Theodor Fontane, Archibald Douglas, 1854
We haven't had a poetry translation for quite some time, so I tried my hands on another of Theodor Fontane's ballads. He wrote several with a Scottish setting, and he had a soft spot for the Douglas clan - as fe. the detailed retelling of Sir Walter Scott's equally romantic take on them in The Lady of the Lake in his charming little travel book Jenseit des Tweed (Beyond the Tweed) testifies. Fontane's a bit free with the history, but it's a good ballad, and I have some photos to go with it.
(The German original can be found in the comments)
For seven years I've borne it now.
And no longer will I bear.
Wherever the world most beautiful,
To me it was waste and bare.
I will thus stand before his face
In this my humble guise.
He can't refuse the ardent pleas
Of a man who has grown old.
And if he bears the ancient grudge
Fresh like he first it felt,
Then come whatever there shall be,
And come what is my fate.
Stirling castle, main gate
Earl Douglas spoke, and on hard stone
He rested by the road.
He gazed towards the wood and fields
Until his eyes fell shut.
He was garbed in a byrnie hard and worn,
Covered by pilgrim's robe -
Lo! listen, from the woods a sound
Of horns and hunting hounds.
In a whirl of dust and gravel came
A-chasing harrier and men,
And ere the earl drew himself up,
Mount and rider were upon.
King James sat on his destrier proud;
Earl Douglas bent his knee.
The king felt reddening his cheek,
When Douglas called aloud.
Stirling castle, outer battlements (maybe James' playground)
Sire, look at me with grace.
And listen with restraint.
Whatev'r my brothers did to you:
It never was my crime.
Do not recall the Douglas-spite
So stubborn in your heart.
Remenber but your childhood time,
When I held you on my lap.
Oh, remember Stirling's castle yards,
Where I carved you toys to play
Where arrows I made, and first you rode
Your father's dappled bay.
Oh, remember the hall of Linlithgow,
The lake and the fowling place,
Where I taught you to hunt and fish and swim
And run with the deer apace.
Oh, remember all that once has been
And soften your stern mind.
I have atoned since severn years
That I'm of Douglas' kind.
Linlithgow, view towards the lake
I see you not, Earl Archbald,
I cannot hear your voice.
There is a rustling in the woods,
Whisp'ring of aulden time.
Sweet is the rustling to my ears,
And listening I will;
But in between there is a cry:
He is a Douglas, still!
I do not see you, nor hear your voice;
It's all that I can do.
A Douglas here in front of me,
A lost man he would be.
Linlithgow, one of the halls
King James spurred his mount ahead,
Uphill now led the way.
Earl Douglas took the bridle tight.
And stayed by the royal side.
The path was steep and hot the sun,
And heavy was his mail;
But though he almost broke to ground,
He still ran alongside.
Kimg James, I was your seneshall,
No longer will I be.
Grant me but to attend your mount;
Myself I will him feed.
Myself I'll water your destrier,
And make his bedding smooth.
But let me breathe anew the air
Of my forefathers' home.
Linlithgow, view into the inner yard
Or else, my king, take courage then,
And I will thank it thee -
And draw your sword and hit me well,
And let me perish here.
King James alighted from his horse -
A shine was on his face -
The broad sword he unsheathed with ease,
But never let it fall.
Take, it, my friend, bear it anew,
And guard again my rest.
Who loves his home so ardently,
Is true deep in his breast!
To horse, we'll ride to Linlithgow;
Once more you'll ride by my side.
There we will hunt and fisht with joy,
As in times gone by.
Stirling castle, main hall, interior
The Archibald Douglas of the ballad is the historical Archibald Douglas 6th Earl of Angus 1489-1557). He was one of the tutors of King James V (called King Jakob in the German version). Once James had enough of being tutored and escaped his guardians, Archibald, his brother George Douglas of Pittendreich, his uncle, and several other nobles had to flee into exile, and the king took it out on the remaining Douglases (like Archibald's sister, Lady Glamis). Earl Archibald did indeed try to return from exile, supported by King Henry VIII of England, but - contrary to the ballad - he could only do so afterr James' death in 1542.