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

Harz Mountains

From the Harz

By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

Anonymous translation

O GRAY and silent dawning!

The leaves are gently stirred;

Out to the forest border

The stag has led his herd.

Amid the corn he standeth

Stamping, with eye of fire;

I’ the thicket close are lying

The peasants, son and sire.

The rusty gun uplifting,

The old man doth exclaim,—

“A stag of fourteen branches!

The deuce, boy, take good aim!”

He aims! the shot resoundeth!

Ay, that I woodcraft call!

The stag of fourteen branches,—

To earth they see him fall!

The frightened hinds all scatter;

The old man shouts, “Well done!”

Darts forth, and his knee planteth

Upon the deer thus won.

“Boy! but thy aim is famous!

Ay, true unto a hair!

God’s blessing on our cornfield,

He ’ll feed no longer there!

“For him no grain is needful;

He ’ll bend its stalk no more.

But, Fritz! why stand’st thou gaping?

The cord,—quick! hand it o’er!

There! foot to foot we ’ve bound him,

Feel,—he ’s already cold!”

Then, with his hounds and people,

Forth strode the keeper bold.

Help, God! He knows the by-paths!

Up start both sire and son,—

Rush forth, and leave behind them

The double-barrelled gun.

The keeper does not loiter;

He shouts, “Ye scoundrel crew!

To me the gun what boots it,

Without the shooters too?”

In vain! then quick to shoulder

He lifts his piece in sight,

Aims,—coolly, long, and surely,—

What, men?—and men in flight?—

No matter! Straight he fireth—

Hilloh! that call I luck!

He sees the old man falling,—

His neck the bullet struck!

There, prone in his own barley,

The stalwart peasant lies;

As if his heart were bursting

He groans, and groaning dies.

His blood spouts through his waistcoat,

Runs in the ploughshare’s mark;

Soaks through the clods all warmly,—

What thinks the brooding lark?

Upon her nest she sitteth,—

She starts, to heaven she springs!

For blood her nest wells into,—

Blood, blood is on her wings!

To God she bids it lighten

Amid the sun’s first beams,

Sprinkling the ears of barley

With gore, that back she streams.

That is a rain most potent,

That is no sprinkling mean,

That is a lark’s soft blessing,

To make the corn-crop green.

On the young man it drops too,

Who onward madly fares,

And in his arms, lamenting,

His murdered father bears.

—Away, boy! Why embrace thus

This corpse so stiff and cold?

Away! and cease your whining,—

Feel! he ’s already cold!

Back from those lips so livid

Take thine, yet warm with breath:

See! how the hounds are crouching,—

Great God! ’t is at the death!

Straight on one dray are resting

The stag and man also,

And to the venison-larder

They through the pine-wood go.

They go all fast and furious,—

The keeper whistles light,—

He laughs,—why not?—he only

Exerts the keeper’s right.

So gives it him no sorrow

The youth’s wild grief to hear;

The clown will be forgotten,

And eaten be the deer.

Himself? He wins the medal,—

That lacked he yet alone,—

And Fritz, the scamp, is promptly

Into the dungeon thrown.

There stares he through the grating,

And sees an organ-boy,

Who sings unto the people

Without—this song of joy:

“Success to all who living

The garb of green do grace,—

To the field and to the forest,

The hunter and the chase!”