Translation:The Fair Magelone/XIV

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The Fair Magelone (1797)
by Ludwig Tieck, translated from German by Wikisource
Section 14
1141741The Fair Magelone — Section 141797Ludwig Tieck

14: Sulima the Pagan Falls in Love with the Knight

Peter might have lived here happily, if love had not been gnawing away at his youth. He had been at the Sultan's court now for a long time, and was held in high repute by both the Sultan and his retainers. He had been given some degree of freedom and was envied by many of the courtiers; but he did not deserve this envy, for he was constantly restless and suffered from bouts of anxiety. Whenever he was alone in the garden, he would sigh and complain aloud.

Thus one week followed another, and he had now spent almost two years among the pagans; he had given up all hope of ever returning to his beloved homeland, for the Sultan loved him so much that he did not want him to ever leave. Peter took this to heart and grew more and more worried every day, because he thought constantly of his parents and his beloved. Nothing gave him pleasure. When spring returned, he wept at its arrival, and grieved deeply while all nature was celebrating the loveliest of festivals.

The sultan had a daughter called Sulima, who was famous throughout the land for her beauty. She found many opportunities to see the stranger, and before she was even aware of it, an intense love for him had crept into her heart. The knight's sadness was of particular interest to her; she wished she could comfort him, get closer to him, talk to him. She soon found an opportunity to do so. A trusted slave led the young man secretly into a court in the garden, where she was waiting for him. Peter was surprised and embarrassed; he was astonished at the beauty of Sulima, but his heart remained true to Magelone.

But the sweet impulse to see his fatherland again soon overcame all his senses and he bethought himself of a bold stroke. He met with the pagan girl more often, and she told him that such was her love for him she would flee with him, first to a kinsman of hers, who had located a ship that was ready to sail and could weigh anchor at a moment's notice. On the appointed night, she would inform him through a little song accompanied by lute when he should come and pick her up. Peter considered this proposal and eventually agreed to it, for though he was convinced that Magelone was surely dead, he could nevertheless return this way to Christendom and his parents.

The Sultan's garden lay by the seashore; the appointed night was now at hand. Towards evening, Peter had been dozing for a little while under the cool trees when Magelone appeared to him in a dream in all her glory, but with a threatening gesture. His whole life flashed before his eyes: every hour of his blessed love came back to him with all their blissful sensations. And when he awoke, he was shocked at himself and his plans. He wished it were possible to flee from his own presence and efface from his bosom the memory of himself and his consciousness.

The night drew on, however, and all the stars shone in the sky; the Moon rose and cast his golden net over the sea, while Peter was walking thoughtfully up and down along the shore. A fresh wind from the land blew through the garden and the trees rustled in a lively and merry fashion; but this only made Peter feel all the more sorrowful.

O faithless one, he exclaimed. I am an ungrateful wretch. Is this how I will repay her love? Am I to return to my fatherland as a perjurer? That would earn me a bad reputation among my kinsmen and all the nobility. And how could I ever look Magelone in the eyes, should she be still alive? And why should she not still be alive, when my life was so miraculously saved? Oh, I am a cowardly slave. I haven't even taken any risks for myself! Why do not I turn my back on this happy fate and sail off in one of these boat into the sea? I once entrusted my safety to a broken plank on the angry waves, and I was brought to these shores? Should one not trust in God when it is a question of one's fatherland or one's beloved?

Emboldened, he got into a small boat and unmoored it. Then he took an oar and made his way into the sea. It was a beautiful summer's night; all the stars stared down kindly on the moonlit world. The sea was calm and unruffled, and warm breezes played upon its serene surface. Peter's heart swelled with longing. He gave himself over to fortune and the stars, and courageously rowed on. Then he heard the prearranged signal: a zither rang forth from the garden, and a lovely voice sang to its accompaniment:

My beloved, where tarry
Your straying feet?
The nightingale chatters
Of longing and kisses.

The trees whisper
In the golden glow,
Dreams slip in
At my window.

Ah! Do you know the pining
Of a pounding breast?
These thoughts and aspirations,
Full of torment, full of joy?

Lend wings to your haste:
Come and rescue me.
In the dark night
We shall flee from here.

The sails are full;
Fear is but a trifle:
There, beyond the waves,
Is your fatherland.

My homeland is falling behind;
O, let it go!
The power of love
Is now guiding my mind.

Hark! Voluptuously resound
The waves in the sea.
They hop, they jump
Wantonly along.

And if they should lament?
Why, they are summoning you!
For they know it is love
That they bear from here.

Peter was shocked to the core of his being when he heard this song, which seemed to be echoing his infidelity and inconstancy. He rowed harder to get further away from the land and to escape the spell that the sweetly seductive tones were casting in the still evening air. The spirit of love soared through the golden sky. One love would draw him back: one love drove him forward. The waves murmured melodiously between, as though they were singing a song in a foreign tongue, the meaning of which one can only guess at.

The song grew fainter and fainter. Peter could no longer see the trees on the shore. It was as though the music was trying to make its way across the sea to him, but it had finally become so faint and weak that it did not dare swim any further, but rather crept back to the shore; for now he could just barely hear the song, as though it were a faint breeze; eventually the last trace of it was extinguished, and the only sounds that disturbed the lonely silence were the rippling of the waves and the strokes of his oar.