Translation:The Fair Magelone/XI

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The Fair Magelone (1797)
by Ludwig Tieck, translated from German by Wikisource
Section 11
1141694The Fair Magelone — Section 111797Ludwig Tieck

11: How Peter Lost the Fair Magelone

Peter was almost lulled to sleep by his own song, but he roused himself and gazed on the charming countenance of the fair Magelone, who was smiling sweetly in her sleep. Then he looked around and noticed that a host of beautiful and delicate birds had gathered in the branches, who showed no fear as they hopped up and down, and even dropped down occasionally onto the little lawn in front of him. He was delighted that these dumb beasts seemed to give pleasure to the fair Magelone. Then he saw a black crow sitting in the tree, and he thought to himself:

How does that ugly bird come to share the company of these colourful creatures? It is as though a rude uncouth churl had intruded himself into a party of noble knights.

It seemed to him as though Magelone's breath grew laboured, so he loosened her garments a little, and her beautiful white breasts slipped out of her concealing robes. Peter was transfixed by their unspeakable beauty: he thought he was in heaven, and all his senses had been turned upside down; he could not stop feasting his eyes on them; he became intoxicated with their splendour. With every breath her delicate bosom rose and fell. The knight felt that he had never loved Magelone so much or been so happy as at that moment. Hidden between her breasts, he noticed a piece of red taffeta; he was curious to know what it might be. He took it and unwrapped it. There he found the three precious rings that he had bestowed upon his beloved; it moved him deeply to discover that she had preserved them with such loving care. He wrapped them up again, and laid them beside him on the grass; suddenly the raven flew down from the tree and carried the package away, thinking it was a piece of meat. Peter was startled; he was worried that Magelone would be angry if she awakened and found that the rings were missing. He placed his cloak carefully under her head and got up quietly to see where the bird had taken the rings. The raven flew before him, and Peter threw stones at it in the hope that he might kill it, or at least force it to drop its booty. The bird flew farther and farther away, and Peter pursued him tirelessly, but none of the stones he threw hit their mark. Peter followed the bird for a considerable time and presently came to the seashore. In the sea, not far from the shore, was a jagged rock, on which the Raven was perched. Peter threw stones at it again, and the bird finally dropped the package and flew off with a loud cry. Peter saw the red taffeta floating in the sea not far from the shore. He searched up and down the shoreline for something to carry him the short distance across the water. Finally he found a little old, weather-beaten skiff, which fishermen had clearly abandoned here as no longer being of any use to them. Peter stepped into it quickly, took a branch and steered the craft as well as he could towards the taffeta.

But suddenly a strong wind rose up from the land; the waves followed one another in quick succession and took hold of the little skiff in which Peter was standing. Peter resisted with all his strength; but despite his efforts, the vessel was driven beyond the rock and out into the open sea, further and further from the land. When Peter looked back towards the shore, he could hardly make out the red patch of taffeta in the sea; soon it had disappeared completely, and even the land was already a considerable distance away. Peter thought of Magelone, whom he had left sleeping in the wild wood; but the ship carried him against his will further and further out to sea. He was frightened and driven to despair. He was ready to throw himself into the sea; he shouted for help, but the only answer he received was the echo of his own cries; and the waves continued to splash loudly about him.

The land was now so far away, it was almost impossible to make it out. Night fell.

My dearest Magelone! cried Peter passionately in an access of grief. How bizarrely we have been separated from each other! A black hand drives me from your side out into the empty sea, and you are left alone and helpless. What will you do, O unhappy one, in the desolate woods? Oh! I'm to blame for your death! Why did I ever abduct you, O princess, from your parents, only to abandon you to a desperate fate? Were you raised in delicate and refined surroundings, only to become a prey to wild animals? What will she do now when she wakes up, and discovers that he whom she thought to be the truest man in all the world has left her? Why did I have to be so curious about the rings! Why couldn't I just leave them in the beautiful place where they were safe? O woe is me! Now all is lost and I have nothing to look forward to but my utter ruin.

Grieving thus in the emptiness of the sea, he became extremely sad. He abandoned all hope and gave himself up for dead. The moon shone down from the heavens and bathed the world in golden twilight. But for the sighing and plashing of the waves, all was quiet. At times, birds fluttered around him and made strange sounds. The stars stood sombrely in the sky and the vault of heaven was reflected in the surging tide. Peter threw himself down, and sang in a loud voice:

Resound, then, O you foaming waves,
And twine yourselves about me here!
Let misfortune bark at me loudly;
Incensed be the cruel sea!

I laugh at the storm and the wind,
I scorn the wrath of the flood;
O, let the rocks dash me to pieces!
For I have been abandoned by all hope.

I will not complain, though my vessel founder
And I perish in the watery depths.
The light has gone out of my eyes:
The star of my love has been quenched.

Roll downhill with thunder and lightning
And rage at me, O you storms!
Let rock be shattered upon rock!
I am forlorn.

He lay stretched out in the skiff, and a dull stupor seized him. He no longer knew where he was, so great was his distress, and drifted aimlessly along, indifferent now to the wind and the waves. Finally he fell into a sleeplike trance.