Karl Joseph Simrock: “Schelm Von Bergen”




Within the halls of Frankfort, they chose a king today,

And in the evening they danced their torchlight roundelay:

A new Kaiser hath been born;

At the altar he hath sworn;

Ye merry maskers, dance away.


To the dance! To the dance! The monarch himself is there;

And the Black Knight leads the Queen, so youthful and so fair;

Who may be the happy knight

With that jewel of delight

That a prince might be proud to wear?


To the dance! To the dance! There are breasts that heave and fall:

Who hath the Queen of Beauty taken again from out them all?

‘Tis the dark emblazoned knight!

And in sooth his step is light,

As he floats through the painted hall.


There are whisperings of wonder amongst the dames, I ween;

For ever ‘tis the sable knight who leads the blooming Queen;

And there will be watchful eyes,

When the maskers doff their guise,

And the knight of the dance is seen.


“The masquerade is ended; Sir Knight, I fain would know

The noble lineaments that lie that sable screen below?”

“Oh, thou fairest of the fair!

By thy soul and mine, I swear

Thou art seeking a sight of woe.”


“Nay, an thou wert an outlaw,” thus spake the noble King,

“Our honour casts around thee the aegis of her wing:”

But the crowd recoil aghast,

As aside the veil is cast;

And murmurs through the chamber ring.


“Executioner of Bergen!” the fiery monarch saith;

“There is treason in thy presence, and poison in thy breath:

Warders, ho! Your king commands;

Seize the helot where he stands,

And drag him to a felon’s death.”


“Not so, oh mighty king, can thine honour be restored!

But rather, from that honour’s fount, let healing grace be poured.

Sire, thy steel can dub me knight;

He who holds thine honour light

Shall fall before my knightly sword.”


“Upon thy knees! Thou craftiest of counselors at need!

Thy life has been an infamy, and knavish is thy deed;

Schelm von Bergen be thy name

On the muster-roll of fame;

And let the knights around take need.”


Again the dance is marshaled, at the monarch’s high command;

On whom hath Majesty again bestowed her royal hand?

‘Tis the black unhelmn’d knight!

And in sooth his step is light

Amongst the princes of the land.