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She fled with him into the world, awhile they lived in strife and sin,
He gamed and cheated, poorer grew, must robbery begin.
Gunhild, poor lost girl, Gunhild what wilt thou do?
She wept her eyes all red, she said, "Alas, that ever I this course begun,
I will return to my old home, whatever penance must be done."
She begged her way through many lands; she begged from door to door,
Till she saw the Rhine, the woods, the cloister stood before.
She knocks upon the cloister gate, quickly it open flies,
"O Mother take back the lost child, from her safe fold who ran, And let the hardest penance release the church's ban."
"Gunhild, my child, what ails thee? safe in thy little cell Do I not find thee every hour employed thy rosary to tell,
Singing hymns so wondrous sweet both day and night
If thou, holy child, must seek penance for thy sin, Where must I, poor wretch, to make atonement for my life be gin?"
They led her to the cell, what to think she could not guess,
Those, who look into their bosoms by the light of a tale like this, will not need to see the angel that has taken their place, while thought strayed to forbidden haunts, before they prepare a thank-offering to the "Preventing God."
The same nation, the same state of religious feeling, which gives Gunhild this guardian angel to protect her against her passion-stirred fancy, or curiosity, and longsuffering, is generous of chances for repentance, when a poor monk walks forth doubting and reasoning as to the interpretation of a passage of Scripture, lets him lose himself in the wood, where, as a penance, he doubts, reasons, and wanders for a hundred years far from his home, his
church, and yet never attaining an inward certainty. In our time the scale of sin would reverse the place of the two faults.
There are also fine mystical legends, one on the loss of the consecrated wafer into a field of corn, many about the Virgin, and two about the children, St. Hermann Joseph, and St. Rupert. Those on the holy Ottilia are among the noblest. One resembles that of "my Cid" when he meets St. Jago as a leper.
There are others of deep and painful import, where unnecessary martydom waits on the spirit's choice. The Maid of Bodman is one of these. Its holy sweetness cannot reconcile us to the desolation over which it hovers, like some pale, half-frozen seraph, lost in a temperature for which his organs were not made. This deep religious feeling occasions sometimes a dalliance with it, for men are not afraid to play with what they feel and know to be true, but only with what they wish may be true, but fear to be false. There are several playful legends of this character, of which two founded on the presumption of St. Peter are good.
The following is in the true German style of humor, a bit of playful wisdom. It is called
THE DEATH OF BASLE.
When I was a young man, I took a stone-old wife,
I went into the church-yard, and prayed to dear Death,
Some of the best are those which give the impression of a particular scene, as the Lorelei ballads, which represent, by the legend of the unhappy fay, the wild and melancholy beauty of a certain part of the Rhine. The poor Lorelei! her beauty bewitched all who saw it from a distance, and lured them to the dangerous heights, but her love floated
disdainful in a ship upon the stream, she must throw herself down to reach him.
Drachenfels is a place that inspires whatever springs from it with its own character. In this book is a legend of a Christian Maiden, exposed here by heathens, but before the cross on her pure breast the dragons flee and throw themselves from the precipices. But that is long since, and they seem again to shed their expression over their seat of royalty, not to be dispelled, except by some pure ray of living light, such as is expressed in this ballad.
The Fraulein von Windeck, a modern ballad by Chamisso, is singularly happy in giving this aspect of a peculiar scene. The young knight has been lured by the apparition of a stag to the ruins of Windeck. There the stag vanishing through the ruined gate, he knows not how, he stands gazing on the mighty walls. The sun burns down, all is so lovely and still, he wipes the drops from his brow and cries, O that some one would bring me a single drinking horn of the wine that must be stored in these cellars. Hardly had the words passed from his lips before the attentive cup-bearer issued from the wall. It was a slender, most beautiful maiden, in a white robe, with the keys at her girdle, the drinking-cup high in her hand. He sipped the wine with thirsty lips, and at the same time drew consuming flames into his bosom. He supplicates this lovely being for her love. She smiles on him with a tender compassion, and vanishes without a word.
From that hour he wandered round the ruins of Windeck, unable to free himself from the spell; he knew no rest, nor peace, nor hope.
He wandered like a dreamer, ghost-like, pale, and thin,
The profound loneliness of a sunny noon, and the effect of the light upon the ruins amid the leaves, making the stag vanish and the lady appear, is admirably exhibited in this poem. The following which grows also out of the character of the scenery pleases me no less.
HEIDENLOCH. BY A. LAMEY.
Father! how long in this dark solitude
Where only deer and bears visit the wood
That waves so wide?
How bright and cheerful spreads the distant plain, Far from the world of men why must I here remain?
The Gods who here command
O peace, my son.
I fled with thee from a far distant land
Before the new God's sway.
But once our Gods the wide earth-ball controlled,
And what for thee alone to tend their shrine
If they had ruled the earth by right divine
These pallid statues on the stone altar,
Yes! Rome and Athens through their mighty name
And with that fame fell courage, honor true,
Will a blind world no more due homage give,
O father, yesterday I ventured forth
I saw a maiden on the sunny turf
Giving her lamb fresh grass.
She greeted me with smiles, the lovely child,
And knelt before a figure shrined, and just so angel mild.
Enough! the rest thou hast no need to tell,
My son, farewell!
In vain with thee far from the Cross I run;
With thy dead mother we will find our home,
This struggle between the old and the new has not ceased yet, in Germany, nor, indeed, anywhere in the world, where the influence of ancient literature is still felt.
Opposed a whole heaven's breadth between, to the spirit of the Charlemagne ballads, are a few scattered up and down about the great modern, who, after the lapse of centuries, seemed to open to the sun's path the same sign of the zodiac. Charlemagne does not excite more love and reverence in that region, than Napoleon hatred, and a contempt even to loathing. These feelings are expressed in the following ballad perhaps better than in any.
The original is one of the best street ballads I ever saw. It has the real jingle, doggrel ease, and fire beneath the ashes that please in such. As it is placed among the historical ballads, it ought to record a fact, although I had always supposed the title of "Little Corporal" was only a pet name given by his army to the little great genius.
They name in Coblentz and the vale
What did this Spohn to win the name,
Spohn was a true, a faithful man,
Sudden he turns his horse to fly,
A thicket stops him in his flight,