Bohemian legends and other poems/The Enchanted Maid

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A Bohemian legend of the fifteenth century.


The forest leaves were bright and green,
And soft the zephyr blew.
The mountain peaks were lost to view,
In clouds of pearly gray.
With happy steps two Checkish boys
Went singing of their many joys,
As through the wood they went.
They might have been two happy guests
Upon a wedding bent.

They sang of love, they sang of woe,
With voices high and sweet;
And oft they sang, that life is fleet,
And love as strong as death.
At length the eldest one said, “Wait
Here is a splendid tree that fate
Has thrown into our way.
We’ll cut it down and make ourselves
Two harps this sunny day."

They set about to cut that tree,
With boyish laughter wild.
And oft they sang, and oft they smiled,
As happily they plied.
But when they reached the inmost heart,
They both fell back as though a dart
Had struck their own young life,
For there a beauteous maiden stood
And begged of them her life.

But even as the maiden spoke,
She shivered and turned pale,
And then she sank with a great wail
Upon the emerald grass.
’Tis not your fault, oh, happy boys,
So full of life and earthly joys,
That takes me from this earth.
My mother did enchant me so
To keep me from all mirth.

I had a lover fair like you,
And often did we meet,
Ah, me! the hours passed so fleet,
And we were very young.
My mother, with her evil eye,
She soon found out the reason why
I would not do her will,
And gather ’neath the moon’s bright beam
The plants that work out ill.

And so, she turned me to a tree,
While I stood with my love.
I pray you, youths, by Him above,
To grant me but one boon—
Make harps from out this fallen tree,
And go and tell the world of me—
And for my mother play.
Oh, play and sing of all my woe,
That she may rue her day.”

And so she died, that maiden fair,
Upon the emerald grass;
And the two youths took up the lass,
And laid her in the sod.
Then sadly they obeyed her will,
And made them harps with Checkish skill,
To touch her mother’s heart.
Ah, melancholy was the wail
Of their new-fashioned harp.

Before her mother’s house they stopped,
And struck a solemn strain.
It almost seemed a soul in pain,
That sang from out their harps:
Oh, brave young men, I bid you go—
Your song, it is too full of woe,
Like some poor soul in pain;
And still it strikes me that I know
That tearful song again.”

The youths, they would not leave her side;
They played with wilder skill;
They sang, “Oh, mother, take thy fill
Of malediction now.”
And never from her human ears
Was hushed that song so full of fears
Until she dying lay.
And I have heard that devils came
And took her soul away.