Category Archives: Chamisso


Adelbert von Chamisso: “The Thunder-Storm”

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.

the thunder storm2

Adelbert von Chamisso: “The Toy of the Giant’s Child”

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

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-vintage-girl-woman-flowers-her-hair-image14248959

The Toy of the Giant’s Child

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Burg Niedeck is a mountain in Alsace, high and strong,

Where once a noble castle stood—the giants held it long;

Its very ruins now are lost, its site is waste and lone,

And if ye seek for giants there, they are all dead and gone.

.

The giant’s daughter once came forth the castle-gate before;

And played, with all a child’s delight, beside her father’s door;

Then sauntering down the precipice, the girl did gladly go,

To see, perchance, how matters went in the little world below.

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With few and easy steps she passed the mountain and the wood;

At length near Haslach, at the place where mankind dwelt, she stood;

And many a town and village fair, and many a field so green,

Before her wondering eyes appeared; a strange and curious scene.

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And as she gazed, in wonder lost, on all the scene around,

She saw a peasant at her feet, a-tilling of the ground;

The little creature crawled about so slowly here and there,

And, lighted by the morning sun, his plough shone bright and fair.

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“Oh, pretty plaything!” cried the child, “I’ll take thee home with me;”

Then with her tiny hands she spread her kerchief on her knee,

And cradling horse, and man, and plough, all gently on her arm,

She bore them home with cautious steps, afraid to do them harm!

.

She hastes with joyous steps and quick (we know what children are),

And spying soon her father out, she shouted from afar:

“O father, dearest father, such a plaything I have found,

I never saw so fair a one on our own mountain ground.”

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Her father sat at table then, and drank his wine so mild,

And smiling with a parent’s smile, he asks the happy child,

“What struggling creature hast thou brought so carefully to me?

Thou leap’st for very joy, my girl; come, open, let us see.”

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She opes her kerchief carefully, and gladly you may deem,

And shews her eager sire the plough, the peasant, and his team;

And when she’d placed before his sight the new-found pretty toy,

She clasped her hands, and screamed aloud, and cried for very joy.

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But her father looked quite seriously, and shaking slow his head,

What hast thou brought me home, my child? —this is no toy,” he said;

“Go, take it quickly back again, and put it down below;

The peasant is no plaything, girl, —how could’st thou think him so?

.

“So go, without a sigh or sob, and do my will,” he said;

“For know, without the peasant, girl, we none of us had bread:

‘Tis from the peasant’s hardy stock the race of giants are;

The peasant is no plaything, child—No!—God forbid he were!”

v573p

 

Adalbert von Chamisso: “The Widow’s Prayer”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry: A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”  Translated by Joseph Gostick. London: William Smith, 113 Fleet Street. 1845.

woman walking with cow

THE WIDOW’S PRAYER

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An old widow watches and prays alone,

In the deep dark night, by her lamp’s pale light,

” O Lord, who the prayer of the widow dost hear,

May his lordship be spared to rule over us here!

Thus sorrow has taught me to pray.”

.

The lord of the soil stands listening there,

But cannot interpret the widow’s prayer;

To enter the cottage he bows his head,

And begs the old dame to explain what she said

” How has misery taught you to pray ?”

.

” My lord, I had eight fine cows : one day,

The great lord, your grandfather, took one away;

The best of my cattle he carried from me,

Nor cared for my age and my poverty—

Oh, sorrow has taught me to pray !

.

” I cursed him, my lord (’twas wicked and vain),

As I afterward found to my sorrow and pain;

For he died, and your father ruled over the land,

Who took two of my cows with a violent hand—

Oh sorrow has taught me to pray !

.

” I cursed him, (I own to your lordship’s face),

And he soon broke his neck in pursuing the chase;

Then your lordship was heir to the property,

And four of my cows you have stolen from me,

And sorrow has taught me to pray.

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” If your son comes to rule in his father’s hall,

He will take the last cow that I have in the stall;

So I pray to the Lord, with fervour sincere,

May your lordship be spared to rule over us here !

Thus sorrow has taught me to pray !”

 

ADALBERT VON CHAMISSO: “The Women of Weinsberg”

.Women of Weinsberg.

THE WOMEN OF WEINSBERG
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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.

Women of Weinsberg - 1894

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Adalbert von Chamisso: “The Women of Weinsberg” – 1831

..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.

Women of Weinsberg - 1894
 
Translated by Bayard Taylor and Lilian Bayard Taylor

..

Chamisso: “Peter Schlemihl”

 

To My old Friend
Peter Schlemihl

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.

Chamisso: The Castle of Boncourt

Boncourt_1339_ak

I dream of the days of my childhood,
And shake my silvery head.
How haunt ye my brain, O visions,
Methought ye forgotten and dead!

From the shades of the forest uprises
A castle so lofty and great;
Well know I the battlements, towers,
The arching stone-bridge, and the gate.

The lions look down from the scutcheon
On me with familiar face;
I greet the old friends of my boyhood,
And speed through the courtyard space.

There lies the Sphinx by the fountain;
The fig-tree's foliage gleams;
'Twas there, behind yon windows,
I dreamt the first of my dreams.

I tread the aisle of the chapel,
And search for my fathers' graves--
Behold them! And there from the pillars
Hang down the old armor and glaives.

Not yet can I read the inscription;
A veil hath enveloped my sight,
What though through the painted windows
Glows brightly the sunbeam's light.
Thus gleams, O hall of my fathers,
Thy image so bright in my mind,
From the earth now vanished, the ploughshare
Leaves of thee no vestige behind.

Be fruitful, lov'd soil, I will bless thee,
While anguish o'er-cloudeth my brow;
Threefold will I bless him, whoever
May guide o'er thy bosom the plough.

But I will up, up, and be doing;
My lyre I'll take in my hand;
O'er the wide, wide earth will I wander,
And sing from land to land.

Adalbert von Chamisso

Adalbert von Chamisso