Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


15.4.12
  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)

Stirling Castle

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.
 
Comments:
Ich hab' es getragen sieben Jahr,
Und ich kann es nicht tragen mehr!
Wo immer die Welt am schönsten war,
Da war sie öd' und leer.

Ich will hintreten vor sein Gesicht
In dieser Knechtsgestalt,
Er kann meine Bitte versagen nicht,
Ich bin ja worden alt.

Und trüg' er noch den alten Groll,
Frisch wie am ersten Tag,
So komme, was da kommen soll,
Und komme, was da mag.

Graf Douglas spricht's. Am Weg ein Stein
Lud ihn zu harter Ruh,
Er sah in Wald und Feld hinein,
Die Augen fielen ihm zu.

Er trug einen Harnisch rostig und schwer,
Darüber ein Pilgerkleid –
Da horch! vom Waldrand scholl es her
Wie von Hörnern und Jagdgeleit.

Und Kies und Staub aufwirbelte dicht,
Her jagte Meut' und Mann,
Und ehe der Graf sich aufgericht't,
Waren Roß und Reiter heran.

König Jakob saß auf hohem Roß,
Graf Douglas grüßte tief,
Dem König das Blut in die Wange schoß,
Der Douglas aber rief:

König Jakob, schaue mich gnädig an
Und höre mich in Geduld,
Was meine Brüder dir angetan,
Es war nicht meine Schuld.

Denk nicht an den alten Douglas-Neid,
Der trotzig dich bekriegt,
Denk lieber an deine Kinderzeit,
Wo ich dich auf den Knien gewiegt.

Denk lieber zurück an Stirlingschloß,
Wo ich Spielzeug dir geschnitzt,
Dich gehoben auf deines Vaters Roß
Und Pfeile dir zugespitzt.

Denk lieber zurück an Linlithgow,
An den See und den Vogelherd,
Wo ich dich fischen und jagen froh
Und schwimmen und springen gelehrt.

O denk an alles, was einsten war,
Und sänftige deinen Sinn,
Ich hab' es gebüßet sieben Jahr,
Daß ich ein Douglas bin.«

Ich seh' dich nicht, Graf Archibald,
Ich hör' deine Stimme nicht –
Mir ist, als ob ein Rauschen im Wald
Von alten Zeiten spricht.

Mir klingt das Rauschen süß und traut,
Ich lausch' ihm immer noch,
Dazwischen aber klingt es laut:
Er ist ein Douglas doch.

Ich seh' dich nicht, ich höre dich nicht,
Das ist alles, was ich kann –
Ein Douglas vor meinem Angesicht
Wär' ein verlorener Mann.

König Jakob gab seinem Roß den Sporn,
Bergan ging jetzt sein Ritt,
Graf Douglas faßte den Zügel vorn
Und hielt mit dem König Schritt.

Der Weg war steil, und die Sonne stach,
Und sein Panzerhemd war schwer;
Doch ob er schier zusammenbrach,
Er lief doch nebenher.

König Jakob, ich war dein Seneschall,
Ich will es nicht fürder sein,
Ich will nur warten dein Roß im Stall
Und ihm schütten die Körner ein.

Ich will ihm selber machen die Streu
Und es tränken mit eigner Hand,
Nur laß mich atmen wieder aufs neu
Die Luft im Vaterland!

Und willst du nicht, so hab einen Mut,
Und ich will es danken dir,
Und zieh dein Schwert und triff mich gut
Und laß mich sterben hier.

König Jakob sprang herab vom Pferd,
Hell leuchtete sein Gesicht,
Aus der Scheide zog er sein breites Schwert,
Aber fallen ließ er es nicht.

Nimm's hin, nimm's hin und trag es neu,
Und bewache mir meine Ruh,
Der ist in tiefster Seele treu,
Wer die Heimat liebt wie du.

Zu Roß, wir reiten nach Linlithgow,
Und du reitest an meiner Seit',
Da wollen wir fischen und jagen froh
Als wie in alter Zeit.
 
Gabriele

Great pictures. They complement the poem nicly.
 
I've never been to Scotland, which is awful as I live in Britain. I'm told Stirling castle is magnificent - and looks it in your pictures. Did Archibald Douglas marry the widowed Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV?
 
Ah, just checked - she did indeed marry Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, whom she later divorced.
 
The photographs go well with the poem - good idea to put them together. So the king was never reconciled with Earl Archibald in real life? What a shame; the poem is much more romantic :-)
 
Lovely translation - thanks for sharing the poem!
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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