XVIII


And it was the time of full moon,
In the night before Saint John's,
Where the spooks of that Wild Hunt did
Travel through the Haunted Gulley.

From the window of Uraka's
Witch's nest, I could observe most
Splendidly the ghostly army,
As it journeyed through the alley.

Had myself a ringside seat, where
I could view the spectacle;
I enjoyed the panorama
Of the resurrected revelers.

Crack of whips, Hello and Huzzah!
Horses neighing, hounds a-barking!
Sounds of hunting horns and laughter!
How the glee reverberated!

Running in the vanguard were the
Headstrong noble game beasts, like the
Deer and boar, in herds they bolted;
Then in hot pursuit, the dog-pack.

Hunters out of varied districts
And entirely diff'rent epochs;
Next to Nimrod of Assyria
Rode, for instance, Karl the Tenth.

High on gleaming steeds did they go
Dashing there. On foot there followed
Pikemen, running with the kennel,
And the pages with the torches.

Many in the weird procession
Seemed to me well-known - the knight, that
In the golden armor glistened,
Was that not perhaps King Arthur?

Master Ogier, out of Denmark,
Wore he not the iridescent
Greenish chain-mail, so he looked just
Like a giant weather frog?

I saw many of the heroes
Of ideas in this procession.
I could recognize our Wolfgang
From his eyes' congenial brilliance -

For, condemned by Hengstenberg, he
Can't be resting in the graveyard,
And with lots of pagan riff-raff
Keeps alive the thrill o'th' chase.

From his mouth's exquisite smiling, I have
Recognized our William, who was
Also equally accursed by
Puritans; and, too, this sinner

Must accompany the savage
Horde, at night, upon a stallion.
Next to him, upon a donkey,
Rode a man - and, holy heaven!

By his dull and praying visage,
By his white and pious night-cap,
By his hopeless agony, I
Recognized our friend Franz Horn!

Once he criticized the worldling
Shakespeare, therefore must this creature,
After death, go riding with him
In the tumult of the hunt!

Ah, my silent Franz must ride,
He, who hardly dared bestir him,
He, who only to tea parties
Or to prayer could rouse himself!

Won't it fright the elder spinsters
Who preserved his peace and quiet,
When they hear that dear old Franz has
Turned into a true Wild Huntsman!

When they all proceed to gallop,
Mighty William looks, derisive,
At the sorry commentator,
Who, at ass-trot, lags behind him,

Fully impotent, securely
Fastened to the ass's cantle,
So in death, just as in living,
Truly following his author.

Also I saw many ladies
In the crazy ghost procession,
Lovely nymphs especially, with
Slender, lean and youthful bodies.

Yes, they sat astride their horses,
Mythologically naked;
Yet their hair fell downwardly in
Golden tresses, like a mantle.

They bore wreaths upon their heads, and
With audacious, backward-bending,
Rollicking and wanton postures,
Brandished leafy staves about them.

Next to them I saw some knightly
Ladies, buttoned up and noble,
Placed askew on lady saddles,
And with falcons on their fists.

Parodisticly behind them,
On some gaunt and skinny jades,
Rode some quite theatrically
Tarted-up and frilly females,

Lovely, charming countenances,
But they were a little sassy,
And they screamed like crazy with their
Full and rouged licentious mouths.

How the glee reverberated!
Sounds of hunting horns and laughter!
Horses neighing, hounds a-barking!
Crack of whips, Hello and Huzzah!


XIX


But in the procession's middle
Loomed three figures, just like beauty's
Clover - I will ne'er forget these
Lovely images of woman.

One I recognized, from just the
Half-moon on her head; so proud, so
Pure, just like a Roman statue,
Rode along the mighty goddess.

With her tunic bunched around her,
Breast and hips were half uncovered,
Torchlight, moonlight both were playing
Lewdly on her lustrous limbs.

And her visage, white, like marble,
And like marble, cold. Appalling
Were the stiffness and the pallor
Of this strict and noble mien.

Yet, in her intense black eyes, there
Blazed a harrowing and ghastly
And uncannily sweet fire,
Soul-bedazzling and consuming.

How transformed is this Diana,
Who, in wanton chastity, did
Make a deer of Actaeon, and
Give him to the hounds for supper!

Does she now atone for sinning,
With these chivalrous companions?
Like a poor and spectral worldling,
Through the air she travels nightly.

Maybe late, but all the stronger
Is the lust awakened in her,
And it burns within her eyes, just
Like a hellish conflagration.

She regrets the bygone era,
When the men were more attractive,
And the quantity today perhaps can
Compensate for quality.

Next to her there rides a beauty,
One whose visage lacks the strict and
Chiseled features of the Greeks, and yet she
Beams with grace, of Celtic origin.

This one was the sprite, Habondia,
Easily I recognized her
From the sweetness of her smiling,
And her lusty, hearty laughter!

Hers a face, both hale and rosy,
Painted as by Master Greuze,
Heart-shaped mouth that's always open,
And her teeth so white, enchanting.

Wore a fluttering blue night-dress,
That the wind would fain be airing -
Never in my best of dreams did
I see such a set of shoulders!

I came very close to jumping
Out the window, just to kiss her!
This had come out rather badly,
For my neck I'd surely broken.

Oh! if she had only laughed,
When I fell into the chasm,
Bleeding at her feet down yonder -
Oh! I know this sort of laughter!

And the third of these three women,
That did move my heart so deeply,
Was she too a lady-devil,
Like the other female figures?

Be she devil, or an angel,
I don't know. Just so with women,
One's not certain where the angel
Stops, and where begins the devil.

There upon her fevered visage
Lay the oriental magic,
And the precious clothes reminded
Of Scheherazade's old stories.

Soft lips, red like pomegranates,
Little curvéd nose like lilies,
And her limbs, so cool and slender,
Like the palms of an oasis.

She reclined upon a palfrey,
Tall and white, and whose gold bridle
Was conducted by two Moors,
Trotting there beside the princess.

Yes, she really was a princess,
Was the queen of all Judea,
And the lovely wife of Herod,
Who the baptist's head did covet.

For this blood-guilt must she also
Be accursed; she must, as Night-Spook,
'Til the very Day of Judgement,
Ride along with this Wild Hunt.

In her hands she bears forever
That sad platter, with the head of
John the Baptist, which she kisses;
Yes, she'll kiss the head with fervor.

For, at one time, she loved John -
It's not found within the Bible,
Yet the people keep the saga
Of Herodias' bloody loving -

Otherwise, 'twere no explaining
The attraction of that lady -
Would a woman crave the head of
Someone, if she does not love him?

She was just a little huffy,
Having her Beloved beheaded;
But when she, upon the platter,
Caught the sight of that dear head,

Then she wept and lost her reason,
And she died of love's dementia,
(Love's dementia! Pleonasm!
Love's already a dementia!)

Nightly back to life, she carries,
Like I said, the bloody head
In her hand, on hunting journeys -
But, with feminine caprices,

Catapults the head up through the
Nighttime air, with childish laughter,
Then, with great agility, she
Catches it, just like a play-ball.

As she rode on past, she looked me
Over well, and then she nodded
So coquettishly, yet pining,
That my deepest heart was quaking.

Three times, surging up and down,
Traveled the procession, and in
Three times passing I was greeted
By the lovely, charming phantom.

As the whole parade had faded,
And the turmoil died away, it
Still was blazing in my mem'ry,
Evermore, that lovely greeting.

And throughout the night, my weary
Limbs were always tossing, turning,
On the straw - (for feather beds were
Absent from Uraka's dwelling) -

And I thought: what does it mean, that
She mysteriously nodded?
Why hast thou regarded me so
Tenderly, Herodias?


XX


Daybreak. And the golden arrows
Shoot into the snowy mists,
That now redden, as if wounded,
As they melt in light and brilliance.

Victory, at last, accomplished,
And the day, the final victor,
Treads, in radiant full glory,
On the necks of all the mountains.

Noisy burbling of the bird calls
Twitters in the hidden nests,
And an herbal scent arises,
A concerto made of fragrance. -

At the morning's first awakening
We were climbing in the valley,
And Laskaro, meanwhile, followed
On the trail his bear was leaving.

I attempted to kill time with
Contemplation. Yet this thinking
Made me in the end more weary,
And, as well, a little woeful.

Finally, both sad and weary,
I sank down upon the mossbank,
Underneath the mighty ash tree,
Where the little spring doth flow,

Which, with quaint and whimsied ripples,
Worked its whimsy to beguile my
Heart, so all my cogitations
And my thinking soon abated.

I was gripped by wildest yearning,
Like for dreams and death and madness,
And for those sublime horsewomen
That were in the spook-procession.

Oh, ye beautiful night-visions,
Frighted by the dawning sunrise,
Tell me, where did you escape to?
Where do you reside at daytime?

There amongst the temple rubble,
Somewhere out in the Romagna,
(So they tell me) hides Diana,
From dominion of the Christ.

Only in the dark of midnight
Does she venture in the open,
And she loves the art of hunting
There, with all her heathen playmates.

And the lovely sprite, Habondia,
Fears the Nazarene dominion,
So she whiles away her days, in
Safety of her Avalon.

This, her island, lies well hidden
In the silent, distant sea of
The Romantic, traveled only
On the fable-horse's wings.

Trouble never drops its anchor,
Never does a steamer land there
Full of nosy Philistines, all
Puffing on tobacco-pipes.

Never penetrates the mindless
Flat monotony of church-bells,
Dull and hollow clanging, tolling,
So despiséd by the faeries.

There, in such untroubled gladness,
In eternal youthful blooming,
There resides our mirthful lady,
Cheerful flaxen-haired Habondia.

Laughingly she goes a-walking
Underneath the high sunflowers,
With her retinue, caressing,
Otherworldly paladins.

Ah, but thou, Herodias,
Say, where art thou? - Ah, I know it,
Thou art dead and long since buried
Down in old Yerushalayim!

Rigid corpse's sleep by daytime,
Thou sleepst in a marble coffin!
But at midnight, thou art waked by
Crack of whip, Hello and Huzzah!

Following the wild procession,
With Diana and Habondia,
With the cheerful hunting comrades,
All despising Cross and Torment!

What delectable companions!
If I could, by night, go hunting
With you! I would ride forever
By thy side, Herodias!

I love thee above all others!
Better than that Grecian goddess,
Better than the northern faerie,
I love thee, departed Jewess!

Yes, I love thee! I observe it
In the trembling of my soul.
Love me and be my belovéd,
Lovely wife, Herodias!

Love me and be my belovéd!
Catapult the bloody dummkopf
With his platter, and enjoy some
Better and more tasty dishes.

I'm so right, the perfect knight that
Thou requirest - it's no matter,
That thou'rt dead and cursed forever,
I don't have those prejudices -

Yet there are impediments to
My beatitude, and whether
I belong among the living,
I myself have doubts at times!

Take me as thy chevalier,
As thy cavalier servente,
I shall always bear thy mantle,
Also all of thy caprices.

Every night, there at thy side, I'll
Ride with the rambunctious huntsmen,
And we'll share caresses, laughing
Over all my mad discourses.

I will make thy time fly swiftly
In the night - but then at daytime
All delights will fade, and I'll sit
Weeping there, upon thy gravesite.

Yes, by day I shall sit weeping
At the ruined royal graveyard,
At the grave of my belovéd,
There in old Yerushalayim.

Elder Jews that pass before me
Will believe that I am mourning
O'er the downfall of the temple
And of old Yerushalayim.




 Posted by permission of the translator ~ © 2005


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