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


Harras, the Bold Leaper

By Karl Theodor Körner (1791–1813)

Translated by G. F. Richardson

THE WORLD yet waited in shadowy light

The dawn of the rising day;

And scarcely yet had waked the night

From the slumber in which it lay.

But, hark! along the forest way

Unwonted echoes rung,

And all accoutred for the fray

A band of warriors sprung!

And forth they rushed along the plain,

In thunder, to the fight;

And foremost of that martial train

Was Harras, the gallant knight.

They ride upon their secret way,

O’er forest and vale and down,

To reach their foe while yet ’t is day,

And storm his castled town.

So sally they forth from the forest gloom;

But as they leave its shade

They rush, alas! to meet their doom,

And their progress is betrayed:

For suddenly bursts upon their rear

The foe, with twice their force;

Then out at once rush shield and spear,

And the charger flies on his course.

And the wood in unwonted echoes rang

With the sounds of that deadly fray,

And the sabre’s clash and the helmet’s clang

Is mixed with the courser’s neigh.

A thousand wounds have dyed the field

Unheeded in the strife;

But not a man will ask to yield,

For freedom is dearer than life!

But their stronger foes must win the day,

And the knights begin to fail;

For the sword hath swept their best array,

And superior powers prevail.

Unconquered alone, to a rocky height

Bold Harras fought his way;

And his brave steed carried him through the fight,

And bore him safe away.

And he left the rein to that trusty steed,

And rode from the fatal fray;

But he gave to his erring path no heed,

And he missed the well-known way.

And when he heard the foemen near,

He sprang from the forest gloom;

But as soon as he reached the daylight clear,

He saw at once his doom!

He had reached a frightful precipice,

Where he heard the deep waves roll;

For he stood on Zschopauthal’s dread abyss,

And horror chilled his soul!

For on yonder bank he could espy

The remnant of his band;

And his heart impatient panted high,

As they waved the friendly hand.

And he longed, as he looked o’er that dreadful steep,

For wings to aid his flight;

For that cliff is full fifty fathoms deep,

And his horse drew back with fright.

And he saw, as he looked behind and below,

On either side his grave:

Behind him, from the coming foe;

Before him, in the wave!

And he chooses ’twixt death from the foemen’s hand,

Or death where the deep waves roll;

Then he boldly rides up to that rocky strand,

And commends to the Lord his soul!

And as nearer he hears the foemen ride,

He seeks the utmost steep;

And he plunges his spurs in his courser’s side,

And dares the dreadful leap!

And swiftly he sank through the yielding air,

And into the flood he fell;

His steed is dashed to atoms there,

But the knight lives safe and well!

And mid the plaudits of his band,

He stemmed the parting wave,

And soon in safety reached the land,

For Heaven will never forsake the brave!