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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Belgium: Bruges

The Heron Chase

By Count Anton Alexander von Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) (1806–1876)

Translated by J. O. Sargent

WHEN spring again encircles the earth in her genial embrace,

There rides from the gates of Bruges a party for the chase;

Full many handsome falconers on shapely coursers ride,

And withal the beautiful duchess by her loving husband’s side.

On her arm there sat a falcon. From the whiteness of his vest

At court they gave him the title of Dominican in jest:

His head a black hood covered, a silver collar he wore,

Which the inscription “Upwards” in golden letters bore.

A desolate heath outstretches, of bloom and verdure bare,

Where only thorn-bushes flourish, in patches here and there:

On the left the bath of the herons, a little fish-pond, lay,

And here they wash their plumage, and thus their haunt betray.

There ’s a rush into the water, and a scream from the crackling reeds,

And a flight of frightened herons to the right and left succeeds,

The vigorous falcons circling from the wrists of the hunters fly,

And mount, as the thoughts of man mount, to the azure of the sky.

And the eye of every hunter follows his falcon’s flight,

As in its aerial circles it sweeps to the left and the right;

Alertly in all directions the eager hunters move,

The earth beneath them trembles, clouds of dust are whirled above.

But see with mane all streaming there runs a riderless horse,

How it snorts! how with fright it quivers! how it springs on its tangled course!

Hold on! Seize the reins of the runaway! How and where fell the rider? Alas!

There lies the beautiful duchess—and there is the blood-stained grass!

She leans her pallid countenance upon her husband’s breast,

As white as the evening cloud is when the last flush fades in the west;

Ah! how from life’s genial sources the precious red streams start!

Alas! how richly blossoms the crimson rose of her heart!

A pair of weeping children, a sister and a brother,

Bend like twin angels, tenderly, over the pale, dead mother;

So bend twin dewy rosebuds on the same parent spray,

Over the mother flower that storm-stricken fades away!

His head downcast in sadness, where her blood the green turf stains,

By her side the white Dominican with mournful look remains;

Would you know his little motto? he had been her own apt scholar,

“Upwards!” in golden letters still gleams upon his collar.