Supplementary Appendix: Wilhelm Schlegel’s Fortunat. Romanze.

Wilhelm Schlegel
“Fortunatus. A Romance” [*]


Bedewed, in moonlight cloaked,
Lies quiet the summer night,
And a knight, in song, does ride
'long meadow and vale and wood.

"Anon, apace, good steed!"
Says he, its neck does stroke;
"Know you not that Lila fair
Awaits at open window there?

"No horse of tournament and battle, you,
Which, like its rider, stiff and cool,
With spike on forehead, forehead true,
Runs but blindly, blindly on.

"No, indeed, on his travels do you bear
Nimble Fortunatus,
With whom fused as one in darkness
You traverse paths smooth and narrow.

"Sometimes to this lady, sometimes to the other,
Led our quiet, nocturnal jaunt;
Evenings, with hasty yearning,
Then early back, with languid melancholy.

"When oft atop your back
I to the chamber high did climb,
Stood you still, till the beloved's
Delicate arms did me receive.

"Indeed I know how when one, demure,
Would close both heart and door,
Would you with soft hoof knock,
Till she opened up once more."

And as he yet did speak,
Die a secret valley emerge in front.
"Have I," he spoke, "ridden here astray?
Here all is so unfamiliar, strange."

Wondrously through both shrub and tree
Creeps the moon's pale ray,
Till a certain bush, blossomed with rose,
From yonder beckons, full and slender.

"Bush, in you do I greet my likeness,
Roses you bear without number;
And thus in my own restless heart
Does love's sweet choice bloom anew.

"Some mature, others mere buds,
Though all soon to fade,
And the sap within
Then turns toward others, younger.

"For the cup that its leaves does shed,
No power of will can close.
Lila, Lila! these buds
Do threaten for you my inconstancy.

"But that you suspect it not,
Do I come with a garland in my hair,
Offering beautiful, blushing bouquet
For your snow-white bosom.

"Roses, O roses! fear not being plucked,
For 'tis no great wrong to die thus:
O, how I will press you
Between breast and breast so warm!"

Yet when he turns his horse to advance,
Does it shy in their approach,
And cannot come near, from any side,
To the rose bower ahead.

"Ah, you, accustomed to nocturnal ride,
What now, O foolish steed?
Fear you mere light and shadow
Dancing on moist grass?"

But back the horse retreats, and rears,
No matter spurs and commands;
And on the ground with forehooves strong
Does it stamp and paw and claw.

Paws away loose earth below,
Deep, and deeper still.
"So, treasure would you dig so deep?
Aye, for midnight is it now."

Beneath its hoof now rumbles,
Boards, a coffin,
And upon a mighty strike of hoof
Does the black lid spring ajar.

To dismount from saddle does he try,
But is bound, affixed, in place,
And the steed now too is quiet, and still,
Before the coffin half in, half out of earth.

And as if from slumber does
A feminine figure arise,
Features enveloped full
In pale grief, gentle love.

"Have me you come to visit?
Your Clara, Fortunatus?
These linden trees, these beech trees,
Did once witness our deed:

"How to me you swore your loyalty,
How your mouth pleaded, entreated so,
How my rose I then did lose,
How shame did come to stay.

"But that sin did turn so dear to me,
Admonishing me both early and late;
To keep this memory's ardor,
I knew not what to do

"Save bed myself in coolness deep,
As you see I have here done.
Alas! I hoped one day to capture
You yet again in chains of love.

"Anxious shame is concealed
In this quiet valley's womb;
Here has love cultivated many a rose
For the one it stole away.

"Behold this bed, intimate and narrow,
As I carefully commanded,
That us it might once more tightly enclose
For sweet desire's torment.

"No unwelcome rays
Through the curtain's veil can break,
Nor any moon, nor sun so bright,
From eternal celebration us wake."

To sink into those cool, pale arms
Did the hot breast offer itself to me.
"Now and for all eternity shall I
Your soul in kisses drink."

Quietly does she draw him down:
"Fair youth, so taut with fear?"
Lifting hardly open eyes, down
Into the coffin, to her, he sinks.

"Lila! Lila!" feeble whisper he tries,
But to a dying "Alas" can it only turn,
For quickly, quickly, does the grave's cold shiver
His breath of life devour and take.

Amid clatter and ruckus do the
Boards fall again, tightly, onto the coffin below,
And a storm turns over the earth, again,
That the steed had opened wide,

Breaking now every rose,
Every leaf falling now away,
Strewn to consecrate this bridal bed,
Scarlet on the green grass.

The steed afar does quickly flee,
'Cross hill and wood and field,
Arriving, finally, at break of day,
At Lila's cottage.

Still it stands, bridled, saddled,
Riderless, head sunk low,
Till the poor girl, sleepless,
Does comprehend his meaning.

Then fled it into the wilderness,
Where no eye it again saw,
Desiring no knight more to serve
After slender Fortunatus. [1]


[*] “Fortunat: Romanze,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 243–50 (Sämmtliche Werke 1:229–34). Approximate prose translation. Illustration from Deutsches Balladenbuch, ed. Adolf Ehrhardt, Theobald von Der, Hermann Plüddemann, Ludwig Richter, and Carl Schurig, 2nd ed. (Leipzig 1858), 181.

A certain similarity of motif does emerge with Gottfried August Bürger’s “Lenore,” Göttinger Musenalmanach (1774), 214–26, in this romance, which, so Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:623, comes across as a rather light piece, and not merely by comparison with “Lenore” or even Schelling’s “Die letzten Worte des Pfarrers zu Drottning in Seeland. Eine wahre Geschichte” (“The Last Words of the Pastor of Drottning”).

Bürger’s “Lenore,” which became enormously popular, involves a woman’s (Lenore’s) “immoderate and blasphemous grief at the death of her lover in the Seven Years War” and of his reappearance on horseback beneath her window; her nocturnal ride with him ends in her death after he is revealed to be but “a grisly skeleton” (Oxford Companion to German Literature, ed. Henry and Mary Garland [Oxford 1976], s.v. “Lenore”). In any event, Ludwig Tieck had mildly criticized the piece in his letter to Wilhelm in early June 1801 (letter 319a), asking:

The poem seems to lack unity, precisely the elements prompting its composition in the first place; I do not understand it, and the roses insult me: I do not comprehend the horse and rider. Are we not receiving too many ghost stories? [3] I read it aloud to several people and could not perceive it having any really unsettling effect on them at all. And why do you want to send a chill up our spines in any case? Can one not criticize in this Romanze many of the same things you yourself so accurately reproached in “Bürger”? I may be wrong here, but that is my frank opinion.

The reference is to Wilhelm’s “Über Bürgers Werke,” in Charakteristiken und Kritiken 2:1–96 (Sämmtliche Werke 8:64–139, where the title is simply “Bürger”).

In her own letter to Wilhelm on 10 July 1801 (letter 325), Caroline remarks that “what he [Tieck] calls ‘Bürgerean’ in it is probably what we here have referred to as the old Nordic idea of infidelity.”

Here the illustrations from the English translation of 1796 (Leonora: Translated from the German of Gottfried Augustus Bürgher, trans.W. R. Spencer, illustrations by Lady Diana Beauclerc [London 1796]):






[1] Bürger’s “Lenore” ends similarly (Lenore: A Ballad from the German of Gottfried August Buerger, trans. Henry D. Wireman [Philadelphia 1871], 45–47; illustration: (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Leonore [1789]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [2-98]):

On to a gate with loosened rein,
The foaming steed did thunder,
A single blow, a loud refrain,
And locks were burst asunder;
The doors swung open with a crash,
And over graves they then did dash.
By moon's pale, silv'ry shimmer,
How weird the tombs did glimmer.


Behold a sight to freeze the heart,
So ghastly, and appalling;
The rider's jerkin lo! apart
Now piece for piece was falling.
His head, a naked skull, alas!
A skeleton. — An hour glass
One fleshless hand was grasping,
A scythe the other clasping.

The courser snorted, plunged and reared
Distended nostrils flaming
Earth quaked and yawned, horse disappeared,
The earth her own reclaiming.
And shriek on shriek did rend the air,
Above, below, aye, everywhere.
Lenore for Life contended,
O'er brink of Death suspended.

In giddy dance, by moonlight pale,
The spirits round were whirling,
And at Lenore, with shriek and wail,
Thus retribution hurling:
"Though break thy heart — be still, be still,
Rail not 'gainst God, Oh, speak not ill,
Thou diest now, 'mid terrors,
May God forgive thy errors." Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott