The Soul Of A Century/The water sprite

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3722756The Soul Of A Century — The water sprite1943Karel Jaromír Erben


O’er the lake on a poplar dreaming,
A water-sprite sits of an evening:
“Shine moon-beam, shine on,
Help me thread my yarn.”

A pair of stout shoes I am sewing
For dry land and watery going:
“Shine moon-beam, shine on,
Help me thread my yarn.”

This is Thursday, Friday’s coming,
My new frock-coat I am sewing:
“Shine moon-beam, shine on,
Help me thread my yarn.”

Bright red shoes, a coat green as the sea,
Tomorrow shall my wedding be:
“Shine moon-beam, shine on,
Help me thread my yarn.”


Early next morning a maiden arose,
Bundled together her snow-white clothes.
“Mother, I’m going to the lake
To wash my clothes, ere day shall break.”

“Go not today to the edge of the water,
Better stay home my child, my daughter.
Last night I had an evil dream.
Do not go near where the waters gleam.

I picked white pearls in my dream last night,
Picked them for you and dressed you in white,
In a sheer gown of watery foam.
Do not go out my child; stay home!

A white dress portends that mourning is near;
Each pearl conceals a bitter tear,
And Friday is a luckless day;
Go not my child, go not away.”

There is no peace for the restless daughter,
Something attracts her to the water,
Pulls her by force to the tempting lake,
She lacks the strength the spell to break.

As soon as a kerchief she submersed
With a crash and a roar, the foot-bridge burst,
And yon where the maiden fell in, is left
Only a seething, foaming depth.

Up from the bottom rolled a wave,
Rings whirled about the watery grave.
And on the swaying poplar tree
A little green man clapped his hands in glee.


Ever mirthless, ever sad
Are these watery lands,
Where beneath the lotus leaves
The gleaming fishes dance.

Here the bright sun never shines,
A warm wind never blows;
Cold and silent, as a grief
In a heart that weary grows.

Ever mirthless, ever sad
Are these watery lands,
Half in light and half in shadow
The days by days advance.

The Water-sprite has a large gay court
Filled with many a treasure.
Against their will the guests are held,
Never for their pleasure.

He who comes into this court
Beneath its crystal dome,
Never more shall see or hold
His beloved ones at home.

At the gates the Water-sprite
His tattered nets is mending,
While his youthful wife, nearby
A little babe is tending.

“Sleep my dear unwanted babe,
’tis for you I am crying,
While you’re smiling up at me
I with grief am dying.

Joyfully you stretch towards me
Two small hands so brave,
I would rather see myself
On earth, within a grave.

There on earth, beyond the church,
Where the black crosses stand,
My old mother would have me
Close and near at hand.

Sleep and rest my little boy,
My little water-sprite ,
How can I try not to think
Of mother, in my plight.

How she worried, poor old soul,
Who should be my groom,
And before many a day,
I had met my doom.

I am married, married now
But against my wishes,
For our best men stood black crabs,
For my bridesmaids . . . fishes.

And my husband, God forbid,
Stays wet on the dryest land.
Human souls he keeps in cups
Buried in the sand.

Sleep and rest my little darling
With your greenish tresses,
Know your mother married not
Under love’s caresses.

But deceived and caught within
A treacherous, stout net,
She has here no other joy
But you, my little pet.”

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) between 1929 and 1977 (inclusive) without a copyright notice.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1987, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 36 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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