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


The Black Knight

By Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787–1862)

Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

’T WAS Pentecost, the Feast of Gladness,

When woods and fields put off all sadness.

Thus began the king and spake:

“So from the halls

Of ancient Hofburg’s walls

A luxuriant spring shall break.”

Drums and trumpets echo loudly,

Wave the crimson banners proudly.

From balcony the king looked on;

In the play of spears

Fell all the cavaliers

Before the monarch’s stalwart son.

To the barrier of the fight

Rode at last a sable knight.

“Sir Knight! your name and scutcheon, say!”

“Should I speak it here,

Ye would stand aghast with fear;

I ’m a prince of mighty sway!”

When he rode into the lists,

The arch of heaven grew black with mists,

And the castle ’gan to rock.

At the first blow

Fell the youth from saddle-bow,—

Hardly rises from the shock.

Pipe and viol call the dances,

Torchlight through the high halls glances,

Waves a mighty shadow in;

With manner bland

Doth ask the maiden’s hand,

Doth with her the dance begin;

Danced in sable iron sark,

Danced a measure weird and dark,

Coldly clasped her limbs around.

From breast and hair

Down fall from her the fair

Flowerets, faded, to the ground.

To the sumptuous banquet came

Every knight and every dame.

’Twixt son and daughter all distraught,

With mournful mind

The ancient king reclined,

Gazed at them in silent thought.

Pale the children both did look;

But the guest a beaker took:

“Golden wine will make you whole!”

The children drank,

Gave many a courteous thank:

“O, that draught was very cool!”

Each the father’s breast embraces,

Son and daughter; and their faces

Colorless grow utterly.

Whichever way

Looks the fear-struck father gray,

He beholds his children die.

“Woe! the blessed children both

Takest thou in the joy of youth;

Take me, too, the joyless father!”

Spake the grim guest,

From his hollow, cavernous breast:

“Roses in the spring I gather!”