The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 9/The Maid of the Mill's Treachery


[This ballad is introduced in the "Wanderjahre," in a tale called "The Foolish Pilgrim."]

Whence comes our friend so hastily,
When scarce the eastern sky is gray?
Hath he just ceased, though cold it be,
In yonder holy spot to pray?
The brook appears to hem his path,
Would he barefooted o'er it go?
Why curse his orisons in wrath,
Across those heights beclad with snow?

Alas! his warm bed he hath left,
Where he had looked for bliss, I ween;
And if his cloak, too, had been reft,
How fearful his disgrace had been!
By yonder villain sorely pressed,
His wallet from him had been torn;
Our hapless friend has been undressed,—
Left well-nigh naked as when born.

The reason why he came this road.
Is that he sought a pair of eyes,
Which, at the mill, as brightly glowed
As those that are in Paradise.
He will not soon again be there.
From out the house he quickly hied,
And when he gained the open air,
Thus bitterly and loudly cried:

"Within her gaze, so dazzling bright,
No word of teachery I could read;
She seemed to see me with delight,
Yet planned e'en then this cruel deed.
Could I, when basking in her smile.
Dream of the treason in her breast?
She bade kind Cupid stay awhile,
And he was there to make us blest.

"To taste of love's sweet ecstasy
Throughout the night that endless seemed,
And for her mother's help to cry
Only when morning sunlight beamed!
A dozen of her kith and kin,
A very human flood, in-pressed,
Her cousins came, her aunts peered in,
And uncles, brothers, and the rest.

"Then what a tumult, fierce and loud!
Each seemed a beast of prey to be;
The maiden's honour all the crowd,
With fearful shout, demand of me.
Why should they, madmen-like, begin
To fall upon a guiltless youth?
For he who such a prize would win,
Far nimbler needs must be, in truth.

"The way to follow up with skill
His freaks, by Love betimes is known
He ne'er will leave, within a mill,
Sweet flowers for sixteen years alone.—
They stole my clothes away,—yes, all!
And tried my cloak beside to steal.
How strange that any house so small
So many rascals could conceal!

"Then I sprang up, and raved, and swore,
To force a passage through them there.
I saw the treacherous maid once more,
And she was still, alas, so fair!
They all gave way before my wrath,
Wild outcries flew about pell-mell;
At length I managed to rush forth,
With voice of thunder, from that hell.

"As maidens of the town we fly,
We'll shun you maidens of the village!
Leave it to those of quality,
Their humble worshippers to pillage!
Yet if ye are of practised skill,
And of all tender ties afraid,
Exchange your lovers, if ye will.
But never let them be betrayed."

Thus sings he in the winter night,
While not a blade of grass was green.
I laughed to see his piteous plight,
For it was well deserved, I ween.
And may this be the fate of all,
Who treat by day their true loves ill,
And, with foolhardy daring, crawl
By night to Cupid's treacherous mill!