Translation:The Fair Magelone/V

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Fair Magelone  (1797)  by Ludwig Tieck, translated from German by Wikisource
Section 5

5: How the Knight Sent the Fair Magelone a Message

That same night Magelone was just as agitated as her knight. She fancied that she could not leave her lonely room. She often went to the window and looked thoughtfully into the garden. Everything seemed sad and depressing to her. She listened to the trees, which were rustling against one another. She looked at the stars, which were reflected in the sea. She reproached the unknown knight for not coming to stand in the garden under her window. Then she wept because she remembered that it was impossible for him to do so. She threw herself on her bed, but she could not sleep; and whenever she closed her eyes, she saw again the tournament, and the beloved stranger who was crowned the victor and who looked up at her balcony with such wistful hope. First she feasted on these fantasies: then she reproached herself for doing so. As morning approached she finally fell into a light sleep.

She decided to reveal her love for the knight to her beloved nurse, from whom she kept no secrets. The following evening, therefore, when they were alone, she said to her:

Dear nurse, for a long time I have had something on my mind which has almost destroyed my heart. I can't keep it from you any longer. You must give me some of your motherly advice, for I am at a loss what to do.

The nurse replied:

Trust me, my dear child, for I am older than you and love you like my own daughter. The young never know how to help themselves, but I can give you good advice.

When the princess heard these kind words of her nurse, she grew in confidence and trust, and said:

Gertrude, have you noticed the unknown knight with the silver keys? Surely you have seen him, for he is the only one who is worthy of remark; all the rest served only to magnify his glory and reflect the sunshine of fame onto him, while they remained in obscurity. He is the only true man among them, the handsomest youth, the bravest hero. Since I have laid eyes on him, I have been struck blind, for now I see only in my thoughts, in which he lives, standing in all his glory before me. If only I was certain that he was of noble birth, I would put all my hope in him. But surely he cannot be of low birth, for who could then be called noble? O answer me, comfort me, dear nurse, advise me well.

The nurse was very frightened when she had heard this speech. She replied:

My dear child, for a long time now my expectations, not to mention my curiosity, had hoped that you should confess to me which of the nobles of the kingdom you loved, or who among the foreign visitors. For the noblest among them, even the kings, covet you. But why have you now set your cap at an anonymous knight, whose origins are a complete mystery to everyone? I'm worried that the king your father might notice your infatuation.

But why should you be afraid? Magelone interrupted, weeping violently. If my father notices, he will be so angry that the strange knight will be obliged to leave both court and country, and I will die of love. For what good is true love without hope? And die I must, if the stranger does not return my love and allow me to place all my hopes for the future in him. Then I will go to my rest, and neither you nor my father nor anyone else will be able to persecute me ever again.

As the nurse heard these words, she became very sad and cried too.

Stop crying, dear child, she exclaimed, sobbing. I can put up with almost any amount of suffering, but I cannot bear to watch you cry. For me the greatest misery imaginable is to be deprived of the sight of your sweet face.

Is it not true that one must love him? said Magelone, and she hugged her nurse. I would never have loved a man, whom I had not seen with my own eyes. Would it not then be sinful not to love him whom I have been so fortunate to find? Have you noticed how all the noble qualities that are found individually in other knights are united in him? How charming his foreign manners are, as he has not yet mastered our Italian customs. Is not his quiet modesty more courteous by far than the studied and practised gallantry of our own knights? He is always embarrassed that he is not someone else, someone better than himself — and yet he should be proud that he is not someone else, for he is the most handsome thing nature has ever created. O go to him, Gertrude, and ask him his name and rank, so I can know whether I must live or die. If I refrain from asking him, he will make no secret of it, for I do not want to keep any secrets from him.

When morning came, the nurse went to church and prayed. She saw the knight, who was also kneeling devoutly at his prayers. When he had finished, he approached the nurse and greeted her politely, for he was acquainted with her, having seen her at court. The nurse delivered her lady's message and asked him for his name and rank, for, she said, it is not fitting for such a noble gentleman as himself to remain anonymous.

Peter's heart leapt for joy when he heard this, for he saw in these words that Magelone loved him; whereupon he said:

Permit me to conceal my name still, but you may tell the princess that I am of aristocratic lineage, and that my ancestors bore a name that still resounds with glory in the history books. In the meantime, take this in memory of me, and may it be a small reward for the joyful news you have brought me contrary to all my hopes.

He then gave the nurse one of the three precious rings. Gertrude hastened to the princess and told her what the knight had said; she also showed her the precious ring, which in itself proved that the knight must belong to a distinguished house. He had also given the nurse a sheet of parchment, in the hope that Magelone would read the words which his love for her had prompted him to write.

Love came out of a distant land
But no one followed her.
So the goddess beckoned me,
And bound me with sweet bands.

As I began to feel the pain,
Tears darkened my eyes.
Ah! What is Love's happiness?
I cried, why this game?

I have not yet found anyone,
Said the figure kindly.
Feel now the power
Which has bound other hearts.

All my desires fled
Into the blue and airy expanse.
Fame seemed to me but a daydream:
The sound of waves breaking on the shore.

Ah! Who will release me from my chains?
For my arms are bound fast,
A swarm of sorrows flies around me.
Will no one, no one at all, save me?

Dare I look in the mirror
Which Hope holds up before me?
Ah, the world is but a delusion!
No, I cannot put my trust in it.

O, but do not let that waver
Which is your only strength.
If your soul mate does not love you,
Your only fate is the bitter death of the invalid.


This song moved Magelone. She read it over and over again; it was as though all her own feelings were being reflected back to her by an echo. She looked at the precious ring, and implored her nurse to go to the knight and exchange it for another jewel. Her nurse was grieved when she saw that the princess's heart had been so completely conquered by love, and said:

My child, it grieves me deeply that you wish to give yourself so willingly and completely to a stanger.

Magelone grew very angry when she heard these words.

Stranger? she exclaimed. Oh, who then is close to my heart, if he is a stranger to me? May your tongue cause you endless torment for saying such a thing, which it grieves my heart to hear. How could he be a stranger to me? For then I would be a stranger to myself, since he is nothing but what am I; and I can only be to him what he is to me? My breath, my spirit, my life, everything, I owe it all to him. My heart has not belonged to me since I first met him. Oh, dear Gertrude, the whole immeasurable world would mean nothing to me if he were merely a stranger?

Gertraud comforted her, and the princess went to bed; but first she wore the ring around her neck on a delicate string of pearls, so that it lay on her breast. As she slept she saw herself in a beautiful and delightful garden; bright sunshine sparkled on the green leaves, and the song of her lover could be heard on high, as though it was being played on the strings of heavenly harps. Golden-winged birds gazed up in astonishment at the sky when they heard the notes. Bright clouds were driven along by the melody; stained red like roses, they echoed back the sound. Then the stranger emerged in all his charm from a dark avenue; he embraced Magelone and put another precious ring on her finger. And the heavenly sounds entwined themselves about the two lovers like a golden net, and the bright clouds surrounded them. And they were removed from the world, dwelling only in themselves and in their love. And like a plaintive sound in the distance, they heard the nightingales sing and the bushes whisper that they were shut out from the bliss of heaven.

When Magelone awoke from her beautiful dream, she told everything to her nurse; and her nurse now realized that she had staked her whole being on the stranger, and that he would be the life or the death of her. And she pondered these things deeply.