Littell's Living Age/Volume 162/Issue 2099/A Mountain Transformation

Littell's Living Age
by Heinrich Heine
translated by F. Storr

Volume 162, Issue 2099 : A Mountain Transformation

Out of doors the moon is sinking
    Slow behind the green fir-tree,
And the lamp within our chamber
    Glimmers faint and fitfully.

But the starry pair of blue eyes
    Brighter beam amid the shade,
Redder glows the purple rosebud,
    And she speaks, my pretty maid:

"Wee folk, little elfish thievers,
    Filch our bacon and our bread;
Safe at night within the cupboard,
    Next day all away is sped.

"Wee folk, dainty elfin gluttons,
    Skim our milk on cream to sup,
Then they leave the bowl uncovered,
    And the rest the cat laps up.

"And the cat's a witch! she slinks off
    Through the storm at midnight hour,
To the witches' mountain yonder,
    To the haunted castle tower.

"There was once a lordly castle,
    Gay with gleaming shield and lance;
Lord and lady, squire and damsel,
    Circled in the torchlight dance.

"But there came a false enchantress,
    Laid on all her wicked spell;
Now amid the tumbled ruins
    Only owls and owlets dwell.

"But my aunt (Heaven rest her!) told me
    If by night, at the right hour,
One should speak the right word, standing
    On the right spot by the tower,

"Straight again the lordly castle
    From the ruined heap would spring,
Lord and lady, man and maiden,
    Thread once more the torchlit ring.

"And to him who spoke the right word
    Keep and castle would belong,
Drum and trumpet greet his lordship,
    Welcomed home with shout and song."

Thus the fairy legends blossom
    From the rose's opening bud,
Blue with their starry magic
    All my ravished senses flood.

With her flaxen locks the maiden
    Binds my fingers, holds them fast,
Calls them pretty names, and laughing
    Kisses, and is still at last.

All within the stilly chamber
    A familiar aspect wears,
Sure I oft before had seen them,
    Press and cupboard, table, chairs.

Like a friend the old clock gossips,
    In my ear the zitter seems
Of its own accord to tinkle,
    And I sit as one who dreams.

'Tin the right hour, 'tis the right spot!
    Would you marvel greatly, dear,
If I now the right word uttered,
    At this instant, standing here?

If I speak that word, the midnight
    With the throes of dayspring quakes;
Stream and forest echo louder,
    And the haunted mountain wakes.

Zitter's twang and elfin carols
    From the mountain fissures ring,
And the forest burgeons, maddened
    With untimely birth of spring;

Burgeons into magic blossoms
    Fan-like foliage, flowers bright;
Breathes in myriad scents its passion,
    Quickened by the seasons might.

Roses like red flames upstarting
    Shoot from out the wild turmoil,
Lilies rear their crystal pillars
    Heavenward from th' enchanted soil.

Large as suns the stars in heaven
    Downward beam with gaze intense,
And the lily's broad cup gathers
    All their tender influence.

Meanwhile we ourselves, my darling,
    Feel a rarer, subtler change;
Gold and silk around us shimmer,
    Gleaming torches round us range.

You're a princess, and the shieling
    Is a lordly castle, see!
Lord and lady, squire and damsel,
    Dance before as merrily.

And 'tis I, 'tis I have won thee;
    Thou and castle all belong
To my lordship; drum and trumpet
    Hail me, greet me shout and song!