Friedrich Freiherr De La Motte Fouque’: “The Siege of Algiers 1541” — Now the Story!

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

Seige of Algiers.first image

Still many of the four hundred transports which formed the fleet were missing, though confidently expected; And the landing, after a council of war had been held, was deferred till the dawn of the next day while the bright and innumerable stars began to sparkle on the clear southern night-heaven.

The late contrary wind had not been the first which the Christian emperor’s squadron had had to encounter since the sailing of the thirty-six imperial galleys from the harbour of Genoa; for it was not without almost constant combats against wind and waves, that after fourteen tedious days he had at last reached the island of Majorca. In this harbour he found many German and Italian ships, but was obliged to wait a stated time for the Spanish fleet, under the command of Admiral Madoza, two hundred sail strong; for this bold seaman had attempted a long time, but in vain, to guide it through the rough autumnal sea to the appointed place of rendezvous. He had succeeded at last, and they were now close to Africa.

Silent, gloomy, void of habitations, — for the threatened Algiers was not in sight, — Cape Matifo, the destined place of landing, frowned on the Europeans.

Upon the noble galley of the young bold Genoese Giannettino Doria, nephew of the doge, sat the old, but still powerful steersman, Ruperto Sansogno, at his post; his left hand supporting his head, which was sunk in thought, his faithful right hand leaning upon the helm that had been entrusted to him, while his long white hair flowed down over his brow to his long white beard. You might almost fancy he was one of those old river-gods sculptured upon the monuments of Romish antiquity, with dripping locks, leaning upon his oar.

Walprecht, a young German trooper in Giannettino Doria’s chosen body-guard, let his silver-tipped swordsheath, as if by chance, slip down from his arm upon the deck, and burst into a fit of unrestrained and hearty laughter, as the thoughtful old man started up a little frightened at the alarm.

“Foolish jester!” said Ruperto, angrily, sinking back again into his former position. “Thou mightest have spared thy silly grins for the time when that moon-like German mask of thine shall have dropped from the empty skull beneath. That, under the existing circumstances, may very soon happen, and then you may grin on as long as you like.”

“Yours are not very flowery similes,” returned Walprecht, in unrepressed merriment; and yet it seemed to him as if an icy hand was laid upon his shoulder; but shaking off the gloomy feeling without any perceptible motion, he added, laughing: —”And, nevertheless, you Italians are proud of being born the children of the south, whose little hands, even in the cradle, grasp two bright bunches of flowers and fruit of a never-fading kind. It was indeed a beautiful picture, a child with bright swelling bunches of flowers,” he said, after some consideration, kindly, and with a softer voice; but then again adding, with a laugh, —”only it is unfortunate, old Ruperto Sansogno, that your observations about skulls are appropriate to nothing in the world less than to an Italian flower garden, like those which, to my great delight, I have often strolled through at Genoa.”

“Everything has its season,” said the old steersman. “When God chooses to send a warning death-worm —they call it also a death-watch — to me, to you, and to others, what have you to say against it? and what can I do for or against it, if I am only once commanded in this manner by the great Admiral on high? Have you never seen a butterfly of a sad-coloured kind, which is called the ‘mourning cloak,’ rise up out of the bright chalice of a flower? But hark, close by lies the galley of the young noble Spaniard, who has the command of ten vessels, Don Felix Carrero, who dreams of nothing but victory and Renown; and with him is his beautiful beloved Donna Lisandra, more angel-like even in the beauty of her song and the notes of her guitar than in the perfect gracefulness of her form. Listen, and disturb not the lurking spirits of the air, for she sings.”

And as the notes of nightingales pass over beds of flowers, a sweet woman’s voice breathed forth the following song in the language of Castile:—

slumberingThe song ceased, or it was overpowered by a joyous burst of trumpets, that suddenly broke loose upon the deck of Don Carrero’s galley. The proud Castilian did honour to the dream of victory of his beautiful lady and bride with a warlike greeting.

Called upon deck by the joyous sound, the beautiful blooming youth, Giannettino Doria, appeared on the deck of his vessel, and at his side a grave, somewhat aged man, of a noble countenance, with fiery, almost burning eyes, his arms folded over his breast, and veiled in the white black-crossed mantle of the German order of knights.

Upon the deck of the neighbouring Spanish galley still strolled her captain, Don Felix Carrero, tenderly leading his tall graceful bride — a wondrously beautiful Castilian, somewhat pale, but her features of the most perfect symmetry, and with silent large dark star-like eyes, and jet black hair parted over her proud alabaster brow. The rising moon shone upon her figure, now wholly veiled in its white drapery, surrounding her as it were with a glorious light. The two ships greeted each other solemnly and respectfully.

“Yonder knight, Don Felix Carrero, would be an enviable man, if one dealt in such unworthy feelings as envy!” said the young glowing Genoese, Giannettino, to his companion. “But away with such thoughts! This tall knightly Castilian deserves to be an angel’s bridegroom, and with noble right bears his name, ‘Felix, the happy.’ Think you not so, Baron of Marbach?”

“I!” answered the German lord with kindled, almost angrily sparkling eye; “I and that Don Felix Carrero! It is always against my will that any appeal is made to me concerning him. The man displeases me from first to last. In my whole life I never saw any one with such lofty, overflown, and unbearably proud ideas and manners.

“You laugh, Signor Giannettino. Might I ask you why?”

“Bold knight,” returned the young Doria with engaging sweetness, “permit me to speak to you tonight a little more freely and more boldly than it else might beseem my youth to address your ripe age of manhood, already crowned with honour. But harken: days of fierce battle are close at hand; then shall we all seem of the same age, at least as regards this particular object that we have in view. Age and youth can contend equally with the undisciplined troops rising up before us on these Moorish coasts.”

“I love you always, Signor Giannettino Doria,” answered the German knight with heartfelt, and to him rare but most pleasing cordiality; “but most of all when danger draws near, or is already in existence. Then are you the most dear to me. Therefore say what you will; you have laughed at me just a little — and why?”

Read the rest of this rare antique German story in translation, in its entirety, here!


Giannettino Doria