Poems

Hermann And Dorothea - Vii. Erato

DOROTHEA.

As the man on a journey, who, just at the moment of sunset,
Fixes his gaze once more on the rapidly vanishing planet,
Then on the side of the rocks and in the dark thicket still sees he
Hov'ring its image; wherever he turns his looks, on in front still
Runs it, and glitters and wavers before him in colours all splendid,
So before Hermanns eyes did the beautiful form of the maiden
Softly move, and appear'd to follow the path through the cornfields.

But he roused himself up from his startling dream, and then slowly
Turn'd tow'rd the village his steps, and once more started,--for once more
Saw he the noble maiden's stately figure approaching.
Fixedly gazed he; it was no phantom in truth; she herself 'twas
In her hands by the handle she carried two pitchers,--one larger,
One of a smaller size, and nimbly walk'd to the fountain.
And he joyfully went to meet her; the sight of her gave him
Courage and strength, and so he address'd the surprised one as follows:--
'Do I find you again, brave maiden, engaged in assisting
Others so soon, and in giving refreshment to those who may need it?
Tell me why you have come all alone to the spring so far distant,
Whilst the rest are content with the water that's found in the village?
This one, indeed, special virtue possesses, and pleasant to drink is.
Is't for the sake of that sick one you come, whom you saved with such courage?'

Then the good maiden the youth in friendly fashion saluted,
Saying:--'Already my walk to the fountain is fully rewarded,
Since I have found the kind person who gave us so many good presents;
For the sight of a giver, like that of a gift, is refreshing.
Come and see for yourself the persons who tasted your kindness,
And receive the tranquil thanks of all you have aided.
But that you may know the reason why I have come here,
Water to draw at a spot where the spring is both pure and unceasing,
I must inform you that thoughtless men have disturb'd all the water
Found in the village, by carelessly letting the horses and oxen
Wade about in the spring which give the inhabitants water.
In the same manner, with all their washing and cleaning they've dirtied
All the troughs of the village, and all the fountains have sullied.
For each one of them only thinks how quickly and soon he
May supply his own wants, and cares not for those who come after.'

Thus she spoke, and soon she arrived at the foot of the broad steps
With her companion, and both of them sat themselves down on the low wall
Round the spring. She bent herself over, to draw out the water,
He the other pitcher took up, and bent himself over,
And in the blue of the heavens they saw their figures reflected,
Waving, and nodding, and in the mirror their greetings exchanging.
'Now let me drink,' exclaim'd the youth in accents of gladness.
And she gave him the pitcher. They then, like old friends, sat together,
Leaning against the vessels, when she address'd him as follows
'Say, why find I you here without your carriage and horses,
Far from the place where first I saw you. Pray how came you hither?'

Hermann thoughtfully gazed on the ground, but presently lifted
Calmly towards her his glances, and gazed on her face in kind fashion,
Feeling quite calm and composed. And yet with love to address her
Found he quite out of the question; for love from her eyes was not beaming,
But an intellect clear, which bade him use sensible language.
Soon he collected his thoughts, and quietly said to the maiden:--
'Let me speak, my child, and let me answer your questions.
''Tis for your sake alone I have come,--why seek to conceal it?
For I happily live with two affectionate parents,
Whom I faithfully help to look after our house and possessions,
Being an only son, while numerous are our employments.
I look after the field work; the house is carefully managed
By my father; my mother the hostelry cheers and enlivens.
But you also have doubtless found out how greatly the servants,
Sometimes by fraud, and sometimes by levity, worry their mistress,
Constantly making her change them, and barter one fault for another.
Long has my mother, therefore, been wanting a girl in the household,
Who, not only with hand, but also with heart might assist her,
In the place of the daughter she lost, alas, prematurely.
Now when I saw you to-day near the carriage, so active and sprightly,
Saw the strength of your arm and the perfect health of your members,
When I heard your sensible words, I was struck with amazement,
And I hasten'd back home, deservedly praising the stranger
Both to my parents and friends. And now I come to inform you
What they desire, as I do. Forgive my stammering language!'

'Do not hesitate,' said she, 'to tell me the rest of your story
I have with gratitude felt that you have not sought to insult me.
Speak on boldly, I pray; your words shall never alarm me;
You would fain hire me now as maid to your father and mother,
To look after the house, which now is in excellent order.
And you think that in me you have found a qualified maiden,
One that is able to work, and not of a quarrelsome nature.
Your proposal was short, and short shall my answer be also
Yes! with you I will go, and the voice of my destiny follow.
I have fulfill'd my duty, and brought the lying-in woman
Back to her friends again, who all rejoice at her rescue.
Most of them now are together, the rest will presently join them.
All expect that they, in a few short days, will be able
Homewards to go; 'tis thus that exiles themselves love to flatter.
But I cannot deceive myself with hopes so delusive
In these sad days which promise still sadder days in the future
For all the bonds of the world are loosen'd, and nought can rejoin them,
Save that supreme necessity over our future impending.
If in the house of so worthy a man I can earn my own living,
Serving under the eye of his excellent wife, I will do so;
For a wandering girl bears not the best reputation.
Yes! with you I will go, as soon as I've taken the pitcher
Back to my friends, and received the blessing of those worthy people.
Come! you needs must see them, and from their hands shall receive me.'

Joyfully heard the youth the willing maiden's decision,
Doubting whether he now had not better tell her the whole truth;
But it appear'd to him best to let her remain in her error,
First to take her home, and then for her love to entreat her.
Ah! but now he espied a golden ring on her finger,
And so let her speak, while he attentively listen'd:--

'Let us now return,' she continued, 'the custom is always
To admonish the maidens who tarry too long at the fountain,
Yet how delightful it is by the fast-flowing water to chatter!'
Then they both arose, and once more directed their glances
Into the fountain, and then a blissful longing came o'er them.

So from the ground by the handles she silently lifted the pitchers,
Mounted the steps of the well, and Hermann follow'd the loved one.
One of the pitchers he ask'd her to give him, thus sharing the burden.
'Leave it,' she said, 'the weight feels less when thus they are balanced;
And the master I've soon to obey, should not be my servant.
Gaze not so earnestly at me, as if my fate were still doubtfull!
Women should learn betimes to serve, according to station,
For by serving alone she attains at last to the mast'ry,
To the due influence which she ought to possess in the household.
Early the sister must learn to serve her brothers and parents,
And her life is ever a ceaseless going and coming,
Or a lifting and carrying, working and doing for others.
Well for her, if she finds no manner of life too offensive,
And if to her the hours of night and of day all the same are,
So that her work never seems too mean, her needle too pointed,
So that herself she forgets, and liveth only for others!
For as a mother in truth she needs the whole of the virtues,
When the suckling awakens the sick one, and nourishment calls for
From the exhausted parent, heaping cares upon suff'ring.
Twenty men together could not endure su



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