Saturday, August 21, 2010

''The Castle of Boncourt''

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Adalbert von Chamisso

I dream of the days of my childhood,
      And shake my silvery head.
How haunt ye my brain, O visions,
      Methought ye forgotten and dead!

From the shades of the forest uprises
      A castle so lofty and great;
Well know I the battlements, towers,
      The arching stone-bridge, and the gate.

The lions look down from the scutcheon
      On me with familiar face;
I greet the old friends of my boyhood,
      And speed through the courtyard space.

There lies the Sphinx by the fountain;
      The fig-tree's foliage gleams;
'Twas there, behind yon windows,
      I dreamt the first of my dreams.

I tread the aisle of the chapel,
      And search for my fathers' graves--
Behold them! And there from the pillars
      Hang down the old armor and glaives.

Not yet can I read the inscription;
      A veil hath enveloped my sight,
What though through the painted windows
      Glows brightly the sunbeam's light.

Thus gleams, O hall of my fathers,
      Thy image so bright in my mind,
From the earth now vanished, the ploughshare
      Leaves of thee no vestige behind.

Be fruitful, lov'd soil, I will bless thee,
      While anguish o'er-cloudeth my brow;
Threefold will I bless him, whoever
      May guide o'er thy bosom the plough.

But I will up, up, and be doing;
      My lyre I'll take in my hand;
O'er the wide, wide earth will I wander,
      And sing from land to land.

-trans. Alfred Baskerville
-German title: Das Schloß Boncourt.

The scion of a noble French line, Adalbert von Chamisso was forced to flee France during the calamity of the French Revolution. He settled in Prussia, entered the military, and composed his most famous works in German. In this poem he laments the loss of his former ancestral castle, which was levelled by the resentment-driven revolutionaries.

(Illustration is Ernst Ferdinand Oehme, Burg Scharfenberg by Night, 1827.)

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