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.
COUNT CHARLES OF EICHENHORST
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!”