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.