Category Archives: Bürger

Madame de Staél: “Of German Poetry: Gottfried August Bürger and The Wild Huntsman” (2 of 2)

Excerpt from DE L’ALLEMAGNE – “Germany” by Madame Germaine de Staél-Holstein (published 1810, the 1813 John Murray translation), Vol. I. Illustrationen zu Bürgers Werk.


Burger has written another story, less celebrated, but also extremely original, entitled “The Wild Huntsman.”  Followed by his servants and a large pack of hounds, he sets out for the chase on a Sunday, just as the village bell announces divine service.


A knight in white armour presents himself, and conjures him not to profane the Lord’s day. Another knight, arrayed in black armour, makes him ashamed of subjecting himself to prejudices which are suitable only to old men and children.


The huntsman yields to these evil suggestions. He sets off and reaches the field of a poor widow. She throws herself at his feet, imploring him not to destroy her harvest by trampling down her corn with his attendants.


The knight in white armour entreats the huntsman to listen to the voice of pity. The black knight laughs at a sentiment so puerile; the huntsman mistakes ferocity for energy, and his horses trample on the hope of the poor and the orphan.


At length the stag, pursued, seeks refuge in the hut of an old hermit.  The huntsman wishes to set it on fire in order to drive out his prey.  The hermit embraces his knees, and endeavors to soften the ferocious being who thus threatens his humble abode.  For the last time, the good genius, under the form of the white knight, again speaks to him.  The evil genius, under that of the black knight, triumphs.  The huntsman kills the hermit, and is at once changed into a phantom, pursued by his own dogs, who seek to devour him.


This story is derived from a popular superstition. It is said, that at midnight in certain seasons of the year, a huntsman is seen in the clouds, just over the forest where this event is supposed to have passed, and that he is pursued by a furious pack of hounds till day-break.

What is truly fine in this poem of Bürger’s is his description of the ardent will of the huntsman: It is at first innocent, as are all the faculties of the soul; but it becomes more and more depraved, as often as he resists the voice of conscience and yields to his passions.  His headstrong purpose was at first only the intoxication of power.  It soon becomes that of guilt, and the earth can no longer sustain him.  The good and evil inclinations of men are well characterized by the white and black knights; the words, always the same, which are pronounced by the white knight to stop the career of the huntsman, are also very ingeniously combined.

The ancients, and the poets of the middle ages, were well acquainted with the kind of terror caused in certain circumstances by the repetition of the same words; it seems to awaken the sentiment of inflexible necessity.  Apparitions, oracles, all supernatural powers, must be monotonous: what is immutable is uniform; and in certain fictions it is a great art to imitate by words that solemn fixedness which imagination assigns to the empire of darkness and of death.

We also remark in Bürger a certain familiarity of expression, which does not lessen the dignity of the poetry, but, on the contrary, singularly increases its effect.  When we succeed in exciting both terror and admiration without weakening either, each of those sentiments is necessarily strengthened by the union: it is mixing, in the art of painting, what we see continually with that which we never see; and from what we know, we are led to believe that which astonishes us.


Gottfried August Bürger  1747-1794


Madame de Staél: “Of German Poetry: Gottfried August Bürger and Leonora” (1 of 2)

Excerpt from DE L’ALLEMAGNE – “Germany” by Madame Germaine de Staél-Holstein (published 1810, the 1813 John Murray translation), Vol. I.   Illustrationen zu Bürgers Werk..


.The detached pieces of poetry among the Germans are, it appears to me, still more remarkable than their poems, and it is particularly that writing on which the stamp of originality is impressed. It is also true that the authors who have written most in this manner, Goethe, Schiller, Bürger, etc, are of the modern school, which alone bears a truly national character.  Goethe has most imagination, and Schiller most sensibility; but Gottfried August Bürger is more generally admired than either…

We have not yet spoken of an inexhaustible source of poetical effect in Germany, which is terror:  stories of apparitions and sorcerers are equally well received by the populace and by men of more enlightened minds. It is a relick of the northern mythology; a disposition naturally inspired by the long nights of a northern climate; and besides, though Christianity opposes all groundless fears, yet popular superstitions have always some sort of analogy to the prevailing religion.  Almost every true opinion has its attendant error, which like a shadow places itself at the side of the reality: it is a luxuriance or excess of belief, which is commonly attached both to religion and to history, and I know not why we should disdain to avail ourselves of it.


Shakespeare has produced wonderful effects from the introduction of spectres and magic; and poetry cannot be popular when it despises that which exercises a spontaneous empire over the imagination.  Genius and taste may preside over the arrangement of these tales, and in proportion to the commonness of the subject, the more skill is required  in the manner of treating it; perhaps it is in this union alone that the great force of a poem consists.  It is probable that the great events recorded in the Iliad and Odyssey were sung by nurses, before Homer rendered them the chef-d’oeuvre of the poetical art.


Of all German writers, Bürger has made the best use of this vein of superstition which carries us so far into the recesses of the heart.  His tales are therefore well known throughout Germany.  “Leonora,” which is most generally admired, is not yet translated into French, or at least, it would be very difficult to relate it circumstantially either in our prose or verse.

A young girl is alarmed at not hearing from her lover who is gone to the army.  Peace is made, and the soldiers return to their habitations.  Mothers again meet their sons, sisters their brothers, and husbands their wives.  The warlike trumpet  accompanies the songs of peace, and joy reigns in every heart.


Leonora in vain surveys the ranks of the soldiers, she sees not her lover, and no one can tell her what is become of him.


She is in despair:  her mother attempts to calm her; but the youthful heart of Leonora revolves against the stroke of affliction, and in its frenzy she accuses Providence.

From the moment in which the blasphemy is uttered, we are sensible that the story is to have something fatal in it, and this idea keeps the mind in constant agitation.

At midnight, a knight stops at the door of Leonora’s house. She hears the neighing of the horse and the clinking of the spurs.  The knight knocks, she goes down and beholds her lover.

He tells her to follow him instantly, having not a moment to lose, he says, before he returns to the army.  She presses forward; he places her behind him on his horse, and sets off with the quickness of lightning.

During the night he gallops through barren and desert countries:  his youthful companion is filled with terror, and continually asks him why he goes so fast.  The knight still presses on his horse by his hoarse and hollow cries, and in a low voice says, “The dead go quick the dead go quick.”

Leonora answers, “Ah! Leave the dead in peace!” But whenever she addresses to him any anxious question, he repeats the same appalling words.

In approaching the church, where he says he is carrying her to complete their union, the frosts of winter seem to change nature herself into a frightful omen:  priests carry a coffin in great pomp, and their black robes train slowly on the snow, the winding sheet of the earth.

Leonora’s terror increases, and her lover cheers her with a mixture of irony and carelessness which makes one shudder.  All that he says is pronounced with a monotonous precipitation, as if already, in his language, the accents of life were no longer heard.

He promises to bring her to that narrow and silent abode where their union was to be accomplished.  We see at a distance the church-yard by the side of the church.

The knight knocks, and the door opens. He pushes forward with his horse, making him pass between the tombstones. He then by degrees loses the appearance of a living being, is changed into a skeleton, and the earth opens to swallow up both him and his mistress.


I certainly do not flatter myself that I have been able in this abridged recital to give a just idea of the astonishing merit of this tale.  All the imagery, all the sounds connected with the situation of the soul, are wonderfully expressed by the poetry: the syllables, the rhymes, all the art of language is employed to excite terror.  The rapidity of the horse’s pace seems more solemn and more appalling than even the slowness of a funeral procession.  The energy with which the knight quickens his course, that petulance of death, causes an inexpressible emotion; and we feel ourselves carried off by the phantom, as well as the poor girl whom he drags with him into the abyss.

There are four English translations of this tale of Leonora [as of 1810], but the best beyond comparison is that of William Spencer, who of all English poets is best acquainted with the true spirit of foreign languages.  The analogy between the English and the German allows a complete transfusion of the originality of style and versification of Bürger; and we not only find in the translation the same ideas as in the original, but also the same sensations; and nothing is more necessary than this to convey the true knowledge of a literary production.  It would be difficult to obtain the same result in French, where nothing strange or odd seems natural.


Coming soon, Part Two:  Madame de Staël :  “Of German Poetry:   Gottfried August Bürger and The Wild Huntsman”

Gottfried August Bürger: “Love’s Witchcraft”

Excerpt, “Specimens of the German Lyric Poets: Consisting of Translations in Verse, From the Works of Bürger, Goethe, Klopstock, Schiller, etc., Interspersed with Biographical Notices, and Ornamented with Engravings on Wood by the First Artists.”  Translated by Benjamin Beresford, Joseph Charles Mellish. 1822

Gottfried August Bürger: “Lily and Rose”

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

lily and rose2

Gottfried August Bürger: “The Heart Without a Home”

Excerpt, “The Sonnets of Europe.” A Volume of Translations, selected and arranged, with notes, by Samuel Waddington. 1886.


Long like a dove by the fierce falcon driven,
Hither and thither wandered sad my Love;
And simply it imagined, like a dove,
That it had reached at length
its tranquil heaven.

Ah Faith! To fond delusions vainly given;
And Fate! Conceived by none but
those who prove;
That home from which it dreaded no remove,
Is by the instant stroke of lightning riven!

Hither and thither still it wanders now;
Poor little dove! Twixt earth
and heaven remains
No object for its wing; the Fates allow
No kindred Heart in solace of its pains;
Not one this desolated Earth contains
That might return its warmth,
That might reward its vow.


G.A. Bürger: “Ellenore”

Gottfried August Bürger (1748-1701) is a poet of fiery and original genius. His ballads are among the noblest in the German language. His great aim was to make poetry popular, and his success in this respect was brilliant. He is chiefly known as a writer of ballads, of which his “Ellenore” is the best. This remarkable composition has been rendered familiar to English readers by the early translations of Taylor and Sir Walter Scott. It is Scott’s Paraphrase of “Ellenore” … known as “William and Helen” … which is presented below.



From heavy dreams fair Helen rose,
And eyed the dawning red:
“Alas, my love, thou tarriest long!
O art thou false or dead?”

With gallant Fred’rick’s princely power
He sought the bold Crusade;
But not a word from Judah’s wars
Told Helen how he sped.

With Paynim and with Saracen
At length a truce was made,
And every knight return’d to dry
The tears his love had shed.

Our gallant host was homeward bound
With many a song of joy;
Green waved the laurel in each plume,
The badge of victory.

And old and young, and sire and son,
To meet them crowd the way,
With shouts, and mirth, and melody,
The debt of love to pay.

Full many a maid her true-love met,
And sobb’d in his embrace,
And flutt’ring joy in tears and smiles
Array’d full many a face.

Nor joy nor smile for Helen sad
She sought the host in vain;
For none could tell her William’s fate,
In faithless, or if slain.

The martial band is past and gone;
She rends her raven hair,
And in distraction’s bitter mood
She weeps with wild despair.

“O rise, my child,” her mother said,
“Nor sorrow thus in vain;
A perjured lover’s fleeting heart
No tears recall again.”

“O mother, what is gone, is gone,
What’s lost for ever lorn:
Death, death alone can comfort me;
O had I ne’er been born!

“O break, my heart, — O break at once!
Drink my life-blood, Despair!
No joy remains on earth for me,
For me in Heaven no share.”

“O enter not in judgement, Lord!”
The pious mother prays;
“Impute not guilt to thy frail child!
She knows not what she says.

“O say thy pater noster, child,
O turn to God and grace!
His will, that turn’d thy bliss to bale,
Can change thy bale to bliss.”

“O mother, mother, what is bliss?
O mother, what is bale?
My William’s love was heaven on earth,
Without it earth is hell.

“Why should I pray to ruthless Heaven,
Since my loved William’s slain?
I only pray’d for William’s sake,
And all my prayers were vain.”

“O take the sacrament, my child,
And check these tears that flow;
By resignation’s humble prayer,
O hallow’d be thy woe!”—

“No sacrament can quench this fire,
Or slake this scorching pain;
No sacrament can bid the dead
Arise and live again.

“O break, my heart, — O break at once!
Be thou my God, Despair!
Heaven’s heaviest blow has fallen on me,
And vain each fruitless prayer.”

“O enter not in judgement, Lord,
With thy frail child of clay!
She knows not what her tongue has spoke;
Impute it not, I pray!

“Forbear, my child, this desperate woe,
And turn to God and grace;
Well can devotion’s heavenly glow
Convert thy bale to bliss.”

“O mother, mother, what is bliss?
O mother, what is bale?
Without my William what were heaven,
Or with him what were hell?”

Wild she arraigns the eternal doom,
Upbraids each sacred power,
Till, spent, she sought her silent room,
All in the lonely tower.

She beat her breast, she wrung her hands,
Till sun and day were o’er,
And through the glimmering lattice shone
The twinkling of the star.

Then, crash! the heavy drawbridge fell
That o’er the moat was hung;
And, clatter! clatter! on its boards
The hoof of courser rung.

The clank of echoing steel was heard
As off the rider bounded;
And slowly on the winding stair
A heavy footstep sounded.

And hark! and hark! a knock — Tap! tap!
A rustling stifled noise;—
Door-latch and tinkling staples ring;—
At length a whispering voice.

“Awake, awake, arise, my love!
How, Helen, dost thou fare?
Wak’st thou, or sleep’st? laugh’st thou or weep’st?
Hast thought on me, my fair?”

“My love! my love! — so late by night!
I waked, I wept for thee:
Much have I borne since dawn of morn;
Where, William, couldst thou be?”

“We saddle late — from Hungary
I rode since darkness fell;
And to its bourne we both return
Before the matin-bell.”

“O rest this night within my arms,
And warm thee in their fold!
Chill howls through hawthorn bush the wind:—
My love is deadly cold.”

“Let the wind howl through hawthorn bush!
This night we must away;
The steed is wight, the spur is bright;
I cannot stay till day.

“Busk, busk, and boune! Thou mount’st behind
Upon my black barb steed:
O’er stock and stile, a hundred miles,
We haste to bridal bed.”

“To-night — to-night a hundred miles!
O dearest William, stay!
The bell strikes twelve — dark, dismal hour!
O wait, my love, till day!”

Look here, look here — the moon shines clear
Full fast I ween we ride;
Mount and away! for ere the day
We reach our bridal bed.

“The black barb snorts, the bridle rings;
Haste, busk, and boune, and seat thee!
The feast is made, the chamber spread,
The bridal guests await thee.”

Strong love prevail’d: She busks, she bounes,
She mounts barb behind,
And round her darling William’s waist
Her lily arms she twined.

And, hurry! hurry! off they rode,
As fast as fast might be;
Spurn’d from the courser’s thundering heels
The flashing pebbles flee.

And on the right, and on the left,
Ere they could snatch a view,
Fast, fast each mountain, mead, and plain,
And cot, and castle, flew.

“Sit fast — dost fear? — The moon shines clear —
Fleet goes my barb — keep hold!
Fear’st thou?” — “O no!” she faintly said;
“But why so stern and cold?

“What yonder rings? what yonder sings?
Why shrieks the owlet grey?”
“‘Tis death-bells’ clang, ’tis funeral song,
The body to the clay.

“With song and clang, at morrow’s dawn,
Ye may inter the dead:
To-night I ride with my young bride,
To deck our bridal bed.

“Come with thy choir, thou coffin’d guest,
To swell our nuptial song!
Come, priest, to bless our marriage feast!
Come all, come all along!”—

Ceased clang and song; down sunk the bier;
The shrouded corpse arose:
And, hurry! hurry! all the train
The thundering steed pursues.

And, forward! forward! on they go;
High snorts the straining steed;
Thick pants the rider’s labouring breath,
As headlong on they speed.

“O William, why this savage haste?
And where thy bridal bed?”
“‘Tis distant far, low, damp, and chill,
And narrow, trustless maid.”

“No room for me?” — “Enough for both;
Speed, speed, my barb, thy course!”
O’er thundering bridge, through boiling surge
He drove the furious horse.

Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
Splash! splash! along the sea;
The scourge is wight, the spur is bright,
The flashing pebbles flee.

Fled past on right and left how fast
Each forest, grove, and bower!
On right and left fled past how fast
Each city, town, and tower!

“Dost fear? dost fear?  The moon shines clear,
Dost fear to ride with me?
Hurrah! hurrah! the dead can ride!”
“O William, let them be!

“See there, see there!  What yonder swings
And creaks ‘mid whistling rain?”
“Gibbet and steel, th’ accursed wheel;
A murderer in his chain.

“Hollo! thou felon, follow here:
To bridal bed we ride;
And thou shalt prance a fetter dance
Before me and my bride.”

And, hurry! hurry! clash, clash, clash!
The wasted form descends;
And fleet as wind through hazel bush
The wild career attends.

Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
Splash! splash! along the sea;
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
The flashing pebbles flee.

How fled what moonshine faintly show’d!
How fled what darkness hid!
How fled the earth beneath their feet,
The heaven above their head!

“Dost fear? dost fear? The moon shines clear,
And well the dead can ride;
Does faithful Helen fear for them?”
“O leave in peace the dead!”

“Barb! Barb! methinks I hear the cock;
The sand will soon be run:
Barb! Barb! I smell the morning air;
The race is wellnigh done.”

Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode;
Splash! splash! along the sea;
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
The flashing pebbles flee.

“Hurrah! hurrah! well ride the dead;
The bride, the bridge is come;
And soon we reach the bridal bed,
For, Helen, here’s my home.”

Reluctant on its rusty hinge
Revolved an iron door,
And by the pale moon’s setting beam
Were seen a church and tower.

With many a shriek and cry whiz round
The birds of midnight, scared;
And rustling like autumnal leaves
Unhallow’d ghosts were heard.

O’er many a tomb and tombstones pale
He spurr’d the fiery horse,
Till sudden at an open grave
He check’d the wondrous course.

The falling gauntlet quits the rein,
Down drops the casque of steel,
The cuirass leaves his shrinking side,
The spur his gory heel.

The eyes desert the naked skull,
The mould’ring flesh the bone,
Till Helen’s lily arms entwine
A ghastly skeleton.

The furious barb snorts fire and foam,
And, with a fearful bound,
Dissolves at once in empty air,
And leaves her on the ground.

Half seen by fits, by fits half heard,
Pale spectres flit along,
Wheel round the maid in dismal dance,
And howl the funeral song;

“E’en when the heart’s with anguish cleft,
Revere the doom of Heaven,
Her soul is from her body reft;
Her spirit be forgiven!”



G.A. Bürger: “The Brave Man”




High sounds the song of the valiant man,

Like clang of bells and organ-tone.

Him, whose high soul brave thoughts control,

Not gold rewards, but song alone.

Thank Heaven for song and praise, that I can

Thus sing and praise the valiant man!


The thaw-wind came from southern sea,

Heavy and damp, through Italy,

And the clouds before it away did flee,

Like frighted herds, when the wolf they see.

It sweeps the fields, through the forest breaks,

And the ice bursts away on streams and lakes.


On mountain-top dissolved the snow;

The falls with a thousand waters dashed;

A lake did o’erflow the meadow low,

And the mighty river swelled and splashed.

Along their channel the waves rolled high,

And heavily rolled the ice-cakes by.


On heavy piers and arches strong,

Below and above of massive stone,

A bridge stretched wide across the tide,

And midway stood a house thereon.

There dwelt the tollman, with child and wife;

O tollman!  Tollman!  Flee for thy life!


And it groaned and droned, and around the house

Howled storm and wind with a dismal sound;

And the tollman aloof sprang forth on the roof,

And gazed on the tumult around:

“O merciful Heaven!  Thy mercy show!

Lost, lost, and forlorn!  Who shall rescue me now?”


Thump!  Thump! The heavy ice-cakes rolled,

And piled on either shore they lay;

From either shore the wild waves tore

The arches with their piers away.

The trembling tollman, with wife and child,

He howled still louder than storm-winds wild.


Thump!  Thump! The heavy ice-cakes rolled,

And piled at either end they lay;

All rent and dashed, the stone piers crashed,

As one by one they shot away.

To the middle approaches the overthrow!

O merciful Heaven!  Thy mercy show!


High on the distant bank there stands

A crowd of peasants great and small;

Each shrieking stands, and wrings his hands,

But there’s none to save among them all

The trembling tollman, with wife and child,

For rescue howls through the storm-winds wild.


When soundest thou, song of the valiant man,

Like clang of bells and organ-tone?

Say on, say on, my noble song!

How namest though him, the valiant one?

To the middle approaches the overthrow!

O brave man!  Brave man! Show thyself now!


Swift galloped a count forth from the crowd,

On gallant steed, a count full bold.

In his hand so free what holdeth he?

It is a purse stuffed full of gold.

“Two hundred pistoles to him who shall save

Those poor folks from death and a watery grave!”


Who is the brave man?  Is it the count?

Say on, my noble song, say on!

By Him who can save!  The count was brave,

And yet do I know a braver one.

O brave man! Brave man!  Say, where art thou?

Fearfully the ruin approaches now!


And ever higher swelled the flood,

And ever louder roared the blast,

And ever deeper sank the heart of the keeper; –

Preserver!  Preserver!  Speed thee fast!

And as pier after pier gave way in the swell,

Loud cracked and dashed the arch as it fell.


“Halloo!  Halloo! To the rescue speed!”

Aloft the count his purse doth wave;

And each one hears, and each one fears;

From thousands none steps forth to save,

In vain doth the tollman, with wife and child,

For rescue howl through the storm-winds wild.


See, stout and strong, a peasant man,

With staff in hand, comes wandering by;

A kirtle of gray his limbs array;

In form and feature, stern and high.

He listened, the words of the count to hear,

And gazed on the danger that threatened near.


And boldly, in Heaven’s name, into

The nearest fishing-boat spray he;

Through the whirlwind wide, and the dashing tide,

The preserver reaches them happily.

But, alas!  The boat is too small, too small,

At one to receive and preserve them all!


And thrice he forced his little boat

Through whirlwind, storm, and dashing wave;

And thrice came he full happily,

Till there was no one left to save.

And hardly the last in safety lay,

When the last of the ruins rolled away.


Who is, who is the valiant man?

Say on, my noble song, say on!

The peasant, I know, staked his life on the throw,

But for the sake of gold’t was done.

Had the count not promised the gold to him,

The peasant had risked neither life nor limb.


“Here,” said the count, “my valiant friend,

Here is thy guerdon, take the whole!”

Say, was not this high-mindedness?

By Heaven!  The count hath a noble soul!

But higher and holier, sooth to say,

Beat the peasant’s heart in his kirtle gray.


“My life cannot be bought and sold;

Though poor, I’m not by want oppressed;

But the tollman old stands in need of thy gold;

He has lost whatever he possessed.”

Thus cried he, with hearty, honest tone,

And, turning away, went forth alone.


High soundest thou, song of the valiant man,

Like clang of bells and organ-tone.

Him, whose high soul brave thoughts control,

Not gold rewards, but song alone.

Thank Heaven for song and praise, that I can

Thus sing and praise the valiant man!


G.A. Bürger: “Count Charles of Eichenhorst”

Excerpt, “Specimens of the Choicest Lyrical Productions of the Most Celebrated German Poets, from Klopstock to the Present Time,” translated in English verse by Mary Anne Burt. London: 1855.

Gertrude de Hochburg

“Page! Saddle me the Danish steed!
Hence – hence must I depart,
And, from this castle ride, with speed,
To find repose of heart!”
Thus cries Sir Charles — stranger to rest,
Presentiment o’erclouds his breast;
He feels like one who, in fierce strife,
Has robbed a deadly foe of life!

He gallops off; – sparks, glittering fly,
Beneath his courser’s feet;
Lo! Gertrude’s maid, advancing nigh,
The Chevalier doth greet,
She seemeth like a phantom light,
Beguiling his astonished sight;
Immovably doth he remain,
And fever-flushes chafe each vein.

“May God, for thee, Sir Charles, prepare
Peace and felicity!
A farewell message do I bear,
From Gertrude unto thee.
Thou ne’er wilt claim fair Gertrude’s hand!
Count Blunt from Pomerania’s land,
The promise of her sire hath won,
And Gertrude, soon, will be his own!”

What passions flow in Charles’ breast!
“In castle-dungeon lone,
Where toads and serpents form their nest,
The caitiff shall be thrown!
No peaceful sleep will close mine eyes,
Till, in his heart, my weapon lies,
Till that presumptuous heart I’ve torn,
And spurned, with deep indignant scorn.”

Heart-broken, to her chamber lone,
Repairs th’ affianced Bride,
For death she prays with sigh and moan,
And, there her tears doth hide.
May God who views her anguish wild,
Console that gentle, sorrowing child!
His eye surveys the rankling dart:
God, consolation can impart. –

She cries: “I soon, through keen despair,
Shall yield, the prey of death.
Haste! my last salutation bear,
Ere I resign my breath!
Say, that from Gertrude thou dost bring
A farewell gift – this golden ring,
And a memento from the hand
Of Gertrude — an embroidered band.”

Like ocean’s roar, when billows rise,
The maiden’s tones resound:
Each star seems wandering ‘mid the skies,
And mountains whirl around.
As leaves driven on by winter’s wind,
Thus roves, tumultuously his mind,
And keen despair usurps control
O’er Charles’ agitated soul.

“God recompense thee, faithful maid!

I, thee can never pay,
For that memento, now conveyed,
God will, a future day,
A hundred fold! Swift as a dart,
Courageous maiden! hence depart!
If thousand-fold her chains should be,
I’ll set the beauteous captive free!”

“Haste! gallop with rapidity!
I vow, I will not fail,
From giant’s hand, to set her free,
Yes, giants, clad in mail!
Tell Gertrude that, at twelve, tonight,
Cheered by the stars’ auspicious light,
Beneath her window, I’ll await,
If weal, or woe should be my fate.”

“Haste! haste thee!” Swift, at his command.
Doth Gertrude’s maid depart.
Upon his brow Charles’ clasps his hand,
How palpitates his heart!
Now right – now left, his steed he turns,
His cheek with ever-flushes burns,
What thoughts conflicting chafe his mind,
Ere a decision he can find!

Loud echoes the Knight’s silver horn,
From tower, and balcony,
And swift o’er mount, vale, field of corn,
And wood, his vassals fly.
To each assembling swift around,
Charles whispers a mysterious sound:
“Be vigilant, my trusty band!
List to my bugle! Be at hand!”

When bill and vale are mantled o’er
By sombre shades at night,
And, one by one, from Hochburg’s tower,
The lamps withdraw their light,
When each is lulled to peaceful rest,
Save Gertrude who, with throbbing breast,
And feverish thoughts that wildly rove,
Muses on Charles, her earliest love.

List! list! a gently murmuring tone
Salutes the mourner’s ear:
“My Gertrude! my beloved one,
Thy faithful Knight is near,
And thy deliverer will be!
Time presses; oh, depart with me!
Securely is the ladder placed,
Hence, on my charger, let us haste!”

“Ah my beloved Charles; no! no!
If hence I haste, with thee,
Far more profound will be my woe;
Dishonoured shall I be!
Yet, dearest treasure of my heart,
One farewell kiss before we part,
On earth, for ever! Soon my breath
Shall I resign, and welcome death!”

Gertrude! to mine integrity
A world mayst thou confide.
My child! thy honour trust to me,
Mine own affianced Bride!
My mother’s mansion shall be thine:
Until we stand at Hymen’s shrine;
Oh haste! Auspicious is night’s gloom,
To God and me resign thy doom!”

“A haughty baron is my sire,
Proud of his dignity,
I tremble now before his ire,
Forbear! This ne’er can be.
Revenge would chafe him, night and day,
Until thy life becomes his prey,
Until thy heart, in bitter scorn,
Before his daughter’s eye is torn!”

“Naught shall I fear, when, at my side,
My Gertrude have I placed;
Then East and West will open wide:
Beloved, why linger? Haste!
List! list! What moves in yon dark spot?
Depart oh Gertrude! Tarry not,
The night hath ears; soon dawns the day;
Descend! we’re lost! Oh, haste away!”

With hesitation doth she stand,
Each breath her soul alarms.
The Knight hath grasped her snow-white hand;
Gertrude is in his arms!
While folded to his panting breast,
How ardently is she caressed!
And Heaven’s benignant stars, above,
Witness their vows of deathless love.

Quickly is placed, th’ affianced Bride
On Charles’ Polish steed:
As lightning Charles is at her side,
And forth he darts, with speed,
As on the wind’s swift pinion borne!
O’er his steed’s saddle hangs the horn,
The whip and spur he now applies,
And, in the rear, soon Hochburg lies.

How sensitive to midnight’s ear,
To each minutest tone!
A traitoress is listening near,
To whom each sound hath flown.
The insidious duenna keen,
Of sordid mind, and spirit mean,
Arises, nimbly, from her bed,
And echo’s voice the news hath spread.

“Awake, illustrious Baron! wake!
Depart, without delay!
Thy daughter’s honour is at stake,
Now, now she hastes away,
With Charles of Eichenhorst, by night,
The forest shades protect their flight;
Oh, tarry not Sir Knight! Haste on!
The fugitive may, yet be won.”

“Forth to the rescue! Swift repair;
Rise, noble Count! arise!”
Thus Gertrude’s father cries:
“My son, from Pomerania’s land,
Arouse thee, sword and lance in hand,
From thee is stolen thy promised Bride;
Re-capture her! As lightning ride!”

‘Mid twilight’s gloom the lovers fly;
List! near are tones profound,
Hark! horses are advancing nigh,
From Hochburg comes the sound.
The Pomeranian’s rapid steed.
Bears on the Count, with breathless speed,
And ‘neath fair Gertrude’s trembling glance,
Glistens the hated rival’s lance!

“Robber of honour! halt thee here,
With thine unworthy prey!
Thee will I teach, with sword, and spear,
To steal a Bride away!
Halt fugitive coquette! await!
My vengeance will I satiate;
Thy guilty paramour and then,
I doom to death, and infamy!”

“List! Clown from Pomerania’s land;
thou liest! Here, I vow,
On thee, with sword, and lance, in hand,
A lesson I’ll bestow!
Gertrude! the courser be thy care,
Dismount Sir Rustic, from thy mare;
More polished manners learn! attend!
Instructions I’ll impart! descend!”

How poignant Gertrude’s keen despair!
She views, by morn’s first light,
Bright sabres glistening in the air,
Clashing ‘mid deadly fight.
On polished armour, weapons sound,
Awakening caverned echoes round,
And, o’er the rival enemies,
What circling clouds of dust arise!

Like tempest’s breath, Sir Charles’ steel
Has pierced his hated foe!
Ah, what unbounded joy doth feel
The ardent lover now!
Yet, ere the Knight remounts his steed,
List! List! advancing, at full speed,
The Baron’s rear-guard now appear;
Behold! the vassal-train is near!

Trara! Trara! through wood, and glade,
Charles’ silver horn doth sound;
Like phantoms from their ambuscade,
His vassals flock around.
“Halt, Baron, halt! — A word with thee!
Seest thou yon gallant company,
Assembled? — ready, at my word,
For death, or life, to draw the sword.”

“Illustrious Baron list! that thou
Mayst have no cause to mourn.
Thy child and I, love’s sacred vow,
Long, mutually, have sworn.
Oh! wilt thou sever heart from heart?
Shall Gertrude’s — prey to sorrow’s dart,
Cry to the world, and God, Sir Knight?
If this avails not, let us fight?”

“Reply not! lest thy heart upbraid;
God hears the vow I swear;
To Gertrude, all respect I’ve paid.
Deny me not my prayer!
Father! bestow thy daughter’s hand;
Heaven gave me gold, high birth, and land;
Dishonour sullies not my name,
I’m not unknown in deeds of fame.”

Pale as a statue — mute with woe,
Stands Gertrude near her sire;
Her veins, with fever-flushes glow,
How dread paternal ire!
Ah! what conflicting pangs she feels,
As, near that Sire, the suppliant; kneels!
Though gushing tears bedim her eye,
His wrath she fain would pacify.

“Father!” she cries, with accents wild,
“As thou wouldst pardoned be,
By God — oh, pardon thus thy child;
Compassion show to me!
Compelled, unwillingly to roam
From the beloved, maternal home:
To one I scorned, could I have given
Love’s hallowed vow? Forbid it heaven!”

“How oft hast though, when on thy knee,
Thine arm around me twined,
Thy heart’s best treasure naming me,
Thy staff in life’s decline!
My father, think of days gone by!
Blight not thy child’s felicity!
Forgiveness, if my sire denies,
My life will be the sacrifice!”

No sentence doth the Baron speak,
How palpitates his breast,
As his deep-furrowed, time-browned cheek
Upon his hand doth rest!
Grief clouds the father’s heart and eye,
Yet, pride that reigns internally,
Forbids that Nature’s tears reveal
All that his knightly soul doth feel.

O’er vengeance has the father’s breast.
Obtained a victory:
Those tears the Baron long suppressed,
Gush from his haughty eye.
From earth he lifts his prostrate child,
The tempest of his feelings wild,
In weeping, doth a channel find,
And tender passions calm his mind.

“My children! Me may God forgive,
As now I pardon you!
My benediction oh, receive!
Affection we renew.”
Advancing to the Count: “My son,
May God approve this union!
My daughter I resign to thee;
Happy may this alliance be!”

“I give thee Gertrude willingly,
Henceforth am I thy sire;
Forgive — forget all enmity!
Oblivion to ire!
Thy father, mine inveterate foe,
O’erwhelmed me, once, in bitter woe;
Though animosity be flown,
The sire, I hated, in the son!”

“Thy sire’s injustice now repair,
Towards Gertrude, and to me;
That life’s “good measure” I may share,
And owe my bliss to thee!
May God who contemplates us now!
Shower benedictions on love’s vow!
Exchange my children, ring, hand, heart,
Rancour! — from memory, oh, depart!”