Translation:The Fair Magelone/VII

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The Fair Magelone  (1797)  by Ludwig Tieck, translated from German by Wikisource
Section 7

7: How the Noble Knight Received Another Message From the Fair Magelone

The following morning the knight was once again in the church, hoping to receive another message from his beloved. The nurse found him and as it happened, they were the only ones in the church. He inquired after Magelone and nurse Gertrude told him everything that she had said:

If you can assure me, Sir, that you will treat my mistress with all due courteousness and virtue, I will tell you now where you can speak with her face to face.

Peter went down on one knee and raised a finger in the air.

I swear, he said, that my purest thoughts are always of Magelone. I will love her courteously and with due propriety, as befits an honorable knight; and if this be not true, then may God abandon me in the hour of my greatest need. Amen!

The nurse was well pleased with this vow. She trusted him completely now and said:

I see that you are not only the most valiant but also the noblest knight on God's great Earth. Do not be surprised then if I give you all the assistance you require. You are fortunate to have found Magelone and she is fortunate to have found you. Tomorrow afternoon, then, be ready to go through the secret gate of the garden; you will be able to speak with her in my chamber. I will leave the two of you alone so you can speak openly to your hearts' content.

She told him the appointed hour and then departed. The knight remained rooted to the spot for a long time. He continued to stare after her in drunken amazement, for he did not dare believe what he had just heard. The happiness that he had been waiting for so ardently had now appeared before him so unexpectedly that he did not dare take any pleasure from it. Man is terrified by the unexpected, even if it makes him happy. If his ill-fortune is suddenly turned to joy, he immediately begins to doubt all too readily the reality of his own life. Such was Peter's state of mind when he realized that all his senses had been thrown into confusion.

I am so overwhelmed by happiness, he exclaimed, that I cannot come to my senses! I wish I could reflect on my situation, but it is impossible! When we behold our bold aspirations in the distant future, we take delight in their noble pursuit, in their golden wings; but now that they are suddenly fluttering around my head so close to me, neither I nor they take the slightest notice of the rest of the world.

He went home. Several times he felt as though time had stood still since he had spoken with the faithful nurse, for the day dragged on interminably. When the evening finally drew on, he sat in the darkness in his room and stared at the clouds and the stars; and his heart beat violently when he suddenly thought of Magelone and himself. He hardly believed that another day would dawn, or that the appointed hour would ever arrive. Exhausted by expectations, anxious longing and fretful hopes, he fell asleep on his bed; he awoke as lively sunbeams were already playing within his room and flashing brightly and cheerfully upon the walls.

He roused himself, and wondered what he would say to her. He was frightened now at the thought that he must speak with her; nevertheless, it was his heartfelt desire. He could not calm himself, so he took up his lute and sang:

How can I endure then
This joy, this rapture?
How, with the beating
Of my heart, will my soul not flee?

And if now the time
For love has passed,
Why the longing
To drag out this joyless existence

In a sorrowful wilderness
Where flowers bloom no more on the shore?

With what tarrying feet
Does time pass cautiously step by step!
But if I must depart,
How light as a feather then flies her step!

Strike, O yearning power,
In my deep and faithful breast!
As the sounds of a lute fade away,
So flee the finest joys of life.
Ah, how soon
Before I am scarcely aware of this rapture.

Rush, O rush onwards,
You deep stream of time.
Soon you will wander away: tomorrow if not today.
You will go from place to place.
As you have carried me this far,
Sometimes joyfully, sometimes quietly,
I will dare to go further,
However things may turn out.

But I cannot consider myself miserable
When my own true love beckons to me.
Love will not leave me languishing
Until this life has sunk.
No, the stream grows ever broader.
The heavens remain cheerful to me.
With joyful strokes of the oar I voyage afar.
I shall bring life and love together to my graveside.