Trusty Eckart: A Romance

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Trusty Eckart

A Romance


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1

Brave Burgundy no longer
   Could fight for fatherland;
The foe they were the stronger,
   Upon the bloody sand.

He said: "The foe prevaileth,
   My friends and followers fly,
My striving naught availeth,
   My spirits sink and die.

No more can I exert me,
   Or sword and lance can wield;
O, why did he desert me,
   Eckart, our trusty shield!

In fight he used to guide me,
   In danger was my stay;
Alas, he's not beside me,
   But stays at home today!

The crowds are gathering faster,
   Took captive shall I be?
I may not run like dastard,
   I'll die like soldier free."

Thus Burgundy so bitter,
   Has at his breast his sword;
When, see, breaks-in the Ritter
   Eckart, to save his lord!

With cap and armour glancing,
   Bold on the foe he rides,
His troop behind him prancing,
   And his two sons besides.

Burgundy sees their token,
   And cries: "Now, God be praised!
Not yet we're beat or broken,
   Since Eckart's flag is raised."

Then like a true knight, Eckart
   Dash'd gaily through the foe:
But with his red blood flecker'd,
   His little son lay low.

And when the fight was ended,
   Then Burgundy he speaks:
"Thou hast me well befriended,
   Yet so as wets my cheeks.

The foe is smote and flying;
   Thou'st saved my land and life;
But here thy boy is lying,
   Returns not from the strife."

Then Eckart wept almost,
   The tear stood in his eye;
He clasp'd the son he'd lost,
   Close to his breast the boy.

"Why diedst thou, Heinz, so early,
   And scarce wast yet a man?
Thou'rt fallen in battle fairly;
   For thee I'll not complain.

Thee, Prince, we have deliver'd;
   From danger thou art free:
The boy and I are sever'd;
   I give my son to thee."

Then Burgundy our chief,
   His eyes grew moist and dim;
He felt such joy and grief,
   So great that love to him.

His heart was melting, flaming,
   He fell on Eckart's breast,
With sobbing voice exclaiming:
   "Eckart, my champion best,

Thou stoodst when every other
   Had fled from me away;
Therefore thou art my brother
   Forever from this day.

The people shall regard thee
   As wert thou of my line;
And could I more reward thee,
   How gladly were it thine!"

And when we heard the same,
   We joy'd as did our prince;
And Trusty Eckart is the name
   We've call'd him ever since.



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2

To horse the hero springs,
   Wild through the hills he rideth:
"Of hope in earthly things,
   Now none with me abideth.

My sons are slain in youth,
   I have no child or wife;
The Prince suspects my truth,
   Has sworn to take my life."

Then to the wood he turns him,
   There gallops on and on;
The smart of sorrow burns him,
   He cries: "They're gone, they're gone!

All living men from me are fled,
   New friends I must provide me,
To the oaks and firs beside me,
   Complain in desert dead.

There is no child to cheer me,
   By cruel wolves they're slain;
Once three of them were near me,
   I see them not again."

As Eckart cried thus sadly,
   His sense it pass'd away;
He rides in fury madly
   Till dawning of the day.

His horse in frantic speed
   Sinks down at last exhausted;
And naught does Eckart heed,
   Or think or know what caused it;

But on the cold ground lie,
   Not fearing, loving longer;
Despair grows strong and stronger,
   He wishes but to die.



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3

The Duke foredone and weary
   Sank in the wilder'd breaks;
Him in the tempest dreary
   He on his shoulders takes.

Said Burgundy: "I'm giving
   Much toil to thee, I fear."
Eckart replied: "The living
   On Earth have much to bear."

"Yet," said the Duke, "believe me,
   Were we out of the wood,
Since now thou dost relieve me,
   Thy sorrows I'll make good."

The hero at this promise
   Felt on his cheek the tear;
Said he: "Indeed I nowise
   Do look for payment here."

"Harder our plight is growing,"
   The Duke cries, dreading scath,
"Now whither are we going?
   Who art thou? Art thou Death?"

"Not Death," said he, still weeping,
   "Or any fiend am I;
Thy life is in God's keeping,
Thy ways are in his eye."

"Ah," said the Duke, repenting,
   "My breast is foul within;
I tremble, while lamenting,
   Lest God requite my sin.

My truest friend I've banish'd,
   His children have I slain,
In wrath from me he vanish 'd,
   As foe he comes again.

To me he was devoted,
   Through good report and bad;
My rights he still promoted,
   The truest man I had.

Me he can never pardon,
   I kill'd his children dear;
This night, to pay my guerdon,
   I' th' wood he lurks, I fear.

This does my conscience teach me,
   A threat'ning voice within;
If here to-night he reach me,
   I die a child of sin."

Said Eckart: "The beginning
   Of our woes is guilt;
My grief is for thy sinning,
   And for the blood thou'st spilt.

And that the man will meet thee
   Is likewise surely true;
Yet fear not, I entreat thee,
   He'll harm no hair of you."



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4

   Then rose the hero from his place,
And stept into the light before them;
Deep lines of woe were on his face,
But with a patient mind he bore them.

   And Burgundy, his heart forsook him,
To see that mild old gray-hair'd man;
His face grew pale, a trembling took him,
He swoon'd and sank to earth again.

"O, saints of heaven," he wakes and cries,
"Is't thou that art before my eyes?
How shall I fly? Where shall I hide me?
Was't thou that in the wood didst guide me?
I kill'd thy children young and fair,
Me in thy arms how couldst thou bear?"

   Thus Burgundy goes on to wail,
And feels the heart within him fail;
Death is at hand, remorse pursues him,
With streaming eyes he sinks on Eckart's bosom;
And Eckart whispers to him low:
"Henceforth I have forgot the slight,
So thou and all the world may know,
Eckart was still thy trusty knight."



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5

"Comes it not like dreams
Stealing o'er the vales and streams?
Out of regions far from this,
Like the song of souls in bliss?"

This to the youths did Eckart say,
And caught the sound from far away;
And as the magic tones came nigher,
A wicked strange desire
Awakens in the breasts of these pure boys,
That drives them forth to seek for unknown joys.

"Come, let's to the fields, to the meadows and mountains,
The forests invite us, the streams and the fountains;
Soft voices in secret for loitering chide us,
Away to the Garden of Pleasure they'll guide us."

The Player comes in foreign guise,
Appears before their wondering eyes;
And higher swells the music's sound,
And brighter glows the emerald ground;
The flowers appear as drunk,
Twilight red has on them sunk;
And through the green grass play, with airy lightness,
Soft, fitful, blue and golden streaks of brightness.

Like a shadow, melts and flits away
All that bound men to this world of clay;
In Earth all toil and tumult cease,
Like one bright flower it blooms in peace;
The mountains rock in purple light,
The valleys shout as with delight;
All rush and whirl in the music's noise,
And long to share of these offer'd joys;
The soul of man is allured to gladness,
And lies entranced in that blissful madness.


The Trusty Eckart felt it,
   But wist not of the cause;
His heart the music melted,
   He wondered what it was.

The world seems new and fairer,
   All blooming like the rose;
Can Eckart be a sharer
   In raptures such as those?

"Ha! Are those tones restoring
   My wife and bonny sons?
All that I was deploring,
   My lost beloved ones?"

Yet soon his sense collected
   Brought doubt within his breast;
These hellish arts detected,
   A horror him possess'd.

And now he sees the raging
   Of his young princes dear;
Themselves to Hell engaging,
   His voice no more they hear.

And forth, in wild commotion,
   They rush, not knowing where;
In tumult like the ocean,
   When mad his billows are.

Then, as these things assail'd him,
   He wist not what to do;
His knighthood almost fail'd him
   Amid that hellish crew.

Then to his soul appeareth
   The hour the Duke did die;
His friend's faint prayer he heareth,
   He sees his fading eye.

And so his mind's in armour,
   And hope is conquering fear;
When see, the fiendish Charmer
   Himself comes piping near!

His sword to draw he essayeth,
   And smite the caitiff dead;
But as the music playeth,
   His strength is from him fled.

And from the mountains issue
   Crowds of distorted forms,
Of Dwarfs a boundless tissue
   Come simmering round in swarms,

The youths, possess'd, are running
   As frantic in the crowd:
In vain is force or cunning;
   In vain to call aloud.

And hurries on by castle,
   By tower and town, the rout;
Like imps in hellish wassail,
   With cackling laugh and shout.

He too is in the rabble;
   May not resist their force,
Must hear their deafening babble,
   Attend their frantic course.

But now the Hill appeareth,
   And music comes thereout;
And as the Phantoms hear it,
   They halt, and raise a shout.

The Mountain starts asunder,
   A motley crowd is seen;
This way and that they wander,
   In red unearthly sheen.

Then his broad-sword he drew it,
   And says: "Still true, though lost!"
And with mad force he heweth
   Through that Infernal host.

His youths he sees (how gladly!)
   Escaping through the vale;
The Fiends are fighting madly,
   And threatening to prevail.

The Dwarfs, when hurt, fly downward,
   And rise up cured again;
And other crowds rush onward,
   And fight with might and main.

Then saw he from a distance
   The children safe, and cried:
"They need not my assistance,
   I care not what betide."

His good broad-sword doth glitter
   And flash i' th' noontide ray;
The Dwarfs, with wailing bitter,
   And howls, depart away.

Safe at the valley's ending,
   The youths far off he spies;
Then faint and wounded, bending,
   The hero falls and dies.

So his last hour o'ertook him,
   Fighting like lion brave;
His truth, it ne'er forsook him,
   He was faithful to the grave.

Now Eckart having perish'd,
   The eldest son bore sway;
His memory still he cherish'd,
   With grateful heart would say:

"From foes and wreck to save me,
   Like lion grim he fought;
My throne, my life, he gave me,
   And with his heart's blood bought."

And soon a wondrous rumour
   The country round did fill,
That when a desp'rate humour
   Doth send one to the Hill,

There straight a Shape will meet him,
   The Trusty Eckart's ghost,
And wistfully entreat him
   To turn, and not be lost.

There he, though dead, yet ever
   True watch and ward doth hold;
Upon the Earth shall never
   Be man so true and bold.


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The End