The Mountain of Scharfenstein
A Popular Hessian Legend
At Scharfenstein, at midnight hour,
Are mystic tones revealed,
Like tramp of war-steeds, and shield.
What clang of armour! Why, the doors
Till Scharfenstein moves circling round,
And caverns open fly?
From every somber cavity
Forth rush an armed band,
Who, ‘neath the moon’s unclouded light,
In martial order stand.
The tuba echoes, helmets gleam,
And banners wave through air,
The dark, cadaverous regiment
A Chief commandeth there.
They dart across th’umbrageous vale,
Bright sparks, ascend on high;
They gallop forth, as though on tempest’s
Pinion swift they fly: —
“Our Fatherland! The Tiberstrand!
Now strikes the destined hour!
If Victory now we fail to gain,
We’ll never venture more!”
That Mount commemorates brave deeds,
In Roman days, gone by;
At Scharfenstein’s wide base was won
A glorious victory.
The purple soil there drank the blood
Of countless Romans slain;
Their Eagle proud, once glory-crowned,
In German dust has lain!
Barbarians here – barbarians there,
Like mushrooms, strewed the ground;
Dread foes – rocks threatening, on each side,
The Romans viewed around.
What execution dealt each blow!
In piles their cohorts lay,
Like corn beneath the reaper’s scythe,
On harvest’s sultry day!
In tribulation and despair,
Alighting from his steed,
The Roman Emperor kneels on earth,
And thus, to Heaven, doth plead:
“Oh Jove! Protect us from disgrace,
By thine Olympian hand!
Thou Mountain! Mayst thou prove our tomb,
In the Barbarians’ land!”
Reverberating thunder peals,
Jupiter’s lightning flies;
The Mount is rent with deafening crash,
Each cavern open lies.
Lo! Friends and foemen are engulfed
Within a mountain-tomb,
And Scharfenstein’s dark portals close,
In silence, and in gloom!
At midnight’s solitary hour
Mysterious tones burst forth;
Th’ Italians, from th’ umbrageous tomb,
Must wander from the north;
Towards southern realms, swift gallop forth
That pale, cadaverous train;
On – on they gallop, yet, e’er fail
The Roman States to gain.
At morning, when the cock first crows,
Th’ assembled martial band,
To Scharfenstein direct their course
And entrance there demand.
As heretofore, the Mount is rent
While flames are circling round:
The caves enclose the Roman troops,
With Death’s sepulchral sound.
Six men has Fate together cast,
A frugal meal is spread;
Th’ ingredients of this repast,
Wine, salad, salt, and bread.
The clock, with melancholy sound,
Tick – tick!A warning makes,
The Exiles wildly gaze around,
Till one the silence breaks:
“When the Magnanimous unite,
They talk of the World’s weal,
Of tariff-union – and delight
In arms of glistening steel.
In sovereignty, old and new,
In ancestry, in pennons won,
And in their subjects true!
Ah! Since together we are cast,
We – beggars of the street, —
Chaff that the wind of Fate, in haste,
Drifts on; – as thus we meet,
Courage! – we’ll reason, frank and free,
Like those on yonder strand,
Of that despotic tyranny,
Borne by our Fatherland!”
”I, oldest of the company,
Will speak, — then list to you:
Death to the Regent! Do I cry,
Death to the Cortes too!
I now exclaim, as heretofore,
Near th’ Ebro and Duero,
I cried, — and, as I’ll cry, once more:
Death to thee — Espartero!”
“My father, a Guerilla came
From fertile, bright Navarre,
Read, in th’ immortal page of Fame,
Of his exploits, in war!
Like him – Guerilla was the son,
He played Guerilla’s part,
Long, in Navarre, and Aragon,
With carbine, bow, and dart.
We fought, at Nava, the last fight,
Death stalked beneath my gun;
Our Pennon waved ‘mid shades of night,
And glowed ‘neath morning’s sun; –
It fell! – Wounded, and bathed in gore,
By foes we were pursued;
Driven from our sacred native shore,
On foreign soil we stood.
Accursed be the hour of flight!
Can I forget that day?
O’er ragged Pyrenean height,
And gorge, our safety lay!
Behind us death, and death before,
And death within each breast;
When more illumines Gallia’s shore,
In blouses French we’re dressed!
Hispania! – thou, to me, art dead;
Hispania is lost,
Thine orphans, disinherited,
Rove, friendless, o’er thy coast!
My father’s God my foes despise,
And treat my King with scorn;
Spain is despised by enemies,
Hispania – strangers scorn!
And die these embers that are thrown
On earth, from my cigar;
Thus, shrouded in oblivion,
Will be thy name – – Navarre!
And what remains, I scatter forth,
As now this dust is thrown.
Frank!Briton!Foes from South and North,
Hispania is your own!”
..He ends; — his Neighbor takes the glass,
And cries in bitter tone:
“A health to thee, Czar Nicholas!
Long life unto thy son!
The folk and fatherland, I scorn,
May to the devil go!
A Jew am I, in Poland born,
As you, my friends, well know!
Parbleu! – I took an oath, and fought,
Sang with the Lagienka,
At last, but it availeth nought,
I fell at Ostralenka!
A game of cards or nine-pins!Play,
The vilest ‘neath the sun!
Three balls, within my body, lay,
One would the work have done!
Equipped with beggar’s bag, I roved,
And fought by day and night;
From Warsaw to gay France, I roved.
That was the bravest fight!
Oh, Germany!Thou land most dear,
What luscious fare is thine.
What valorous words enchant the ear.
How plenteous food, and wine.
The chaff of laurels have I won,
With empty purse and brain,
Yes, sapient Meleeh Solomon,
All earthly joys are vain.
The boundless World is naught to me,
As I am naught to Czar Nicholai!”
His humid beard was smoothed and pressed,
Cross-legged, he reclined.
As with both hands he smote his breast,
Till the third Wanderer began.
A theme on Turkish war;
A brave Corinthian was the man,
O’er Greece, his fame spread far.
With emphasis did he relate,
How, though they bravely fought,
The Grecians were opposed, by Fate,
In all they hoped, and thought.
How, ‘gainst Bavaria, he conspired,
And fought on Hydra’s strand;
How Basilaus, with vengeance fired,
Expelled him from the land!
The fourth Aspirant after fame,
A Lombard – honoured was his name;
His tale he told full well.
The fifth, a patriotic Swiss,
Was eloquent awhile
On Romaniero’s avarice,
The propaganda’s guile.
Midst volumes of cigar-smoke grey
That towards the ceiling rove,
Glow scenes of outrage.In array
Of war, brave Chieftains move.
Now glidest on the death of night
Amid the banished throng,
And laughter, curses, drink excite
Each Exile’s heart, and tongue.
One Youth, apart, is sitting there,
Pale, melancholy, lone,
In ringlets waves his golden hair,
How timid is his tone.
“Brave little man, we fain would know”
The Exiles, laughing cry,
“A homeless Wanderer, what art thou,
Doomed, young, to misery?”
“A word had I expressed, in haste,
In the Circassians’ cause;
When long imprisoned, was I chased
My country, by her laws!”
Deep blushes mantle o’er his cheeks,
How tortured feels his soul.
Coarse laughter echoes as he speaks,
There thunder seems to roll.
All shout in chorus:“More than we
Thou knowest, all must own.
The gall and vinegar for thee;
For thee a thorny crown.
Come German, take thy glass in hand,
Rise! – do as we have done;
Curse thy degenerate Fatherland,
The Traitor of her Son!”
What tumult wild!With dignity
The German rises now;
Lightning seems flashing from his eye,
Pride animates his brow.
The proffered glass he spurneth there,
The fragments strew the ground;
His youthful hand is raised ‘mid air,
His tone reverberates round:
“Forbid!Forbid!Oh, God of Heaven,
That traitor I should prove!
They, to whom German hearts are given,
Must e’er their Country love;
And if, till death, an Exile cast
From thee, my native strand,
Be this my dying prayer – my last:
God bless my Fatherland!”
The Youth’s heart-felt, long-struggling tones
Find vent in many a tear:
He seemeth to those banished ones,
A Guardian-angel near.
The clock strikes twelve:The Exiles start,
The sounds – how chill and hoarse!
Lo! When the Wanderers depart,
Each takes a different course.
Franz Freiherr von Dingelstedt