Ballad: “The Enchanted Net”
Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker, Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London: Edward Lumley. 1900.
The Enchanted Net.
Could we only give credit to half we are told,
There were sundry strange monsters existing of old ;
For, without our disturbing those very large bones—
Which have turned (for the rhyme’s sake, perhaps)
And have chosen to wait a
Long while hid in strata,
While old Time has been dining on empires and thrones—
(Old bones and dry bones.
Leg-bones and thigh-bones
Bones of the vertebrae, bones of the tail,
Very like, only more so, the bones of a whale,
Bones that were very long, bones that were very short.
They have never as yet found a real fossil merry-thought,
Perchance because mastodons, burly and big,
Considered all funny bones quite infra dig.)
Skulls have they found in strange places imbedded.
Which at least prove their owners were very long-headed ;
And other queer things,—which it’s not my intention,
Lest I weary your patience, at present to mention,
As I think I can prove, without farther apology,
What I said to be true sans appeal to geology.
That there lived in the good old days gone by
Things unknown to our modern philosophy.
And a giant was then no more out of the way.
Than a dwarf is now in the present day.
Sir Eppo of Epstein was young, brave, and fair ;
Dark were the curls of his clustering hair.
Dark the moustache that o’ershadowed his lip,
And his glance was as keen as the sword at his hip ,
Though the enemy’s charge was like lightning’s fierce shock,
His seat was as firm as the wave-beaten rock ;
And woe to the foeman whom pride or mischance
Opposed to the stroke of his conquering lance.
He carved at the board, and he danced in the hall,
And the ladies admired him—each one and all:
In a word, I should say he appears to have been
As nice a young “ritter” as ever was seen.
He could not read nor write,
He could not spell his name ;
Towards being a clerk, Sir Eppo his + mark
Was as near as he ever came.
He had felt no vexation
From multiplication ;
Never puzzled was he
By the rule of three ;
The practice he’d had
Did not drive him mad,
Because it all lay
Quite a different way.
The asses’ bridge, that bridge of sighs.
Had (lucky dog!) ne’er met his eyes.
In a very few words, he expressed his intention
Once for all to decline every Latin declension,
When persuaded to add, by the good Father Herman,
That most classical tongue to his own native German.
And no doubt he was right in
Point of fact, for a knight in
Those days was supposed to like nothing but fighting ;
And one who had learned any language that is hard,
Would have stood a good chance of being burned for a
Education, being then never pushed to the verge ye
Now see it, was chiefly confined to the clergy.
‘Twas a southerly wind and a cloudy sky,
For aught that I know to the contrary ;
If it wasn’t, it ought to have been properly,
As it’s certain Sir Eppo, his feather-bed scorning.
Thought that something proclaimed it a fine hunting
So pronouncing his benison
O’er a cold haunch of venison.
He floored the best half, drank a gallon of beer.
And set out on the Taunus to chase the wild deer.
Sir Eppo he rode through the good green wood,
And his bolts flew fast and free ;
He knocked over a hare, and he passed the lair
(The tenant was out) of a grisly bear.
He started a wolf, and he got a snap shot
At a bounding roe, but he touched it not.
Which caused him to mutter a naughty word
In German, which luckily nobody heard.
But what is the sound that meets his ear?
Is it the plaint of some wounded deer?
Is it the wild-fowl’s mournful cry.
Or the scream of yon eagle soaring high ?
Or is it only the southern breeze
Waving the boughs of the dark pine-trees?,
No—Sir Eppo, be sure ’tis not any of these:
And hark again
It comes more plain—
‘Tis a woman’s voice in grief or pain.
Like an arrow from the string,
Like a stone that leaves the sling,
Like a railroad-train with a Queen inside,
With directors to poke and directors to guide.
Like the rush upon deck when a vessel is sinking,
Like (I vow I’m hard-up for a simile) winking.
Sir Eppo sprang forward, o’er river and bank all,
And found—a young lady chained up by the ankle,-
Yes, chained up in a cool and business-like way,
As if she’d been only the little dog Tray ;
While, the more to secure every knight-errant’s pity.
She was really and truly excessively pretty.
Here was a terrible state of things !
Down from his saddle Sir Eppo springs.
As lightly as if he were furnished with wings,
While every plate in his armour rings.
The words that he uttered were short and few,
But pretty much to the purpose too,
As sternly he asked, with lowering brow,
“Who dared to do it?” and ” Where is he now?”
‘Twere long to tell
Each word that fell
From the coral lips of that demoiselle ;
However, as far as I’m able to see.
The pith of the matter appeared to be,
That a horrible giant, twelve feet high.
Having gazed on her charms with a covetous eye,
Had stormed their castle, murdered Papa,
And behaved very rudely to poor dear Mamma,
Taken French leave with the family plate,
And walked off with herself at a terrible rate ;
Then, by way of conclusion
To all this confusion,
Tied her up, like a dog,
To a nasty great log,
To induce her (the brute) to become Mrs. Gog;—
That ’twas not the least use for Sir Eppo to try
To chop off his head, or to poke out his eye.
As he’d early in life done a bit of Achilles
(Which much better than taking an ” Old Parr’s
Had been dipped in the Styx, or some equally old stream,
And might now face unharmed a battalion of Coldstream.
But she’d thought of a scheme.
Which did certainly seem
Very likely to pay—no mere vision or dream.
It appears that the giant each day took a nap
For an hour (the wretch !) with his head in her lap :
Oh, she hated it so! but then what could she do?—
Here she paused, and Sir Eppo remarked, “Very true ;”—
And that during this time one might pinch him
or shake him.
Or do just what one pleased, but that nothing
could wake him.
While each horse and each man in the emperor’s pay
Would not be sufficient to move him away.
Without magical aid, from the spot where he lay.
In an old oak-chest, in an up-stairs room
Of poor Papa’s castle, was kept an heir -loom.
An enchanted net, made of iron links.
Which was brought from Palestine, she thinks.
By her great Grandpapa, who had been a crusader ;
If she had but got that, she was sure it would aid her.
Sir Eppo, kind man,
Approves of the plan ;
Says he’ll do all she wishes as quick as he can ;
Begs she won’t fret if the time should seem long ;
Snatches a kiss, which was “pleasant but wrong;”
Mounts, and taking a fence in good fox-hunting style.
Sets off for her family seat on the Weil.
The sun went down,
The bright stars burned,
The morning came.
And the knight returned ;
The net he spread
O’er the giant’s bed ;
While the eglantine, and hare-bell blue,
And some nice green moss on the spot he threw ;
Lest perchance the monster alarm should take.
And not choose to sleep from being too wide awake.
Hark to that sound !
The rocks around
Tremble—it shakes the very ground;
While Irmengard cries,
As tears stream from her eyes—
A lady-like weakness we must not despise—
(And here, let me add, I have been much to blame,
As I long ago ought to have mentioned her name)—
” Here he comes ! now do hide yourself, dear Eppo, pray ;
For my sake, I entreat you, keep out of his way.”
Scarce had the knight
Time to get out of sight
Among some thick bushes, which covered him quite,
Ere the giant appeared—oh, he was such a fright!
He was very square built, a good twelve feet in height,
And his waistcoat (three yards round the waist) seemed
While to add even yet to all this singularity,
He had but one eye, and his whiskers were carroty.
What an anxious moment !—will he lie down ?
Oh, how their hearts beat!—he seems to frown,—
No, ’tis only an impudent fly that’s been teasing
His sublime proboscis, and set him a sneezing.
You brute, how I wish you
Were but as genteel as the Irish lady.
Dear Mrs. O’Grady,
Who, chancing to sneeze in a noble duke’s face,
Hoped she hadn’t been guilty of splashing his Grace.
Now, look out. Yes, he will!—No, he won’t!—by the
I thought he was taking alarm at the flowers ;
But it luckily seems, his gigantic invention
Has at once set them down as a little attention
On Irmengard’s part, done by way of suggestion
That she means to say “yes” when he next pops the
There ! he’s down ! now he yawns, and in one minute more—
I thought so, he’s safe—he’s beginning to snore;
He is wrapped in that sleep he shall wake from no more.
From his girdle the knight took a ponderous key—
It fits—and once more is fair Irmengard free :
From heel to head, and from head to heel,
They wrap their prey in that net of steel,
And they weave the edges together with care,
As you finish a purse for a fancy-fair.
Till the last knot is tied by the diligent pair.
At length they have ended their business laborious,
And Eppo shouts, “Bagged him, by all that is glorious!”
No billing and cooing,
You must up and be doing,
Depend on’t, Sir Knight, this is no time for wooing;
You’ll discover, unless you progress rather smarter,
That catching a giant’s like catching a Tartar :
He still has some thirty-five minutes to sleep ;
Close to this spot hangs a precipice steep.
Like Shakespeare’s tall cliff which they shew one at Dover;
Drag him down to the brink, and then let him
roll over ;
There can’t be any harm in a little giganticide.
” Pull him, and haul him ! take care of his head !
Oh, how my arms ache—he’s heavy as lead!”
” That’ll do, love,—I’m sure I can move him alone,
Though I’m certain his weight is a good forty stone.”
Yo, heave ho ! roll him along,
(It’s exceedingly lucky the net’s pretty strong) ;
Once more—that’s it—there, now, I think.
He’s done to a turn, he rests on the brink ;
At it again, and over he goes
To furnish a feast for the hooded crows ;
Each vulture that makes the Taunus his home.
May dine upon giant for months to come.
Lives there a man so thick of head
To whom it must in words be said,
How Eppo did the lady wed,
And built upon the giant’s bed
A castle, walled and turreted ?
We will hope not ; or if there be,
Defend us from his company !