Franz von Dingelstedt: “The Mountain of Scharfenstein”

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.



The Mountain of Scharfenstein


A Popular Hessian Legend


At Scharfenstein, at midnight hour,

Are mystic tones revealed,

Like tramp of war-steeds, and shield.

What clang of armour!  Why, the doors

Assail tumultuously,

Till Scharfenstein moves circling round,

And caverns open fly?


From every somber cavity

Forth rush an armed band,

Who, ‘neath the moon’s unclouded light,

In martial order stand.

The tuba echoes, helmets gleam,

And banners wave through air,

The dark, cadaverous regiment

A Chief commandeth there.


They dart across th’umbrageous vale,

Bright sparks, ascend on high;

They gallop forth, as though on tempest’s

Pinion swift they fly: —

“Our Fatherland!  The Tiberstrand!

Now strikes the destined hour!

If Victory now we fail to gain,

We’ll never venture more!”


That Mount commemorates brave deeds,

In Roman days, gone by;

At Scharfenstein’s wide base was won

A glorious victory.

The purple soil there drank the blood

Of countless Romans slain;

Their Eagle proud, once glory-crowned,

In German dust has lain!


Barbarians here – barbarians there,

Like mushrooms, strewed the ground;

Dread foes – rocks threatening, on each side,

The Romans viewed around.

What execution dealt each blow!

In piles their cohorts lay,

Like corn beneath the reaper’s scythe,

On harvest’s sultry day!


In tribulation and despair,

Alighting from his steed,

The Roman Emperor kneels on earth,

And thus, to Heaven, doth plead:

“Oh Jove!  Protect us from disgrace,

By thine Olympian hand!

Thou Mountain!  Mayst thou prove our tomb,

In the Barbarians’ land!”


Reverberating thunder peals,

Jupiter’s lightning flies;

The Mount is rent with deafening crash,

Each cavern open lies.

Lo! Friends and foemen are engulfed

Within a mountain-tomb,

And Scharfenstein’s dark portals close,

In silence, and in gloom!


At midnight’s solitary hour

Mysterious tones burst forth;

Th’ Italians, from th’ umbrageous tomb,

Must wander from the north;

Towards southern realms, swift gallop forth

That pale, cadaverous train;

On – on they gallop, yet, e’er fail

The Roman States to gain.


At morning, when the cock first crows,

Th’ assembled martial band,

To Scharfenstein direct their course

And entrance there demand.

As heretofore, the Mount is rent

While flames are circling round:

The caves enclose the Roman troops,

With Death’s sepulchral sound.