Translation:The Fair Magelone/II

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The Fair Magelone (1797)
by Ludwig Tieck, translated from German by Wikisource
Section 2
1141508The Fair Magelone — Section 21797Ludwig Tieck

2: How a Strange Singer Came to the Court of the Count of Provence

In Provence a long time ago, there reigned a count, who had a very handsome and noble son; the son grew up to be his father and his mother's joy. He was tall and strong, and shining blonde hair flowed down his neck and shaded his delicate young face. Moreover, he was well skilled in all the arts of weaponry; no one in Provence, or even beyond its borders, handled the lance or the sword as well as he did, so that the young and the old, the great and the small, the noble and the common all alike admired him.

He was happiest when alone and self-absorbed, as though he was pursuing some secret desire, and many experienced people concluded that he was in love; therefore no one wanted to awaken him from his dreams, because they knew very well that love is a sweet sound that sleeps in the ear and how its imaginative melody speaks to us in our dreams, so that the dreamer himself, let alone a stranger, only understands it as a dark mystery; and that the dream often takes flight all too quickly and seeks once again his dwelling place in the ether and the golden clouds of morning.

But the young Count Peter did not know his own desires. It was as though distant voices were calling to him indistinctly through the forest. He wanted to follow them: fear held him back, but anticipation urged him on.

His father held a great tournament, to which many knights were summoned. It was wondrous to see how the tender young man dislodged the most experienced knights from their saddles, a feat that was almost inconceivable to the spectators. He was praised by all and won respect as the best and strongest knight present, but no praise made him proud, but he sometimes felt ashamed of himself for having overcome knights so old and worthy.

Among those that had come to witness the tournament was a singer, who had been to many foreign countries: he was no knight, but he surpassed many of the nobles in insight and experience. This singer joined Count Peter and praised him immensely, but concluded his speech with these words:

My lord, if you want my advice, you should not stay here; you should see other places and people, and observe them closely. That way you will broaden your outlook, which would otherwise remain narrow and parochial. In the end you will learn how to unite the foreign with the native.

With that, he took up his lute and sang:

No one has ever regretted
Mounting his horse
In the freshness of his youth
To fly through the world.

Mountains and meadows,
The lonely forest,
Maidens and ladies
Splendidly attired,
Golden jewellery:
Everything delights him with its fair form.

Forms flee
Wondrously past him;
Rapturously glow
The desires of his youthful intoxicated soul.

Fame scatters roses
Quickly in his path,
Love and caresses,
Laurels and roses
Carry him upwards higher and higher.

Around him joys;
Enemies, succumbing,
Envy the hero.
Then he chooses modestly
The maiden who pleases him more than all others.

And Mountains and fields
And lonely forests
He leaves behind him.
His parents in tears,
Ah, after all their yearning -
They are all reunited in loving happiness.

Years have passed away;
He tells his son
In an intimate moment,
And shows him his wounds,
The wages of valour.
And so in his old age he remains a youth,
A shaft of light in the dusk.

The young man listened quietly to the song, and when it was finished, he remained for a while lost in thought. Then he said:

Yes, now I know what I am missing. I now know all my wishes. My mind dwells in the distance, and various brightly coloured images are passing through it. There is no greater pleasure for the young knight than to traverse valleys and fields. Here a majestic castle stands in the splendour of the morning sun; there the shepherd's shawm resounds across the meadow and through the dense forest; a noble lady flies past on a white palfrey; knights and squires meet me in bright armour and adventures crowd around me; unknown, I travel through famous cities; the most wonderful change, an ever-new life surrounds me; I scarcely recognize myself, when I think back on my homeland and its ever-recurring cycle of local events. Oh, I wish I were already mounted on my excellent steed. I wish I could bid farewell to my father's house this very moment.

Inflamed by these new ideas, Peter immediately went his mother's chamber, where he also found his father the Count. Straightaway he knelt down and humbly requested that he be allowed to travel abroad and seek adventure:

For, he said, concluding his speech, those who spend their entire lives at home are doomed to be always narrow-minded, but in a strange land one learns to unite that which one has never seen before with that which is well-known. Therefore do not refuse me your permission.

Peter's father was shocked at this request, and his mother even more so, because they had so little expected it. The count said:

My son, it is impossible for me to grant your request, for you are my only heir, and if death were to take me now during your absence, what would become of my domain?

But when Peter persisted in his request, his mother began to cry and told him:

My dear and only son, you have not yet tasted the hardships of life. You see before you only the realization of your fine hopes. But remember, it may very well be that a thousand hardships stand ready to obstruct your passage if you leave home. You will then have to struggle with misery, perhaps, and wish you were back at home with us.

Peter, who was still kneeling humbly before his parents, replied:

Dear parents, I cannot help it, but my only wish is to travel into the wide unknown world, to experience joy and hardship, and then to return home as a famous and esteemed man. Besides, you too, my father, spent your youth in a foreign land, and made a name for yourself far and wide. And it was from a foreign land that you brought home as your consort my mother, who was reputed to be the most beautiful woman in her day. Let me seek a similar fortune. Look, with my tears I ask this of you.

He took a lute, which he knew how to play very well, and sang the song he had learned from the harpist; and at the end he wept bitterly. His parents were also affected, especially his mother, who said:

Well, for my part I will give you my blessing, dear son, for what you have just said is indeed all true.

His father stood up and likewise blessed him, and Peter was overjoyed that he had received the consent of his parents.

Orders were now given to prepare everything for his expedition. Peter's mother summoned him secretly and gave him three valuable rings, saying:

Behold, my son, these three precious rings I have carefully guarded from my youth. Take them with you and treasure them; and if you find a young maiden whom you love and who loves you in return, you may give them to her.

He kissed her hand gratefully, and the next morning he took his leave.