Ludwig Uhland: “The Ancestral Vault”

Excerpt, “Ballads from the German.”  Translator, Henry Englis.  1864.


The Ancestral Vault


There went a hoary war-worn sire

Across the solitary wold,

Up to the sanctuary old,

And stepped into the gloomy choir.


In ranks, the bannered vault along,

The grim ancestral coffins lay;

And through the darkness came alway

A warning, wondrous strain of song.


“Ye warriors, in your shrouds of mail,

Your stately burial-dirge I hear;

It calls me to yon empty bier—

It bids your latest kinsman hail.”


There stood, by shadows half concealed,

One empty bier amongst the dead;

He laid him in the narrow bed,

Cold pillowed on his dinted shield.


His sword, recumbent on his breast,

Was folded in the sleep of death;

Hushed was the ghostly anthem’s breath,

And the dead warriors were at rest.