wind sinks down in sleep,

And beneath a calmed sky

He kneels alone to weep ;

For the spectre-forms have past

With the rushing of the blast ;

And the solitude around

Hath neither shape nor sound !

.

There, when roseate morning shone.

Still the hapless warrior knelt,

But his face was still and wan,

And his woes were all unfelt ;

Yet his crucifix was prest

(Blessed sign !) against his breast.

Ah, when first he wandered there,

Had love left him time for prayer,

Fiend and spell had sunken down.

Powerless as an infant’s frown !

.

Sadly, in that spot of gloom.

Reared his sire his lowly tomb.

Murmuring, with a heavy heart,

“The old remain—the young depart!”

As he spake, in mournful trust,

“Earth to earth, and dust to dust!”

Still at every solemn word

Was a distant wailing heard.

Like a wolf’s low howl of pain.

When its little ones are slain.—

Oft, on winter’s sombre eves.

Stealing through the shivering leaves,

Rose that sound, still lingering round

That lone spot of holy ground ;

Where, unhonoured and unknown,

Calmly slept the hermit-knight,

Underneath the cold white stone.

Graven with these words of might—

” Ye who tread the narrow track,

Frail, trembling, sinful—look not back!”

 

Ballad: “The Enchanted Net”

Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker,  Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London:  Edward Lumley. 1900.

bones of contention

The Enchanted Net.

Could we only give credit to half we are told,

There were sundry strange monsters existing of old ;

For, without our disturbing those very large bones—

Which have turned (for the rhyme’s sake, perhaps)

Into stones.

.

And have chosen to wait a

Long while hid in strata,

While old Time has been dining on empires and thrones—

(Old bones and dry bones.

Leg-bones and thigh-bones

 .)

Bones of the vertebrae, bones of the tail,

Very like, only more so, the bones of a whale,

Bones that were very long, bones that were very short.

They have never as yet found a real fossil merry-thought,

Perchance because mastodons, burly and big,

Considered all funny bones quite infra dig.)

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Skulls have they found in strange places imbedded.

Which at least prove their owners were very long-headed ;

And other queer things,—which it’s not my intention,

Lest I weary your patience, at present to mention,

As I think I can prove, without farther apology,

What I said to be true sans appeal to geology.

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That there lived in the good old days gone by

Things unknown to our modern philosophy.

And a giant was then no more out of the way.

Than a dwarf is now in the present day.

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Sir Eppo of Epstein was young, brave, and fair ;

Dark were the curls of his clustering hair.

Dark the moustache that o’ershadowed his lip,

And his glance was as keen as the sword at his hip ,

Though the enemy’s charge was like lightning’s fierce shock,

His seat was as firm as the wave-beaten rock ;

And woe to the foeman whom pride or mischance

Opposed to the stroke of his conquering lance.

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He carved at the board, and he danced in the hall,

And the ladies admired him—each one and all:

In a word, I should say he appears to have been

As nice a young “ritter” as ever was seen.

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He could not read nor write,

He could not spell his name ;

Towards being a clerk, Sir Eppo his + mark

Was as near as he ever came.

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He had felt no vexation

From multiplication ;

Never puzzled was he

By the rule of three ;

The practice he’d had

Did not drive him mad,

Because it all lay

Quite a different way.

The asses’ bridge, that bridge of sighs.

Had (lucky dog!) ne’er met his eyes.

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In a very few words, he expressed his intention

Once for all to decline every Latin declension,

When persuaded to add, by the good Father Herman,

That most classical tongue to his own native German.

 .

And no doubt he was right in

Point of fact, for a knight in

Those days was supposed to like nothing but fighting ;

And one who had learned any language that is hard,

Would have stood a good chance of being burned for a

wizard.

Education, being then never pushed to the verge ye

Now see it, was chiefly confined to the clergy.

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‘Twas a southerly wind and a cloudy sky,

For aught that I know to the contrary ;

If it wasn’t, it ought to have been properly,

As it’s certain Sir Eppo, his feather-bed scorning.

Thought that something proclaimed it a fine hunting

morning ;

So pronouncing his benison

O’er a cold haunch of venison.

He floored the best half, drank a gallon of beer.

And set out on the Taunus to chase the wild deer.

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Sir Eppo he rode through the good green wood,

And his bolts flew fast and free ;

He knocked over a hare, and he passed the lair

(The tenant was out) of a grisly bear.

He started a wolf, and he got a snap shot

At a bounding roe, but he touched it not.

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Which caused him to mutter a naughty word

In German, which luckily nobody heard.

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But what is the sound that meets his ear?

Is it the plaint of some wounded deer?

Is it the wild-fowl’s mournful cry.

Or the scream of yon eagle soaring high ?

Or is it only the southern breeze

Waving the boughs of the dark pine-trees?,

No—Sir Eppo, be sure ’tis not any of these:

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And hark again

It comes more plain—

‘Tis a woman’s voice in grief or pain.

Like an arrow from the string,

Like a stone that leaves the sling,

Like a railroad-train with a Queen inside,

With directors to poke and directors to guide.

Like the rush upon deck when a vessel is sinking,

Like (I vow I’m hard-up for a simile) winking.

Sir Eppo sprang forward, o’er river and bank all,

And found—a young lady chained up by the ankle,-

Yes, chained up in a cool and business-like way,

As if she’d been only the little dog Tray ;

While, the more to secure every knight-errant’s pity.

She was really and truly excessively pretty.

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Here was a terrible state of things !

Down from his saddle Sir Eppo springs.

As lightly as if he were furnished with wings,

While every plate in his armour rings.

The words that he uttered were short and few,

But pretty much to the purpose too,

As sternly he asked, with lowering brow,

“Who dared to do it?” and ” Where is he now?”

 .

‘Twere long to tell

Each word that fell

From the coral lips of that demoiselle ;

However, as far as I’m able to see.

The pith of the matter appeared to be,

That a horrible giant, twelve feet high.

Having gazed on her charms with a covetous eye,

Had stormed their castle, murdered Papa,

And behaved very rudely to poor dear Mamma,

Taken French leave with the family plate,

And walked off with herself at a terrible rate ;

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Then, by way of conclusion

To all this confusion,

Tied her up, like a dog,

To a nasty great log,

 .

To induce her (the brute) to become Mrs. Gog;—

That ’twas not the least use for Sir Eppo to try

To chop off his head, or to poke out his eye.

As he’d early in life done a bit of Achilles

(Which much better than taking an ” Old Parr’s

lifepill” is).

Had been dipped in the Styx, or some equally old stream,

And might now face unharmed a battalion of Coldstream.

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But she’d thought of a scheme.

Which did certainly seem

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Very likely to pay—no mere vision or dream.

It appears that the giant each day took a nap

For an hour (the wretch !) with his head in her lap :

Oh, she hated it so! but then what could she do?—

Here she paused, and Sir Eppo remarked, “Very true ;”—

And that during this time one might pinch him

or shake him.

.

Or do just what one pleased, but that nothing

could wake him.

While each horse and each man in the emperor’s pay

Would not be sufficient to move him away.

Without magical aid, from the spot where he lay.

In an old oak-chest, in an up-stairs room

Of poor Papa’s castle, was kept an heir -loom.

An enchanted net, made of iron links.

Which was brought from Palestine, she thinks.

By her great Grandpapa, who had been a crusader ;

If she had but got that, she was sure it would aid her.

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Sir Eppo, kind man,

Approves of the plan ;

 .

Says he’ll do all she wishes as quick as he can ;

Begs she won’t fret if the time should seem long ;

Snatches a kiss, which was “pleasant but wrong;”

Mounts, and taking a fence in good fox-hunting style.

Sets off for her family seat on the Weil.

 .

The sun went down,

The bright stars burned,

The morning came.

And the knight returned ;

The net he spread

O’er the giant’s bed ;

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While the eglantine, and hare-bell blue,

And some nice green moss on the spot he threw ;

Lest perchance the monster alarm should take.

And not choose to sleep from being too wide awake.

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Hark to that sound !

The rocks around

Tremble—it shakes the very ground;

While Irmengard cries,

As tears stream from her eyes—

 .

A lady-like weakness we must not despise—

(And here, let me add, I have been much to blame,

As I long ago ought to have mentioned her name)—

” Here he comes ! now do hide yourself, dear Eppo, pray ;

For my sake, I entreat you, keep out of his way.”

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Scarce had the knight

Time to get out of sight

 .

Among some thick bushes, which covered him quite,

Ere the giant appeared—oh, he was such a fright!

He was very square built, a good twelve feet in height,

And his waistcoat (three yards round the waist) seemed

too tight;

While to add even yet to all this singularity,

He had but one eye, and his whiskers were carroty.

 .

What an anxious moment !—will he lie down ?

Oh, how their hearts beat!—he seems to frown,—

No, ’tis only an impudent fly that’s been teasing

His sublime proboscis, and set him a sneezing.

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Attish-hu! attish-hu!

You brute, how I wish you

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Were but as genteel as the Irish lady.

Dear Mrs. O’Grady,

Who, chancing to sneeze in a noble duke’s face,

Hoped she hadn’t been guilty of splashing his Grace.

.

Now, look out. Yes, he will!—No, he won’t!—by the

powers !

I thought he was taking alarm at the flowers ;

But it luckily seems, his gigantic invention

Has at once set them down as a little attention

On Irmengard’s part, done by way of suggestion

That she means to say “yes” when he next pops the

question.

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There ! he’s down ! now he yawns, and in one minute more—

I thought so, he’s safe—he’s beginning to snore;

He is wrapped in that sleep he shall wake from no more.

From his girdle the knight took a ponderous key—

It fits—and once more is fair Irmengard free :

From heel to head, and from head to heel,

They wrap their prey in that net of steel,

And they weave the edges together with care,

As you finish a purse for a fancy-fair.

.

Till the last knot is tied by the diligent pair.

At length they have ended their business laborious,

And Eppo shouts, “Bagged him, by all that is glorious!”

.

No billing and cooing,

You must up and be doing,

 .

Depend on’t, Sir Knight, this is no time for wooing;

You’ll discover, unless you progress rather smarter,

That catching a giant’s like catching a Tartar :

He still has some thirty-five minutes to sleep ;

Close to this spot hangs a precipice steep.

.

Like Shakespeare’s tall cliff which they shew one at Dover;

Drag him down to the brink, and then let him

roll over ;

There can’t be any harm in a little giganticide.

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” Pull him, and haul him ! take care of his head !

Oh, how my arms ache—he’s heavy as lead!”

” That’ll do, love,—I’m sure I can move him alone,

Though I’m certain his weight is a good forty stone.”

Yo, heave ho ! roll him along,

(It’s exceedingly lucky the net’s pretty strong) ;

Once more—that’s it—there, now, I think.

.

He’s done to a turn, he rests on the brink ;

At it again, and over he goes

To furnish a feast for the hooded crows ;

Each vulture that makes the Taunus his home.

May dine upon giant for months to come.

 .

Lives there a man so thick of head

To whom it must in words be said,

How Eppo did the lady wed,

And built upon the giant’s bed

A castle, walled and turreted ?

We will hope not ; or if there be,

Defend us from his company !

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