Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Count of Hapsburg

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

Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen)

The Count of Hapsburg

By Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)

Translated by J. H. Merivale

AT Aachen, in imperial state,

In the hall with age embrownéd,

Mid solemn pomp King Rudolph sate

At the feast,—a Cæsar crownéd.

The cates the Palgrave of the Rhine,—

Bohemia bore the sparkling wine,—

And all the Electors seven,

As round the sun the planet crew,

Encircled with their service due

The lord of that earthly heaven.

And glad spectators thronged around,

On the high balconies seated;

And the shrill-voiced trumpet’s brazen sound

The shouting crowds repeated,—

Since ended the rule of blood and crime,

That long had marked that kingless time;

The justice-seat no longer,

Bereft of the judge, was usurped by the spear,

Nor the weak and peaceful had cause for fear

To be made the prey of the stronger.

Now the Cæsar has grasped the goblet of gold,

And he speaks with joyous glances,—

“The feast is right royal and bright to behold,

And my heart within me dances.

But the bard—the bringer of joy—I miss,

Who was wont to arouse my bosom to bliss,

Or to godlike thoughts awaken:

His voice so sweet was my youth’s delight;

And what I so prized as a simple knight,

Be ne’er from the monarch taken!”

Then forth in that circle of princes bright

Stepped the bard in his robe loose flowing,—

His beard and his locks all silver white

With snows of time’s bestowing.

“Sweet music sleeps in the golden strings;

Of love’s reward the minstrel sings;

The highest, the best, he praises,—

What the heart can wish, or the sense may cheer.

Then say, what is fittest the Cæsar to hear

On this day that his rapture raises.”

“I may not command the minstrel,” spoke

With smiles the imperial power.

“He bears a mightier sovereign’s yoke,

He obeys the ruling hour.

As the tempest hurtles in the breeze,—

Man knows not its birth, nor its motion sees,—

As the stream from its fountain hidden;

So the minstrel’s song from its inward source

Awakens the feelings with mystic force

That sleep in the heart unbidden.”

The minstrel sudden sweeps the string,

And it answers, clear and hollow,—

“A noble hunter is on the wing

The chamois deer to follow;

A page goes behind with his weapons of chase;

And soon he has readied a verdant place

On the stately steed that bore him,

And is made of a distant bell aware;

A priest with the sacred host was there,

And the sacristan walked before him.

“The count, to the ground he bows him low,

Bare-headed in adoration,

To worship with meek devotion’s glow

The Author of man’s salvation.

But a torrent through the meadow roars,

By a cataract swollen above its shores,

The traveller’s path bestriding;

And the priest lays down that blesséd food,

While he looses his sandal to cross the flood,

With care for his charge providing.

“‘What is it thou doest?’ the count began,

As with wondering eye he views him.

‘I go, sir, to shrive a dying man,

Ere heaven from earth unloose him.

But the bridge that was wont the waters to stay,

The force of the torrent has swept away,

And deep in the whirlpool tossed it;

So, rather than keep from the thirsty soul

This saving grace, though the big wave roll,

I shall barefoot soon have crossed it.’

“The count hath him set on his knightly steed,

In his hands the rich bridle placing,

That the sick may not fail, at his utmost need,

Of that holy help’s embracing.

Himself mounts the page’s hackney the while,

And follows the chase with a cheerful smile;

The priest, on his way proceeding,

At morning’s dawn brings back again

That princely steed, by the golden rein

With grateful reverence leading.

“‘Now, God so please!’ cried devoutly the count,

‘Shall no man ever persuade me,

For the chase or the fight that steed to mount,

Which has carried the Lord that made me.

And, if thou hast earned it not for thine own,

Then let it remain for God’s service alone,—

I thus to Him decreeing

From whom all honor and earthly good

I hold as lent; and body and blood,

And life and breath and being.’

“‘O, so may God who heareth prayer,

And grants what is asked for duly,

To honor bring thee both here and there,

In that thou hast served him truly.

Thou ownest now a count’s command,—

For knighthood famed through the Schweizerland,—

With six fair daughters blooming.

May they six crownéd matrons shine,’

Enrapt he sang, ‘thy princely line

To latest age illuming.’”

And with thoughtful brow sat the Cæsar there,

Revolving days long ended;

But when he beheld that bright eye’s glare,

The riddle he comprehended.

For the priest’s true features he there has traced,

And he raises his purple mantle in haste,

To hide the tears fast rising;

While all on the Cæsar fix their eyes,

And the minstrel’s hero recognize,

And revere their chief, God-prizing.