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The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/Ballad

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For works with similar titles, see Ballad.


BALLAD

OF THE EXILED AND RETURNING COUNT.

[Goethe began to write an opera called "Löwenstuhl," founded upon the old tradition which forms the subject of this ballad, but he never carried out his design.]

Come in, dear old man, come inside, do come on!
Down here in the hall we shall be quite alone,
And the gate we will lock altogether.
For, mother is praying, and father is gone
To shoot the wild wolves on the heather.
Oh! sing us a tale, then again and again,
That my brother and I learn the measure;
To hear a fine minstrel we shall be so fain,
The children will listen with pleasure.

"In terror of night, during hostile attack,
On house full of splendour he's turning his back,
His most precious things he did bury.
The wicket to open the count is not slack;
What, then, in his arms does he carry?
What, under his mantle may hidden he keep?
What bears he to distance, what treasure?
His daughter it is, there the child is asleep"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.

"The morning is breaking, the world is so wide,
In valleys and mountains does shelter abide,
The villagers kindness are showing;
A minstrel, thus long he must wander and stride,
His beard long and longer is growing;
But lovely grows also the child on his arm,
As though he of wealth had rich measure;
His mantle protects her from every harm"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.

"And time many years in its course onward drags,
The mantle is faded, it has fallen to rags,
It could her not hold any longer.
The father beholds her, his joy never flags,
Each day it grows stronger and stronger.
So noble, so beautiful she does appear,
He deems her beyond ev'ry treasure;
How rich she is making her father so dear!"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.

"Up rides a princely and chivalrous knight,
She reaches her hand out, an alms to invite;
It is not such gift he would grant her.
The tender hand grasping with full, manly might:
'For life,' he exclaimed, 'I do want her!'
'Wilt make her a princess?' the old man replied,
'Dost recognise her as thy treasure?
Then be she betrothed on this verdant hillside!'"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.

"The priest, in the holy place, blesses the pair,
With joy and with grief she now hence doth repair.
She likes not to part with her father.
The old man is wand'ring now here and now there,
From pain he doth happiness gather.
Thus have I for years kept my daughter in sight,
My grandchild, like her, a sweet treasure;
I bless them by day and I bless them by night"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.

He blesses the children, he blesses them twice;
There's noise at the gate, it is burst in a trice,
The children the old man environ—
"Why, beggar, why, fool, doth my children entice?
On, seize him, ye men clad in iron!
Away to the dungeon with him!" he repeats;
From far as she hears the harsh measure,
Down hastens the mother, and flatt'ring entreats—
The children, they hear her with pleasure.

The men stand apart from the worthy old man,
Both mother and children beseech all they can;
The princely and proud man represses
The furious rage which their prayers but fan,
Till bursts what his spirit distresses:
"You beggarly brood, high nobility's blight!
My patience you've tried beyond measure;
You bring me destruction! It serves me quite right"—
The children hear this with displeasure.

The noble old man stands with look darting fire,
The men who have seized him still farther retire,
With fury the other is flaring!
"Oft cursed have I wedlock so mean and so dire,
Such blossoms such fruits e'er are bearing!
'Tis justly denied, that acquired be, the grace
E'er can, of nobility's treasure.
The beggar has borne me a beggarly race"—
The children still list with displeasure.

"And if thus the husband, the father rejects
You, rashly the most sacred ties disconnects,
You'll find in your grandsire a father!
The beggar your father so little respects
Will honour and wealth for you gather.
This castle is mine! Thou didst rob me of it;
I know where I've hid ev'ry treasure;
I bear with me warrant by royal hand writ!"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.

"Legitimate king has returned to his land,
Gives back what was taken from true followers' band,
Laws gentle and mild is proclaiming."
The old man thus spoke with a look kind and bland,
"My son, thee no longer I'm blaming;
Return to thyself from thy fury's wild flood,
I'll loosen the seals of each treasure,
Thy princess has borne thee a true princely blood"—
The children are list'ning with pleasure.