Three riders after harsh defeat,
How slowly, slowly they retreat!
From deep-cut gashes gushes blood,
The horses feel the unstanched flood.
From saddle drips the blood, from rein,
And washes foam off flank and mane.
The steeds' advance is gently slow,
For else too swift the blood's rich flow.
The dying horsemen, side by side,
Clasp one another as they ride.
In accents faint, disconsolate,
Each mourns that this should be his fate:
"A maid has promised me her hand--
Why must I die in foreign land?"
"Have home and farm and forest green,
And meet a death so unforeseen!"
"God gave me life, his only boon,
And yet I dread to die so soon."
And where they on their death-ride fare,
Three vultures follow through the air.
They share the men with piercing cry:
"Him you devour, him you, him I!"
-trans. Gerd Gillhoff
-German title: Die Drei.
(Illustration is Karl Friedrich Lessing, The Return of the Crusader, 1835.)