Category Archives: Eichendorff

Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff: “The Priest and the Jacobin”

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

Translator’s Note: There is one ballad by Eichendorff, which has pleased us well by its picturesque scenery. The Jacobin Captain rests in a little churchyard in Britanny. Raving in the fever of his wound, he confesses that he had burned his own father’s house. At night, he stands on the sea-shore and witnesses a strange spectacle. A priest comes over the quiet sea in a little shallop lit with tapers, and a congregation of worshippers come in their boats and perform their devotions on the waves, as they dare not worship in their church. The Jacobin Captain recognises his own father in the person of the priest, and, overcome with the amazement, falls and dies upon the shore.

The Priest and the Jacobin


The blooming hills of Britanny

Were laved by gentle seas;

A little church stood peacefully

Between two ancient trees.


The corn-fields, and the green woods wide,

Were bright in sabbath’s glow;

But not a bell dare o’er the tide

Its solemn music throw.


For o’er the churchyard’s shady ground

The Frenchmen’s standard waves;

Their steeds are cropping, all around,

The daisies from the graves.


Upon the cross, in mockery,

Canteens and sabres hung;

Instead of solemn litany,

The “Marseillaise” was sung.


Sore wounded leaned the Captain there

Against an ancient tree,

And faintly look’d, with feverish stare,

On sultry land and sea;


And talk’d, as in a fever-dream

“Our castle by the lake—

I fired it!—what a fearful gleam!—

It burns for freedom’s sake!


“I see my father—through the rings

Of fire I see him there—

He stands upon the tower, and swings

His banner in the air!


“I see the standard catch the flame,

Again I see my sire,

As, holding still the shaft, he came

Down through the blazing fire!


“He looked at me, but nothing said—

I had no heart to slay—

The castle fell—my father fled—

He’s now a priest, they say!


“And since that night, in all my dreams

I hear the loud bells ring,

And see, amid the fiery streams,

The cross—that hated thing!


“But soon, no church-bell through the land

Shall break the still of night;

No cross upon the earth shall stand,

A sign of priestly might!


“And yonder lowly church-walls there

(We’ll tear them down to-night!)

Shall sound no more with psalms and prayer

—We come to let in light!”


At night, when woods and waves were still,

And only when he spoke,

The sentinel upon the hill

The dreamy silence broke.


The Captain stood beside the sea—

A soft gray cloud arose,

Upon the waves—what can it be?—

And now it spreads and grows!


And see, amid the misty air,

A tiny twinkling light—

Some little star has fallen there,

Or lost its way to-night.


But see, along the quiet shore,

Where sleep the silent waves,

Dark moving figures, more and more,

Creep from the rocky caves;


And boats are push’d into the sea,

Row’d softly through the night;

The mark they steer for seems to be

That little twinkling light!


The light comes nearer now, afloat,

The rowers all have found it—

It is a little fisher-boat,

With tapers burning round it.


And see, within the shallop stands

An old man tall and gray,

With flowing hair and folded hands,

—A Priest in full array.


And round the floating altar, see,

The boatmen bow their heads:

The old Priest o’er the company

A solemn blessing sheds.


The sea was still, and every breeze—

In marvellous array,

Within their boats, on bended knees,

The congregation lay.


And now, the cross within his hand,

Amid the taper’s glare,

The Captain sees the old Priest stand—

 “‘Tis my old father there!”


Said he, as, with a sudden prayer,

He reel’d and fell and swoon’d,

While life’s blood o’er the shingle there

Was streaming from his wound.


The Jacobin soldiers on the shore

Came, found their Captain dead—

Then—death behind and death before,

Through all the land they fled.


Like wither’d leaves in autumn’s breeze,

They fled and pass’d away—

That little church between the trees

Is standing at this day!

Eichendorff: “Solitude”

Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.



Eichendorff: Verschwiegene Liebe

Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

By Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), “Verschwiegene Liebe” 1886-8, Eichendorff Lieder, no. 3.Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.
Verschwiegene Liebe.

Silent Love

Over treetops and corn
And into the splendor –
Who may guess them,
Who may catch up with them?
Thoughts sway,
The Night is mute;
Thoughts run free.

Only one guesses,
One who has thought of her
By the rustling of the grove,
When no one was watching any longer
Except the clouds that flew by –
My love is silent
And as fair as the Night.


Josef Freiherr von Eichendorff: “The Lone One To The Night”

Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.


Josef Freiherr von Eichendorff: “Forest Talk”

Excerpt, “Gems of German Lyrics:  Consisting of Selections from Ruckert, Lenau, Chamisso, Freiligrath and Others.”  Translated into English Verse by Henry D. Wireman.  1869.




It is so late, it cold hath grown,

Why through the woods dost ride alone

So late at night, on such a ride.

I’ll lead thee home, my pretty bride!


“Men’s artful ways are many, pain

My heart hath broken, torn in twain;

The forest horn sounds far and near,

Away! Thou’lt know me but to fear.”


The steed is decked so wondrous fine,

The rider looks so fair, divine;

Protect me, God! I know thee now,

The witch, Oh, Lorelei art thou!


“I am, on cliffs my castle stands,

A view of ‘Father Rhine’ commands.

It is so late, it cold doth grow,

From hence thou nevermore wilt go!”





Eichendorff: “Night is Like a Quiet Sea”

Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (1805-1847) “Nacht ist wie ein stilles Meer,” 1846 Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), “Die Nacht”, Eichendorff Lieder, no. 19.Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.


Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel


Nacht ist wie ein stilles Meer

Night is like a quiet sea:
joy and sorrow and the laments of love
become tangled up
in the gentle throbbing of the waves.
Desires are like clouds
that sail through the quiet space:
who can recognize in the mild wind
whether they are thoughts or dreams?
Even if my heart and mouth now are closed,
that once so easily lamented to the stars,
still, at the bottom of my heart
there remains the gentle throbbing of those waves.
Moonrise by the Sea
Caspar David FRIEDRICH
c. 1822


Eichendorff: “Your Blissful, Wonderful Image”

“Dein Bildnis wunderselig” by Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff (1788-1857), “Intermezzo” from Sängerleben. Set by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), “Intermezzo”, op. 39 no. 2, from Liederkries, no. 2. Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.



Your blissful, wonderful image
I have in my heart's depths;
it looks so freshly and joyously
at me in every moment.
My heart sings mutely to itself
an old, beautiful song
that soars into the air
and hastens to your side.

Eichendorff: “The Nun and the Knight”

By Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff (1788-1857), “Die Nonne und der Ritter”, from Gedichte (Ausgabe 1841), in Romanzen.
Set by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), “Die Nonne und der Ritter”, op. 28 (Vier Duette) no. 1 (1860).Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.

Die Nonne und der Ritter

As the world goes to rest,
my yearning awakens with the stars;
I must listen in the cool
as the waves roar below!
"I am brought here from far away by waves
that beat so mournfully against the land,
beneath the bars of your window.
Lady, do you still know this Knight?"
It is as if strange voices
are floating through the mild air;
once again the wind has taken them away, -
alas, my heart is so anxious!
"Over there lies your ruined castle
lamenting in its desolate halls;
the way the woods greeted me,
I felt as though I must die."
Old sounds burst forth,
sunk long since in time;
melancholy falls on me once again,
and I feel like weeping from my heart.
"Over the wood lightning flashes from afar,
where they are fighting over the grave of Christ;
There will I steer my ship,
and there will everything end!"
A ship leaves with a man upon it;
false night, you bewilder the mind!
Farewell, world! May God protect
those who wander madly in darkness!


Eichendorff: “I travel silently…”

By Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff (1788-1857) from “Gedichte (Ausgabe 1841)” in Wanderlieder, in Der verliebte Reisende, no 1.Set by Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), “In der Fremde I”, 1881.Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.

Da fahr’ ich still im Wagen

I travel silently in the coach -
you are so far from me -
but wherever it might take me,
I remain still with you.
There fly by forests, gorges
and lovely deep valleys,
and larks high in the sky,
as if your voice were calling.
The sun shines merrily
far beyond the area;
I am so happy and so tearful,
and I sing silently inside.
From the mountains, the path goes downward,
the posthorn rings out below;
my soul grows so cheerful
and I greet you from the bottom of my heart.


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