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Ludwig Bechstein: “What Made A Princess Laugh”

Excerpt:  “As Pretty As Seven and Other Popular German Tales.” Collected by Ludwig Bechstein, with One Hundred Illustrations by Richter:  A Companion to Grimm’s German Popular Stories.  London: 1873.

Once upon a time there lived three brothers. Godfrey was the youngest, and the brunt of all his brothers’ mischievous tricks. When anything thwarted them, Godfrey was made to pay. Weaker than his brothers, he never dared refuse to do as he was told. Miserable, he dreamed of an opportunity to change his life. One day while cutting wood in the forest, and lamenting his hard lot, an old woman appeared who inquired the cause of his tears.  He told her of his troubles. “Ah, my lad,” said she, “the world is wide; why do you not try your fortune somewhere else?”

These words never left him and early one fine morning he set off to find his way. Ascending the hill which led from his village, he gained the peak. Settled upon a log, he wished farewell to his native place, remembering at least a happy childhood. Suddenly, the woman once again tapped his shoulder.  “You have done well so far, my boy. But what will you seek now?”

Godfrey was startled, for, in fact, he had commenced his journey with no idea where he should go.  He thought luck would follow his way. His companion sensed his puzzlement. “I will help guide your path,” she promised; “and why? Because I have regard for you, and I believe you will not forget me when good fortune comes your way.” Godfrey promised he would not forget her kindness.

“This evening,” she said, “take your way to that old oak tree that shades the cross-way. Beneath it you will find a man lying fast asleep, and tied to the tree will be a beautiful swan. Be there at sunset, and take care not to awaken the man.  Untie the swan and lead it away. Soon everyone you pass will wish to have a feather from such a fine bird, and you may allow them to pluck one. But if the swan cries out, you must say, “Swan, hold fast!” Immediately anyone who touches the swan will find himself it’s prisoner, who will not be able to get away until you tap him with this little wand, which I now offer to you. Then, when you have collected behind you a train of human birds, go straight forward, and you will arrive at a certain city where a princess dwells who has not been seen to laugh for many years. If your procession causes her even so little as a smile, your fortune is made.  Then mind you well that you do not forget me.”

Godfrey promised he would not. At sunset, he arrived at the tree. Finding the sleeping man, he took care not to waken him as he loosed the swan and led her away.  Soon he came to a building-yard where he found men with trousers rolled up to their knees, tramping on lime. They all admired the beauty of Godfrey’s swan, especially one young man besmeared all over with lime. “Oh,” he exclaimed, “how I should like to have a feather!”

“Pull one out,” urged Godfrey; and when the boy seized hold of the swan’s wing, she screamed. “Swan, hold fast!” said Godfrey; and the lad was caught and forced to follow. When he cried out to his companions for help, they only laughed. A girl washing linen at a stream nearby ran to assist and caught the boy by the collar to pull him away. When the swan screamed, again Godfrey said, “Swan, hold fast!” and the girl was compelled to follow. Soon they passed a chimney-sweep, who chuckled at the comical train.

“Alas, my good Hans,” she cried, “give me a hand here, and free me from this horrid wretch.”

“I will,” declared the chimney-sweep, catching her hand.

“Swan, hold fast!” shouted Godfrey, as the bird screamed, and the dusty sweep was caught as well. Entering a village, they passed a church in festival where a company of rope-dancers performed on the green. As a clown repeated jokes, he grinned at the three who hung onto the swan’s tail. “Are you turned fool?” he demanded of the sweep.

“There is nothing to laugh at,” cried the sweep; “the girl clasps my hand so tightly, it seems nailed to hers. Loose me, clown, and I will assist you when you need.”

Grabbing the sweep’s neck to pull him away, the clown found himself bound as well; for when the swan screamed, Godfrey again said, “Swan, hold fast!”

The stately mayor of the village was foremost among the spectators of this strange scene. “To the beadle with you!“ he cried, so incensed at the folly before him that he grabbed onto the clown. But “Swan, hold fast!” said Godfrey a fifth time, as the bird screamed; and the angry mayor was made prisoner with the rest. The lady mayoress, a tall, thin dame, was horrified at seeing her lord in this evil plight; and she yanked his pigtail to pull him away from his companions. “Swan, hold fast!” exclaimed Godfrey; in spite of her cries, the lady mayoress had to follow in the train.

The towers of the city were in sight when Godfrey and his human train finally met a carriage, in which sat a lovely but sedate-appearing young lady. Observing the motley crew, she burst out laughing, which her servants joined in spite of themselves. “The princess laughs!” exclaimed all. Observing the strange procession and its still stranger evolutions, the princess laugh some more. As the carriage turned round, Godfrey followed it slowly into the city. When the king heard the good news that his daughter had laughed, he went to see the cause. At the sight of Godfrey and his train, the king laughed till tears ran out his eyes.  “You silly fellow,” said he to Godfrey, “Do you know what I promised to whomever should make my daughter smile? A thousand gold dollars or a fine estate: choose between the two.”

Joyfully, Godfrey chose the estate.  With his wand he touched the boy, the maiden, the sweep, the clown, the mayor and his lady, and set them all free. Liberated, they ran away as if a wild bull was at their heels; while those who witnessed this burst out in peals of laughter.

The princess herself took a fancy now to stroke the swan, and to admire its feathers; but it screamed at her touch, and Godfrey cried, “Swan hold fast!”  Thus he won the king’s daughter; but the swan rose in the air and disappeared from sight. Godfrey received a duchy for himself; and when he went to reside on it, he remembered the old woman who had been the origin of his good fortune, and brought her to live out her life in his noble establishment.

Ludwig Bechstein: “The Kitten and the Knitting Needles”

Excerpt, “As Pretty As Seven and Other Popular German Tales.” Collected by Ludwig Bechstein, with One Hundred Illustrations by Richter:  A Companion to Grimm’s German Popular Stories.  London: 1873.

ONCE upon a time there lived a poor woman who earned her livelihood by picking up sticks in the forest to sell for firewood. One day, as she was returning home with a bundle, she saw a kitten lying against the trunk of a tree and mewing piteously. She took compassion on it, and putting it in her apron, carried it home. On her way her two children met her, and asked her what she had in her apron; but she would not let them have the kitten, fearing they might tease and distress it. So she took it carefully home, and laying it on some soft rags, gave it some milk to drink. The kitten stayed in the house till it was quite recovered, and then suddenly disappeared. Some time afterwards, when the woman was again in the forest, and was returning home with her bundle of firewood at her back, just as she passed the place where she had found the kitten, there stood there an old dame who beckoned to her, and gave her five knitting needles. The poor woman knew not what to make of this gift, and thought the needles were not of much value to her. However, she carried them home, and laid them on the table at night.

The next morning she found a pair of newly made stockings on the table close by the needles. The poor woman was much astonished, and left the needles the following evening in the same place. A second pair of stockings was the result; and she now supposed that the wonderful needles were given her as a reward for her kindness to the kitten. Every night a fresh pair of stockings was produced; and as they found a ready sale, the woman gained for herself and her children an honest livelihood without the hard drudgery to which she had formerly been accustomed.

 

Friedrich Freiherr De La Motte Fouque’: “Two Cradle Songs” 2 of 2

Excerpt: “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker,  Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London:  Edward Lumley. 1845.

Friedrich Freiherr De La Motte Fouque’: “Two Cradle Songs” 1 of 2

Excerpt: “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker,  Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London:  Edward Lumley. 1845.

 

Nikolaus Lenau: “The Storm”

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

Sir Walter Scott: On “Marmion”

Excerpt, “Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field.”  The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet. Vol. II, Canto Second. Cadell & Co., Edinburgh: 1830.

Sir Walter Scott

Ferdinand Freiligrath: “Wings! Wings!”

Excerpt: “A Book of Ballads from the German.”  
Translated by Percy Boyd, Esq.  1848.

Ludwig Tieck: “Night”

Excerpt, “Translations from the German Poets of the 18th and 19th Centuries.”  By Alice Lucas. London:  1876.

Friedrich Hebbel: “Encouragement”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.

Carl Theodor Körner: “Covenant Song”

Excerpt, “Echoes:  or Leisure Hours with the German Poets.” Translated by A. C. Kendrick. Rochester:  1855.

 

COVENANT SONG

 Before Battle of Dannenberg

 

Darkly boding, sternly, grimly,

Breaks the great, the awful day;

And the blood-red sun looks dimly

Down upon our bloody way.

In one pregnant hour assembling,

Crowd a nation’s fortunes vast;

And e’en now the lots are trembling,

And the iron die is cast.

Brothers, in holiest compact united,

Warned by the hour, be our solemn vow plighted,

Come life or come death, to be true to the last!

 

Look we back–night’s raven pinion

Wide o’er shame and insult waves;

 O’er our German oak’s dominion

Bowed and broke by foreign slaves.

On our tongue they heaped dishonor,

And our holiest rites blasphemed;

Brothers, we have pawned our honor;

German brothers, be’t redeemed.

Lo, where the flame of heaven’s vengeance is burning!

Up! and its curse from our country be turning!

Up, and be freedom’s lost charter redeemed!

 

Blessed hopes shine bright before us,

And the future’s golden days;

A whole heaven of bliss hangs o’er us,

Whence fair freedom pours her rays.

Art, all bright thou reappearest!

Song, again thy raptures burn!

Love and beauty, all that’s dearest,

All that’s brightest, see return.

Ye there awaits us a desperate daring;

Blood must be poured all free and unsparing:

Only in blood will our glory’s star burn.

 

Now-with God-we will not falter,

Boldly meet fate’s heaviest blow,

Lay our hearts on freedom’s altar,

And to death unshrinking go.

Native land, for thee we’ll perish;

All thy bidding will we dare;

They our bosoms fondly cherish

May thy blood-bought freedom share.

Oak of our country, grow broader and bolder!

Stretch thy proud arms o’er the spot where we moulder!

Hear, 0 our country, the oath that we swear!

 

Now your thoughts toward home’s sweet treasures

Yet for one brief moment cast;

Part ye from those blooming pleasures

Which the South’s fell poisons blast.

Though the silent tear be starting,

Shame shall ne’er such tears attend;

Waft them one last kiss at parting,

Then to God the Loved commend!

All the sweet lips that in prayer are awaking,

All the fond hearts that are bleeding and breaking,

Mighty Jehovah, console and defend!

 

Cheerly now to battle wending,

Eye and spirit heavenward turn;

Earthly life in darkness ending,

Lo, where heavenly glories burn!

Bravely on, each gallant brother!

Every nerve a hero prove!

Faithful hearts rejoin each other;

Now farewell each earthly love!

Hark ! where the thunders of battle are crashing!

On, where the storm of red lightning is flashing!

Meet again in the realms above!

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 Britany. 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 Britany

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!

Henry Morley: “So Like a Forest is the Human Heart”

Excerpt, Henry Morley:  “The Dream of the Lilybell, Tales and Poems, with Translations of the “Hymns to the Night” from the German of Novalis, and Jean Paul’s “Death of an Angel.”  1845.

6so like a forest

Friedrich Freiherr De La Motte Fouque’: “The Prince’s Sword”

Excerpt, Friedrich Freiherr De La Motte Fouque’:   “Romantic Fiction.”  1871.

The Prince's Sword2

horseman sprang from his horse, the singer to his feet,and they clasped and embraced each other right lovingly. They had much to tell, for they had been a long while parted ; Leutwald at home in the fair city, under the teaching of the most accomplished minstrels; Adelard with the renowned Count Albert of Bayreuth, who for his beauty and his knightly prowess was surnamed Albert Achilles. With him had the warlike youth lived after his heart’s desire ; and he too had become dear to the German Achilles for his skill in arms, and for many proofs of dauntless contempt of death displayed in hard-fought battles.

   ” So, then, it was a grief to you to leave him ?” asked Leutwald of his friend.

   ” Indeed it was,” answered Adelard ; ” but what could be done ? As soon as the count mustered his troops against our beloved mother, the holy free city of Nuremberg, I made myself ready, fastened my horse to the gate, and then, resolved in mind, and with girded sword, I mounted the stairs to my beloved lord, saying, ‘ You have been a gracious prince to me; but as things are at present, I must use against yourself the skill I learned from you.’ 

    I thought the valiant Achilles would have broken forth in anger, as is sometimes his way, but he smiled quietly to himself. ‘ Thou art a brave fellow ;’ then again a little time he was silent, jingling the large knightly sword, inlaid with gold, which never leaves his side, and spoke : ‘ This sword might one day have made thee a knight. Now, however, it may strike thee after another fashion. See only that thou comest honourably under its stroke ; so will it be for thy good, whether it touch thee with the flat edge or with the sharp —for life or for death.’ Then he dismissed me after his gracious manner ; and as I rode forth, a solemn stillness came on my soul ; but since I reached our own borders, and still more since I have met with you, I have become light-hearted as before. But are you ready here ? It is full time.” 

    ” That we know well,” answered Leutwald. ” Only come you today to the aged Councillor Scharf. There will be a cheerful meal; you will learn what is about to happen ; and be of good heart.”

    Then the two youths embraced joyfully ; and leading the horse after them, approached the city, singing battle-songs with all their heart and voice, through the flowery country . At the house of the venerable councillor Adam Scharf there was an assemblage of the brave citizens of every sort. Some whose hoary heads, bowed down with age, seemed to look forward to their last deed of arms, and close beyond it to an honourable grave ; others who, in the midday of life, moved on with lofty resolve ; others, and many more, with fresh colours on their cheeks and bright hopes in their hearts. 

    Here the two youths, Adelard and Leutwald, were right welcome ; and as every one gladly beheld the latter on account of his graceful songs, so they took no less pleasure in the knightly-trained pupil of their valiant foe, the German Achilles. 

Read the rest of this Antique German Story in Translation in its entirety here!

Willibald Alexis: “Fredericus Rex”

Excerpt, “The Book of German Songs from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.” Translated and Edited by H. W. Dulcken. 1856.

frederick-kolin-l

FREDERICUS REX

.

FREDERICUS REX, our king and lord,

To all of his soldiers “To arms!” gave the word;

“Two hundred battalions, a thousand squadrons here!”

And he gave sixty cartridges to each grenadier.

.

“You rascally fellows,” his majesty began,

“Look that each of you stands for me in battle like a man

They’re grudging Silesia and Glatz to me,

And the hundred millions in my treasury.

.

“The Empress with the French an alliance has signed,

And raised the Roman kingdom against me, I find;

The Russians my territories do invade,

Up, and show ’em of what stuff we Prussians are made.

.

“My generals, Schwerin, and Field-marshal Von Keit,

And Major-general Ziethen, are all ready quite.

By the thunders and lightnings of battle, I vow,

They don’t know Fritz and his soldiers now.

.

“Now farewell, Louisa; Louisa, dry your eyes;

Not straight to its mark ev’ry bullet flies;

For if all the bullets should kill all the men,

From whence should we kings get our soldiers then?

.

“The musket bullet makes a little round hole,

A much larger wound both the cannon ball dole;

The bullets are all of iron and lead,

Yet many a bullet misses many a head.

.

“Our guns they are heavy and well supplied,

Not one of the Prussians to the foe hath hied;

The Swedes they have cursed bad money, I trow;

If the Austrians have better, who can know?

.

“The French king pays his soldiers at his ease,

We get it, stock and stiver, every week, if we please;

By the thunders and the lightnings of battle, I say,

Who gets like the Prussian so promptly his pay?”

.

Fredericus, my king, whom the laurel doth grace,

Hadst thou but now and then let us plunder some place,

Fredericus, my hero, I verily say,

We’d drive for thee the devil from the world away.

frederick_the_great_by_camphausen_porcelain_plates-rc29362f1420a40fcbca42d818ff19c3f_z77n5_324

 

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