J. Ludwig Uhland: “The Mower’s Maiden”
Excerpt, “German Ballads, Songs, etc., comprising translations from Schiller, Uhland, Burger, Goethe, Korner, Becker, Fouque, Chamisso, etc., etc.” London: Edward Lumley. 1900.
The Mower’s Maiden.
“Good morrow to thee, Mary ! right early art thou laden !
Love hath not made thee slothful, thou true and steadfast maiden!
Ay, if in three brief days, methinks, thy task of work be done,
I shall no longer have the heart to part thee from my son.”
It was a wealthy farmer spake, it was a maiden listened:
Oh, how her loving bosom swelled, and how her full eye glistened !
New life is in her limbs, her hand outdoes her comrades all,
See how she wields the scythe, and see how fast the full crops fall!
And when the noon grows sultry; and the weary peasants wend
To sleep in pleasant thickets, and o’er cooling streams to bend;
Still are the humming-bees at work beneath that burning sky,
And Mary, diligent as they, works on unceasingly.
The sun hath sunk, the evening bell gives gentle summons home;
” Enough,” her neighbours cry, ” enough ! come, Mary, prithee come! “
Shepherds, and flocks, and husbandmen, pass homeward through the dew,
But Mary only whets her scythe and goes to work anew.
And now the dews are thickening, the moon and stars are bright,
Sweet are the new-mown furrows, and sweet the songs of night;
But Mary lies not down to rest, and stands not still to hear,
The rustling of her ceaseless scythe is music to her ear.
Even thus from morn till evening, even thus from eve to morn,
She toils, by strong love nourished, by happy hope upborne;
Till when the third day’s sun arose, the labour was complete,
And there stood Mary weeping, for joy so strange and sweet.
“Good morrow to thee, Mary! How now ? — the task is done!
Lo, for such matchless industry, rich guerdon shall be won;
But for the wedding—nay indeed—my words were only jest;
How foolish and how credulous we find a lover’s breast!”
He spake and went his way, and there the hapless maid stood still,
Her weary limbs they shook, they sank, her heart grew stiff and chill ;
Speech, sense, and feeling, like a cloud, did from her spirit pass,
And there they found her lying upon the new-mown grass!
And thus a dumb and death-like life for years the maiden led,
A drop of fragrant honey was all her daily bread.
Oh, make her grave in pleasant shades, where softest flow’rets grow,
For such a loving heart as hers is seldom found below !