Translation:The Fair Magelone/IV

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The Fair Magelone (1797)
by Ludwig Tieck, translated from German by Wikisource
Section 4
1141553The Fair Magelone — Section 41797Ludwig Tieck

4: Peter sees the fair Magelone

When the day of the tournament arrived, Peter put on his armour and entered the lists. He had two beautiful silver keys of very fine craftsmanship set in his helmet; his shield too was adorned with keys, as was his steed's caparison. He did this out of respect for his own name and in honour of the Apostle Peter, whom he loved very much. From his youth, he had offered his services to St Peter in return for his shelter and protection; and as he wished to remain anonymous, he chose this device for himself.

When the trumpets sounded, a herald came forward and proclaimed the tournament in honour of the fair Magelone. She herself was sitting on a raised balcony, which looked down on the assembled knights. Peter glanced up, but he could not make her out, as she was too far away.

Sir Henry of Capua was the first to enter the lists; one of the king's knights came forward to challenge him. They encountered each other and the king's knight was knocked out of his stirrups, but by chance his lance struck Sir Henry's steed on the shin, and both horse and rider fell to the ground. The king's servant was awarded the victory, as he was adjudged to have overthrown Sir Henry fairly. This annoyed Peter very much, for Sir Henry was a renowned champion; also, the king's servant boasted loudly and publicly of his victory, which he owed to good fortune rather than to skill. So Peter entered the lists against him and unseated him. Everyone marvelled at his strength; but to their amazement he surpassed even this feat, for he had soon unseated all the other champions, and in a short time not one opponent was left to challenge him. All were eager to know the name of the strange knight, and the King of Naples sent his own herald to find out what it was; but Peter humbly asked that he be permitted to remain anonymous, as his name was obscure and not yet glorified by any deeds. As he was a poor and insignificant gentleman from France, he wished to conceal his name until he had earned the right by feat of arms to be publicly known by it. The king was pleased with this answer, which showed that the unknown knight was a modest man.

It was not long before a second tournament was held, and the fair Magelone secretly wished in her heart that she might once again behold the knight with the silver keys. For she was deeply enamoured of him, though she had not yet admitted this to anyone — indeed, she had scarcely even admitted it to herself — because first love is timid, and regards itself as a traitor. She blushed as Peter once again entered the lists with his distinctive armour. As soon as the trumpets had sounded, spear and shield clashed together. Steadfastly she stared at Peter, as he triumphed in contest after contest. She was no longer surprised at his unfailing success because she felt as though it could not be otherwise. By the end of the tournament, Peter had once again covered himself in glory.

The king invited him to dine at the royal table. Peter was seated opposite the Princess and was astonished at her beauty, for it was only now that he was able to observe her closely for the first time. But every time she looked at him with her kindly eyes, he became acutely embarrassed. His speech amused the king, and his noble and powerful manners astonished the royal court. Afterwards he approached the Princess in the hall and spoke with her alone; she invited him to come back more often. When he took his leave of her, she dismissed him with a lovingly.

Peter ran through the streets as though he were intoxicated. He hurried into a splendid garden, and walked up and down with his arms folded, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Hour followed hour, but he had no awareness of the passage of time. He could hear nothing around him, because an inner music was drowning out the whispering of the trees and the plashing of the fountains. A thousand times he repeated to himself the name Magelone; suddenly he started, because he thought he had spoken it out loud in the garden. Towards evening sweet music could be heard nearby; Peter sat down on the fresh grass behind a bush and sobbed. It seemed as though the heavens were being transformed, and it was only now for the first time that their true beauty was revealed to him. But this sensation caused him only misery: in the midst of so much joy, he felt he was completely abandoned. The music flowed like a murmuring brook through the quiet garden, and he saw the princess swim gracefully by on silver waves, as the waves of music kissed the hem of her garment and vied to follow her. She was like the dawn breaking through the dark night; the stars stood still in their courses; the trees were calm; there was not a breath of wind. The music was now the only thing moving, the only thing living in all the World; the notes tripped sweetly across the blades of grass and through the tops of the trees as if they were looking for sleeping Love but did not want to awaken her; as if they too, like the sobbing young man, trembled lest they be discovered.

Now the final accents rang out, and the sound died away like a blue flash of light. The trees rustled again; and when Peter came to, his cheek was wet with tears. The plashing of the fountains seemed louder than before and he could easily hear people speaking even in the farthest reaches of the garden. Peter softly sang the following song:

Are these pains or are these joys
That tug at my breast?
All the old desires fall away:
A thousand new flowers blossom forth.

In the dusk of my tears
I see suns standing in the distance
What pining! What longing!
Do I dare? Shall I approach?

Ah, when my tears are flowing,
Darkness surrounds me.
But if my desires do not return,
I have nothing to hope for.

So beat then, my striving heart!
So flow then, my tears!
Ah, joy is but a deeper pain;
Life is a dark grave.

Should I then suffer?
How is it that in my dream
All my thoughts
fluctuate up and down!
I scarcely know myself anymore.

Hear me, O kindly stars,
Hear me, O meadow green,
And you, my love, hear my sacred oath:
I would rather die
Than be kept from you!
Ah! Only in the light of her gaze
Dwell life, hope and happiness!

He had consoled himself a little, and swore that he would either win Magelone's love or perish in the attempt. Late at night he went home and sat down in his room, and repeated every word that she had spoken to him. At first he believed he had found cause to rejoice, but then he became troubled again and his hopes were thrown once more into doubt. He wanted to write to his father but addressed his thoughts to Magelone; and then he was grieved at the madness of daring to write to someone whom one did not know. Now he was frightened by the thought that that being was alien to him whom he loved above all others in the world.

A sweet slumber surprised him at last and erased his doubts and pains. Strange dreams of love and elopement, of lonely forests, and of storms at sea danced about in his chamber, and covered the bare walls like beautiful multi-coloured wallpaper.