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.
THE WIDOW’S PRAYER
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.
” 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 !”