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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.

Kyffhäuser Mountains

Barbarossa’s First Awakening

By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

Translated by J. McCarthy

STEEPED in the crimson sunlight

Reposed the golden plain,

As if the yellow cornfields

Were bathed in blood-red rain;

Full darkly loomed Kyffhäuser

Through fog which slowly broke,

When first the spellbound Kaiser

From his long sleep awoke.

A look of royal anger

On his vassals round he threw:

“I slept in deepest slumber,

Who dared such deed to do?

Who, braving all my fury,

From sleep has dragged me so,

And called in hollow accents,

‘Woe, Hohenstaufen, woe!’

“Who caused that sudden clashing

Of steel on steel to rise?

Who held the gaudy banners

Before my startled eyes?

Who has my dreams distracted

With fleeting forms of air,

And blood-red ensigns floating

On a wide market-square?

“There I beheld a monarch,—

High on a throne he sate;

He glared upon a scaffold

With eyes of wrath and hate.

The black-draped scaffold towered

Midst crowding heads and spears,

And on its height were standing

Two youths of tender years.

“Beside them on the scaffold,

Boding a deed of blood,

A grisly grim attendant,

The headsman, waiting stood.

He stood in cap of scarlet

And in a scarlet frock;

He leaned upon his weapon,

Before him was the block!

“Sudden the shrilly clarions

Rang out with murderous glee;

Hear you the king’s commandment?

His signal do you see?

One captive flung his gauntlet

Among the crowd below,

Which murmured like the ocean

When the hoarse storm-winds blow!

“His head that first pale victim

Lays firm upon the oak;

See, from his slender body

’T is severed with a stroke!

Far spouts the blood’s red fountain,

The king gives sign anew,

And ghastly smiles, as quickly

The second’s head falls too!

“Lo! where the heads are rolling

On mine own shattered shield,—

Who has this fearful vision,

To scare my sleep, revealed?

Who, braving all my fury,

From slumber dragged me so,

And called in hollow accents,

‘Woe, Hohenstaufen, woe!’”

The dwarfs, all pale and trembling,

Bow down before the king,—

“We know not who, O monarch,

Would dare do such a thing—”

That very time at Naples

The young Conradin stood

With Frederic of Suabia

On a scaffold dripping blood!

’T was then the bearded monarch

Upstarted from his place;

Saw dimly in Kyffhäuser

The end of his own race;

He growled in angry wonder,

And bent again his head,

A century had nearly

Of his long slumber fled.