Carl Theodor Körner: Wallhaide

Excerpt, “Ballads from the German.”  Translator, Henry Englis.  1864.

Where yonder crumbling ruins lower,

Where the evening light lies gleaming,

Once stood a lordly castled tower,

Now in its desolation dreaming.

Now hurtles the shower

Through hall and bower,–

And the spirits of the dead have power

At the midnight hour.


In the days of ancient chivalry,

There lived a wild and warrior knight;

Stern and grave in his home was he,

And a fiery champion in fight;–

But his daughter, she

Had the gentle glee

Of sunlight on the summer sea.



Calm was her course of household care,

Far from the world’s turmoil and strife;

Yet had this maiden vowed to wear

A lover’s memory for life;

And a courser rare

Her Rudolph bare,

The treasures of her heart to share.


And as the sunbeams sank to rest,

She glided down the sylvan dell,

Soft as a zephyr from the west,

To meet Love’s lonely sentinel;

And to her breast

He held her pressed,

In the silence of that sylvan nest.


Awhile, in momentary bliss,

All Eden was around them;

But straight the gathering bloom,

From lovers’ dream unbound them.

Can tongue express

The last caress,

The unutterable tenderness

Of kiss for kiss?


Swiftly the summer waned away;

But waxing passion doth not wane,

But still is driven by delay

To an intensity of pain;

And one sad day

Heard Rudolph pray,

“Give me thy daughter, sire, for aye,



Fiercely the haughty knight replied,

Disdain upon his gloomy brow:

What means this puling tone?” he cried;

“My child is not for such as thou!

She may weep and chide,

But a Baron of pride

Claims her in the morning tide

For his bride.”


It was as if his knell had tolled;

And Rudolph vaulted on his steed.

Through sinew and bone of his mortal mould

He shivered like a winter reed;

And the rider bold

Rode deathlike from the grim stronghold.


And then some gleams of hope appear,

And the dead heart is born again;

A phantom to his vision clear

Has called him back to living men,

And whispers near,

“Be of good cheer;

Jehovah bends a willing ear

True love to hear.”


And as the sunbeams sank to rest,

She glided down the sylvan dell,

Soft as a zephyr from the west,

To meet Love’s lonely sentinel;

And to his breast

He held her pressed,

In the silence of that sylvan nest.


Awhile in Eden they abide,

But Rudolph spoke these words at last:

“At midnight, when the shadows hide,

When treason lies in slumbers fast,

I and my bride,

East side by side,

To a far distant land shall ride;

My joy and pride!”


Next moment saw the maiden lie

Enraptured on his bosom dear;

Another moment heard her sigh

These trembling words of hope and fear:

“Oh! The walls are high,

The warders nigh

The livelong night—

And how shall I to Rudolph fly?


“And yet, though gates and turrets rear

Their barriers ’gainst a timid maid,

The shield of Love shall blunt the spear,

The torch of Love shall light the shade;

When Love is near,

Shall lover fear,

E’en though he lie in dungeon drear?

My  Rudolph, hear!


“When Wundehold of yore was heir

Of yonder dismal mountain dwelling,

He had a daughter bright and fair,

A flower all others flowers excelling:

Her name I bear,

Her fate I share;

For she was loved beyond compare,

Yonder there.


“Her lover held her faith and plight,

For life to last, through good and ill;

And in her cruel sire’s despite

She kept her plighted promise still;

And she chose for flight

The dark midnight,

With the torch of Love to bear the light,

This maiden bright.


“But treason hath a deadly sting,

The dastard foeman of the brave;

And the bird of night still flaps his wing

Above a long and bloody grave;

And the minstrels sing

Of a fearful thing,

How the maiden’s shriek was heard to ring

Through the wild winds’ swing.


“Her wandering spirit knows no rest,

No slumber taketh in the tomb;

Still by the postern is her quest

At midnight in the ghostly gloom,

That she may be pressed

To her lover’s breast:

He still obeys her heart’s behest

The phantom-guest.


“For many a year this hapless bride,

In blood-besprinkled garments dressed,

Is cherished here, and far and wide.

A silent solitary guest

Through the portals wide

Is seen to glide,

And the warders long have ceased to chide,

But stand aside.


“So, as for love her blood was shed,

To love her spirit will incline:

She will permit these robes of red

For a brief season to be mine;

And when guards have fled

From the waking dead,

Through the ghostly gloom I shall freely tread

In her stead.


“Now wait ye at the postern door,

And when the hour of twelve has tolled,

In breezy garments stained with gore,

The spirit of the dead behold!

Thou wilt restore

The form she wore,

And thy steed shall bear us for evermore

To some distant shore.”


“Oh, glorious maiden, peerless flower!”

Thus whispered Rudolph to his fair;

“Once let us quit this fatal tower!

Away with doubt, away with care:

Hail to the dower

Of the wedlock bower!

Adieu in joy! I will wait the power

Of the midnight hour.”


Ah, how their lips and hearts entwine!

But Rudolph must no longer dally;

She wafted him a parting sign

As he went speeding down the valley:

“Love, thou art mine—

Love, I am thine;

Thou shalt be mine, and I be thine,

Though Heaven and Hell combine.”


And when the night waxed dark and late,

Came Rudolph riding up the vale:

That valley’s gloom was black as hate,

And the starlight glimmered pale:

And he hasted straight

To the castle gate,

There at her bidding to await

His fate.


And when the hour from the tower-clock tolled,

Wallhaide was seen to glide;

A waving veil’s exsanguined fold

Her form and lineaments to hide;

And the rider bold,

In her mantle rolled,

Has borne her far by wood and wold

From the grim stronghold.


And long they rode, and silently;

The bride was leaning on his heart:

“My love, how chanceth it,” quoth he,

“That thou so light of burden art?”

“Oh, list to me:

That well may be,

For my robes are light as the mists that flee

O’er the dewy lea.”


Then shuddered he from head to feet,

As he clasped her shadowy form:

“Thou art icy cold,” he said, “my sweet,

Though the fire of love is warm.”

“Ah, yes! There is heat

When lovers meet;

But my bed was cold as a winding sheet

Of the winter sleet.”


Onwards they rode, with the pale moonshine

And the glimmer stars above.

“Though cold thy form incarnadine,

Thy faithful bosom glows with love.”

“Love, I am thine,

And thou art mine;

Thou shalt be mine, and I be thine,

Though Heaven and Hell combine.”


And ever they rode by the pale moonshine,

And the night hours flitted past.

“My spirit now shall cease to pine;

I have found my love at last:

Love, I am thine,

And thou art mine;

Thou shalt be  mine, and I be thine,

Though Heaven and Hell combine.”


Slow dawned the morning’s ashen hue:

They wended on by hold and hill;

More motionless the maiden grew,

And colder and colder still:

Then the cock crew

The night’s adieu,

And she glided to the ground, and drew

Her lover too.


“Hush! How the morning breezes blow,

Contending with the storms of night!

I hear the cock’s shrill clarion-crow;

We will be bed, my heart’s delight;

Come, let us go,

For weal or woe;

There is no Heaven nor Hell, I trust,

Down below.”


And kisses cold as winter snow

Upon his pallid lips are pressed,

And corpse-like vapours float and flow,

And clasp him in their folds unblessed;

And the pulses slow

Have ceased to glow;

And her lover she has found, I trow,

Down below.


Carl Theodor Körner