Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Germany
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII.  1876–79.
 
Miscellaneous
Lenora
Gottfried August Bürger (1747–1794)
 
Translated by C. T. Brooks

FROM heavy dreams Lenora rose
  With morning’s first, faint ray:
“O William, art thou false,—or dead?
  How long wilt thou delay?”
He, with King Frederick’s knightly train,        5
Had hied to distant battle-plain,
  And not a line had come to tell
  If yet he were alive and well.
 
And now were king and queen full fain
  The weary strife to cease,        10
Subdued at length their mutual wrath,
  And joined their hands in peace;
Then rose the song and clash and clang,
And kettle-drums and trumpets rang,
  As, decked with garlands green and gay,        15
  Each host pursued its homeward way.
 
And here and there, and everywhere,
  Along each road and route,
To meet them came both young and old,
  With song and merry shout.        20
“Thank God!” both child and mother cried,
And “Welcome!” many a happy bride.
  But, ah! one heart shared not the bliss
  Of fond embrace and thrilling kiss.
 
From rank to rank Lenora flew;        25
  She called each knight by name,
And asked for William; but, alas!
  No answering tidings came.
Then, when that host had all gone by,
She beat her breast in agony,        30
  And madly tore her raven hair,
  And prostrate fell in wild despair.
 
The mother hastened to her child:
  “Ah, God have mercy now!
My darling child, what aileth thee?”        35
  And kissed her marble brow.
“O mother, mother, all is o’er;
No peace, no hope forevermore;
  No pity dwells with God on high;
  Woe ’s me, woe ’s me; O misery!”        40
 
“Help, God of grace, look down and help!
  Child, breathe a fervent prayer;
What God has done must work for good;
  God hears, and God will spare.”
“O mother, mother,—idle thought!        45
No good for me God’s will hath wrought;
  Vain have been all my prayers,—all vain;
  I dare not look to Heaven again!”
 
“Help, God of grace! No child shall seek
  The Father’s face in vain;        50
Come, and the blessed sacrament
  Shall surely soothe thy pain.”
“O mother, mother, pangs like these
No sacrament hath power to ease;
  No sacrament can pierce death’s gloom,        55
  And wake the tenant of the tomb!”
 
“Child, hear me; say, the false one now,
  In far Hungarian land,
Abjures his holy faith, and plights
  Some Paynim maid his hand?        60
Well, let it go, child, let it go,
’T will profit him no more below;
  And O, when soul and body part,
  What flames shall burn his perjured heart!”
 
“O mother, mother, lost is lost,        65
  And gone, forever gone;
Death, death, is now my only gain;
  O, had I ne’er been born!
Be quenched, forever quenched, my light!
Die, die in horror’s gloomiest night!        70
  No pity dwells with God on high;
  Woe ’s me, woe ’s me; O misery!”
 
“Help, God of grace! O, enter not
  In judgment with thy child!
Alas! she knows not what she says;        75
  Forgive whom woe makes wild.
Ah, child, forget thine earthly woes,
And think on God and heaven’s repose;
  Then shall thy soul, life’s sorrows passed,
  The bridegroom meet in bliss at last.        80
 
“O mother, mother, what is bliss?
  O mother, what is hell?
With him, with him alone, is bliss;
  Without my William, hell.
Be quenched, forever quenched, my light!        85
Die, die in horror’s gloomiest night!
  While he is not, no peace below;
  Without him, heaven is endless woe!”
 
Thus raged the madness of despair,
  And smote and scorched her brain.        90
She ceased not still God’s providence
  And justice to arraign;
She wrung her hands and beat her breast,
Until the sun had gone to rest,
  Till all the stars came out on high,        95
  And twinkled in the vaulted sky.
 
When, hark! a distant trap, trap, trap,
  Like horse’s hoofs, did sound;
And soon an iron-mailed knight
  Sprang clattering to the ground.        100
And hark! and hark! a gentle ring
Came swiftly, softly,—kling, ling, ling;
  Then through the door, in accents clear,
  These words did greet Lenora’s ear:—
 
“Holla! holla! love, ope to me;        105
  Dost wake, my child, or sleep?
And what are now thy thoughts of me?
  And dost thou smile or weep?”
“Ah, William, thou?—so late at night?—
I ’ve wept and watched through gloom and light;        110
  And, ah, what depths of woe I ’ve known!
  Whence com’st thou now thus late and lone?”
 
“At midnight hour alone we ride;
  From Hungary I come.
I saddled late, and now, my bride,        115
  Will bear thee to thy home.”
“Ah, William, first come in, till morn;
The wild wind whistles through the thorn.
  Come quickly in, my love; these arms
  Shall fold thee safe from midnight harms.”        120
 
“Let the wind whistle through the thorn;
  Child, what have I to fear?
Loud snorts the steed; the spur rings shrill;
  I may not tarry here.
Come, robe thyself, and mount with speed        125
Behind me on my coal-black steed;
  And when a hundred miles are past,
  We reach the bridal-bed at last.”
 
“Ah, must I ride a hundred miles
  To bridal-bed this day?        130
And, hark! e’en now the booming clock,—
  Eleven!—night wears away.”
“See here! see here! the moon shines bright;
We and the dead ride swift by night:
  Thou, on thou mount without delay,        135
  Shalt see thy marriage-bed to-day!”
 
“Where is thy chamber, say, my love?
  And where thy marriage-bed?”
“Far, far from here!—still, small, and cool,—
  Six planks, with foot and head.”        140
“Hast room for me?” “For thee and me;
Come, robe thee, mount, and soon thou ’lt see;
  The guests stand waiting for the bride;
  The chamber door stands open wide.”
 
Up rose the maid, and donned her robes,        145
  And on the courser sprung,
And round the darling rider’s form
  Her lily arms she flung.
And hurry ho! o’er hill and plain,
Hop, hop, the gallop swept amain,        150
  Till steed and rider, panting, blew,
  And dust-clouds, sparks, and pebbles flew.
 
And on the right and on the left
  How fast the landscape fled!
How all the thundering bridges shook        155
  Beneath the courser’s tread!
“Dost quake, my love? The moon shines bright!
Hurrah! the dead ride swift by night!
  Dost fear the dead, my love, my own?”
  “Ah no! yet leave the dead alone.”        160
 
What clang was that, and doleful song,
  And rush of raven’s wing?
Hark! hark! the knell of funeral bell!
  The bending mourners sing,
“Bear home the dead!” and soon appear        165
The shrouded corpse and sable bier;
  Like croak of frogs in marshy plain,
  Swelled on the breeze that dismal strain.
 
“When midnight ’s passed, bear home the dead,
  With sad, sepulchral strain;        170
I ’m bearing home my youthful bride;
  Haste,—join the bridal train!
Come, sexton, bring thy choir along,
And croak for me the bridal song;
  Come, priest, and be thy blessing said,        175
  Or ere we seek the marriage-bed!”
 
Ceased clang and song, swift fled the bier,
  Obedient to his call,
Hard at the horse’s heels that throng
  Came hurrying one and all;        180
And onward, on, o’er hill and plain,
Hop, hop, the gallop swept amain,
  Till horse and rider panting blew,
  And dust-clouds, sparks, and pebbles flew.
 
On either hand,—right, left,—how swift        185
  Trees, hedges, mountains, fled!
How vanished cities, towns, and farms,
  As onward still they sped!
“Dost quake, my love? The moon shines bright!
Hurrah! the dead ride swift by night!        190
  Dost fear the dead, my love, my own?”
  “Ah, leave the dead to rest, alone!”
 
See! see! beneath you gallows-tree,
  Along the moonlit ground,
Half brought to view, an airy crew        195
  Go dancing round and round.
“Ha, merry crew! come, haste along,
And follow in the marriage throng!
  I take my bride ere morn, and ye
  Shall dance the wedding dance for me.”        200
 
And hurry, skurry, close behind
  That pack came brustling fast;
So rattles through the hazel-bush
  November’s fitful blast.
And onward still, o’er hill and plain,        205
Hop, hop, the gallop dashed amain,
  Till horse and rider panting blew,
  And dust-clouds, sparks, and pebbles flew.
 
How fast the land on either hand
  Beneath the moon swept by!        210
How swiftly fled, high overhead,
  The stars along the sky!
“Dost quake, my love? The moon shines bright!
Hurrah! the dead ride swift by night!
  Dost fear the dead, my love, my own?”        215
  “Ah, leave the dead to rest, alone!
 
“Speed, speed, my steed! Methinks e’en now
  The early cock doth crow.
Speed on! I scent the morning air;
  Speed, speed! the sand runs low!        220
’T is done, ’t is done,—our journey ’s passed;
The bridal-bed appears at last.
  Hurrah! how swiftly ride the dead!
  It is, it is, the bridal-bed!”
 
And, lo! an iron-grated gate        225
  Full in their pathway frowned;
He snapped his switch, and lock and bolt
  Sprang back with thunder-sound.
The clanking gates, wide-opening, led,
O’er crowded dwellings of the dead,        230
  Where tombstones, thickly scattered round,
  Gleamed pale along the moonlit ground.
 
Ha, see! ha, see! whoo! whoo! what tongue
  Can such dread wonder tell!
The rider’s collar, piece by piece,        235
  Like shrivelled tinder fell;
His head a sightless skull became,
A ghastly skeleton his frame;
  In his right hand a scythe he swung,
  And in his left an hour-glass hung.        240
 
High pranced the steed, and snorted wild,
  And, snorting, flamed outright;
And, whee! the solid ground beneath
  Fled from the maiden’s sight.
Howls, howls were heard through upper air;        245
Below, deep moanings of despair:
  Her quaking heart, ’twixt death and life,
  Seemed wrestling in an awful strife.
 
Now round and round, o’er moonlit ground,
  The ghastly spectre-train        250
Full well did dance their fetter-dance,
  And howled this solemn strain,—
“Forbear! forbear! Though heart be riven,
Contend not with the God of heaven!
  Thou hast laid down this earthly clod;        255
  Now may the soul find peace with God!”
 
 
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