Tales of the German Imagination from the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann (Penguin Classics)

Tales of the German Imagination from the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann (Penguin Classics) by Unknown

Book: Tales of the German Imagination from the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann (Penguin Classics) by Unknown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Unknown
yet the enchanted young man thought that he had never seen or imagined such loveliness. He trembled and secretly wished that she would come to the window and notice him. She finally stopped moving, set the light down on a crystal table, looked upwards and sang with a piercing voice:
Where do the old ones bide,
    Why do they not reply?
    When sparkling crystals cry,
    And from diamond-studded columns high
    Tears a secret sadness belie?
    And murmurings do secrets tickle
    From the water’s crystalline trickle,
    Swelling, so it seems,
    Into the stuff of dreams.
    Come then, you spirits all
    Into the golden hall,
    And raise from dark dell
    Heads that sparkle,
    Rise up and stand tall!
    We have languished so long
    With our tear-filled song,
    Spirits, take us in your thrall!
    Upon finishing the song she started to undress and laid her clothes in a costly chest. First she took a golden veil from her head, whereupon her thick black curly hair spilt down to her hips; then she removed the garment covering her bosom, and the young man forgot himself and the world at the sight of her heavenly beauty. He hardly dared breathe as she removed layer upon layer; and naked at last, she strode up and down the hall and her thick mane of curls formed a dark wavy sea, out of which the various curving shapes of her pure white body, glimmering like marble, emanated in turn.
    After a while she approached another golden chest, took out a tablet that glimmered with many inlaid stones, rubies, diamonds and all sort of jewels, and peered at it long and hard. The tablet made an unimaginable magical impression with its various colours and lines; at times the young man was painfully blinded by the shimmer that shot in his direction, then again green and blue shimmers soothed the ache in his eyes; but he just stood there, taking everything in with his gaze and at the same time completely turned in upon himself. In his mind’s eye he saw and sensed a gaping abyss of figures and harmonious sounds, of longing and desire, hordes of winged notes of melancholy and merry melodies flooded his consciousness, moved him to the core; he saw a world of hope and pain open before him, soaring magic cliffs of confidence and defiant trust, great waterfalls gushing with woefulness.
    He no longer recognized himself and was startled when the beauty opened the window, handed him the magic stone tablet and uttered these few words: ‘Take this to remember me by!’ He took hold of the tablet and felt its form, which immediately passed unnoticed into his innermost self, and the light and the powerful beauty and the strange hall vanished. All these impressions he took into himself like a dark night with cloud curtains, and, trying to retrieve his fleeting feelings, his sense of enchantment and incomprehensible love, he looked over the precious tablet in which the setting moon left a faint and bluish reflection.
    He still held the tablet pressed tightly in his hands as day broke and, exhausted, dizzy and half asleep, he tumbled down the steep incline.
    The sun shone full in the face of the dazed sleeper, who, waking, found himself lying on a lovely hill. He looked around and saw far behind him the ruins on Rune Mountain, hardly still recognizable on the far horizon: he searched for that tablet but couldn’t find it anywhere. Stunned and confused, he tried to pull himself together and retrieve his recent recollections, but his memory was all muddled, like a dense fog in which formless figures moved wildly and imperceptibly about.
    His entire former life lay as though in the far distance behind him; the strange and the ordinary were so jumbled together that he found it impossible to tell them apart. Hesitating, following a long dispute with himself, he finally came to the conclusion that it was a dream or a sudden madness that took hold of him that night, but he still could not fathom how he could have strayed such a distance in this unknown region. Still half punch-drunk with sleep, he

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