The Kaiser feasted in his hall,
The red wine mantled high;
Banners were trembling on the wall,
To the peals of minstrelsy:
And many a gleam and sparkle came
From the armour hung around,
As it caught the glance of the torch’s flame,
Or the hearth with pine-boughs crown’d.
Why fell there silence on the chord
Beneath the harper’s hand?
And suddenly, from that rich board,
Why rose the wassail-band?
The strings were hush’dâ€“the knights made way
For the queenly mother’s tread,
As up the hall, in dark array,
Two fair-hair’d boys she led.
She led them even to the Kaiser’s place,
And still before him stood;
Till, with strange wonder, o’er his face
Flush’d the proud warrior-blood:
And ‘Speak, my mother! speak!’ he cried,
‘Wherefore this mourning vest?
And the clinging children by thy side,
In weeds of sadness drest?’
‘Well may a mourning vest be mine,
And theirs, my son, my son!
Look on the features of thy line
In each fair little one!
Tho’ grief awhile within their eyes
Hath tamed the dancing glee,
Yet there thine own quick spirit liesâ€“
Thy brother’s children see!
‘And where is he, thy brother, where?
He, in thy home that grew,
And smiling, with his sunny hair,
Ever to greet thee flew?
How would his arms thy neck entwine,
His fond lips press thy brow!
My son! oh, call these orphans thineâ€“
Thou hast no brother now!
‘What! from their gentle eyes doth nought
Speak of thy childhood’s hours,
And smite thee with a tender thought
Of thy dead father’s towers?
Kind was thy boyish heart and true,
When rear’d together there,
Thro’ the old woods like fawns ye flewâ€“
Where is thy brotherâ€“where?
‘Well didst thou love him then, and he
Still at thy side was seen!
How is it that such things can be
As tho’ they ne’er had been?
Evil was this world’s breath, which came
Between the good and brave!
Now must the tears of grief and shame
Be offer’d to the grave.
‘And let them, let them there be pour’d!
Though all unfelt below,
Thine own wrung heart, to love restor’d,
Shall soften as they flow.
Oh! death is mighty to make peace;
Now bid his work be done!
So many an inward strife shall ceaseâ€“
Take, take these babes, my son!’
His eye was dimm’dâ€“the strong man shook
With feelings long suppress’d;
Up in his arms the boys he took,
And strain’d them to his breast.
And a shout from all in the royal hall
Burst forth to hail the sight;
And eyes were wet, midst the brave that met
At the Kaiser’s feast that night.