HERMANN AND DOROTHEA.
So tow’rd the sun, now fast sinking to rest, the two walk’d together,
Whilst he veil’d himself deep in clouds which thunder portended.
Out-of his veil now here, now there, with fiery glances
Beaming over the plain with rays foreboding and lurid.
‘May this threatening weather,’ said Hermann, ‘not bring to us shortly
Hail and violent rain, for well does the harvest now promise.’
And they both rejoiced in the corn so lofty and waving,
Well nigh reaching the heads of the two tall figures that walk’d there.
Then the maiden spoke to her friendly leader as follows
‘Generous youth, to whom I shall owe a kind destiny shortly,
Shelter and home, when so many poor exiles must weather the tempest,
In the first place tell me all about your good parents,
Whom I intend to serve with all my soul from hence-forward;
Knowing one’s master, ’tis easier far to give satisfaction,
By rememb’ring the things which he deems of the highest importance,
And on which he has set his heart with the greatest decision.
Tell me, then, how best I can win your father and mother.’
Then the good and sensible youth made answer as follows
‘You are indeed quite right, my kind and excellent maiden,
To begin by asking about the tastes of my parents!
For I have hitherto striven in vain to satisfy Father,
When I look’d after the inn, as well as my regular duty,
Working early and late in the field, and tending the vineyard.
Mother indeed was contented; she knew how to value my efforts;
And she will certainly hold you to be an excellent maiden,
If you take care of the house, as though the dwelling your own were.
But my father’s unlike her; he’s fond of outward appearance.
Gentle maiden, deem me not cold and void of all feeling,
If I disclose my father’s nature to you, who’re a stranger.
Yes, such words have never before escaped, I assure von
Out of my mouth, which is little accustom’d to babble and chatter;
But you have managed to worm all my secrets from out of my bosom.
Well, my worthy father the graces of life holds in honour,
Wishes for outward signs of love, as well as of rev’rence,
And would doubtless be satisfied with an inferior servant
Who understood this fancy, and hate a better, who did not.’
Cheerfully she replied, with gentle movement increasing
Through the darkening path the speed at which she was walking:
I in truth shall hope to satisfy both of your parents,
For your mother’s character my own nature resembles,
And to external graces have I from my youth been accustom’d.
Our old neighbours, the French, in their earlier days laid much stress on
Courteous demeanour; ’twas common alike to nobles and burghers,
And to peasants, and each enjoin’d it on all his acquaintance.
in the same way, on the side of the Germans, the children were train’d up
Every morning, with plenty of kissing of hands and of curtsies,
To salute their parents, and always to act with politeness.
All that I have learnt, and all I have practised since childhood,
All that comes from my heart,–I will practise it all with the old man.
But on what terms shall I–I scarcely dare ask such a question,–
Be with yourself, the only son, and hereafter my master?’
Thus she spoke, and at that moment they came to the peartree.
Down from the skies the moon at her full was shining in glory;
Night had arrived, and the last pale gleam of the sunset had vanish’d.
So before them were lying, in masses all heap’d up together,
Lights as clear as the day, and shadows of night and of darkness.
And the friendly question was heard by Hermann with pleasure,
Under the shade of the noble tree at the spot which he loved so
Which that day had witness’d his tears at the fate of the exile.
And whilst they sat themselves down, to take a little repose there,
Thus the loving youth spoke, whilst he seized the hand of the maiden
‘Let your heart give the answer, and always obey what it tells you!’
But he ventured to say no more, however propitious
Was the moment; he feard that a No would be her sole answer,
Ah! and he felt the ring on her finger, that sorrowful token.
So by the side of each other they quietly sat and in silence,
But the maiden began to speak, and said, ‘How delightful
Is the light of the moon! The clearness of day it resembles.
Yonder I see in the town the houses and courtyards quite plainly,
In the gable a window; methinks all the panes I can reckon.’
‘That which you see,’ replied the youth, who spoke with an effort,
‘That is our house down to which I now am about to conduct you,
And that window yonder belongs to my room in the attic,
Which will probably soon be yours, as we’re making great changes.
All these fields are ours, and ripe for the harvest to-morrow;
Here in the shade we are wont to rest, enjoying our meal-time.
But let us now descend across the vineyard and garden,
For observe how the threatening storm is hitherward rolling,
Lightening first, and then eclipsing the beautiful full moon.’
So the pair arose, and wauder’d down by the corn-field,
Through the powerful corn, in the nightly clearness rejoicing;
And they reach’d the vineyard, and through its dark shadows proceeded.
So he guided her down the numerous tiers of the flat stones
Which, in an unhewn state, served as steps to the walk through the foliage.
Slowly she descended, and placed her hands on his shoulders;
And, with a quivering light, the moon through the foliage o’erlook’d them,
Till by storm-clouds envelop’d, she left the couple in darkness.
Then the strong youth supported the maiden, who on him was leaning;
She, however, not knowing the path, or observing the rough steps,
Slipp’d as she walk’d, her foot gave way, and she well nigh was falling.
Hastily held out his arm the youth with nimbleness thoughtful,
And held up his beloved one; she gently sank on his shoulders,
Breast was press’d against breast, and cheek against cheek, and so stood he
Fix’d like a marble statue, restrained by a firm resolution;
He embraced her no closer, thoughall her weight he supported;
So he felt his noble burden, the warmth of her bosom,
And her balmy breath, against his warm lips exhaling,
Bearing with manly feelings the woman’s heroical greatness.
But she conceal’d the pain which she felt, and jestingly spoke thus
‘It betokens misfortune,–so scrupulous people inform us,–
For the foot to give way on entering a house, near the threshold.
I should have wish’d, in truth, for a sign of some happier omen!
Let us tarry a little, for fear your parents should blame you
For their limping servant, and you should be thought a bad landlord.’