Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Postilion

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


The Postilion

By Nikolaus Lenau (1802–1850)

Translated by C. T. Brooks

LOVELY was the night of May,

Clouds of silvery whiteness

O’er the blooming spring away

Sailed in fleecy lightness.

Meadow, grove, and mountain’s brow

Silent rest were taking;

No one but the moonshine now

On the roads was waking.

Glare and din of day had fled,

Ceased each warbler’s numbers,—

Spring her fairy children led

Through the realm of slumbers.

Whispering breeze and brooklet crept

Slow with silent paces,

Fragrant dreams of flowers that slept

Filled the shadowy spaces.

But my rough postilion now

Cracked his whip, and, flying,

Left the vale and mountain’s brow

To his horn replying.

O’er the hill, across the plain,

Loud the hoofs resounded,

As through all the bright domain

On the good steeds bounded.

Wood and mead, as on we sped,

Flew with scarce a greeting;

Town and country by us fled,

Like a dream still fleeting.

In the lovely May-moonlight

Lay a churchyard nested,

And the traveller’s roaming sight

Solemnly arrested.

On the mountain-side the wall

Seemed with age reclining,

And, above, a sad and tall

Crucifix was shining.

Driver, at a slower pace,

Up the road advances,

Stops, and toward the burial-place

Reverently glances:

“Horse and wheel must tarry here,—

Sir, ’t is not for danger,—

But there lies one sleeping near

Was to me no stranger!

“’T was a lad most rare and true,—

Ah, the sorrow ponder!

None so clear the post-horn blew

As my comrade yonder!

“Always must I linger here,

And, with mournful pleasure,

To the dead one’s waiting ear

Blow his favorite measure!”

Toward the churchyard now he blew

Such entrancing numbers,

Well might pierce the dull ground through,

Stir the dead man’s slumbers.

And a blast upon the air

From the heights came flying,—

Was the dead postilion there

To his songs replying?

On, again, and faster still,

On the good steeds bounded,—

Long that echo from the hill

In my ear resounded.