Anastasius Grün: “Maximilian Before Vienna” 2/2

Excerpt, “The Last Knight:  A Romance Garland from the German of Anastasius Grün.”  Translated by John O. Sargent.  1871.




August, 1490

The Siege of the Imperial Palace


There where the Kaiser’s palace in ancient splendour lay,

Was encamp’d King Max’s army, in magnificent array;

For there his last resistance the Magyar planned undaunted,

And in the vaunted windows his grim artillery planted.


There princes once and courtiers dispensed their smiles of grace,

And he whom they vouchsafed one went home with joyous face;

And he to whom from the window a look of love was sent,

Carried a beating heart with him—no matter where he went.


Where are you, imperial eagles? What has frightened you away?

Perch’d on St. Stephen’s tower one ventures still to stay;

If he had not been made of marble, he, too, would have taken his flight,

Or saw he the smiling morrow, after the stormy night?


Hark, the clangour of drums and trumpets! How it howls and rages and cracks!

“Hie, up and in, my brothers!” How thunders the voice of Max!

The palace-walls with the battle-cries and the shower of bullets quake;

If an emperor there were sleeping he would now be sure to awake.


The boldest of the warriors essay an escalade;

Are you climbing up the window of a pretty little maid?

Your sweetheart waits already, and from roses purple-red

She weaves a ruby coronet, to decorate your head.


By Max’s side contending, a cavalier thus speaks;

“My prince, why comes so suddenly that pallor to thy cheeks?”

“Hush, friend, and were I pallid how otherwise could it be?

’Tis only the reflection of my armour that you see.”


“Storm! Up and in, my brothers!” Dust veils in clouds the walls,

From swords and throats of fire a shine of red flame falls;

A herdsman in the distance drives home his flocks to fold,

“A storm comes from Vienna—the lightning there behold.”


A cavalier to Max’s side looked on the prince, and said,

“My prince, is it not blood there where your shoulder is so red?”

“You sight’s at fault, good fellow, the red you need not mind.

’Tis my mantle’s purple lining turned outward by the wind.”


“Ho! Bravo brothers, forward!” Now from the trembling walls,

Like flakes of blossoms in spring-time, a shower of bullets falls.

Almighty Heaven! Loud crackling a smoking bastion crumb

And there a lofty parapet with a crash of thunder tumbles.


Up! Up! Over rubble and ruins, through the deadly breach they fly,

Now merrily thrills the drum-beat, and hark to the victor’s cry!

Peace! Peace! The colours of Hungary are draggled in the moats,

And from the ancestral castle the flag of Hapsburg floats.


As they rush in, the victors in the spacious halls behold,

The corpses of Magyar warriors in heaps together roll’d;

And over them as sentinels, drawn scimitars in hand,

Like monumental seraphim, the living Magyars stand.


Max greets their leader courteously, and gently takes his hand,

“Withdraw, ye noble champions, in peace to your own land;

Though enemies, I honour you. You’ve fought a manly fight;

I would we were contending for one land and one right!”


He spake; a fever seized him, and blood burst from his wound.

And with a pallid visage, he sank upon the ground;

On a bier born in a chamber, where no sound the stillness broke,

Soon from a heavy slumber, thanks to the Lord! He woke.


And bed-side, Convalescence the beautiful matron stood,

Kiss’d him on cheek and forehead, and staunched the flowing blood;

Without, a harp once sounded in the evening twilight dim,

And thus the winds of the Occident wafted the song to him.


“From many an arrow, woman the heart of the loved one shields,

And but when the storm is over to the flood of suffering yields;

So the hero beckons his army where danger and glory be,

Before they bandage his wounds with the banners of victory.


“So both the tree resemble, which, from the hall and the storm,

Protects, in its thick-leaved shadow, the tired wanderer’s form;

But when the storm is over and the skies again are blue,

It shakes from its leaves and branches its own round drops of dew.”