The following ballad, published in this translation in the Monthly Magazine of 1796, was originally written by Gottfried Bürger. It became very popular in England and influenced Romantic literature for years to come. (You may notice parallels with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner or John Keats's "The Eve of St. Agnes".) The spelling and some of the words are deliberately archaic or old-fashioned, to make the ballad seem more "primitive" or traditional.

L E N O R A.


[The following translation (made some years since) of a celebrated piece, of which other versions have appeared, and are now on the point of appearance, possesses so much peculiar and intrinsic merit, that we are truly happy in being permitted to present it to our Readers.]

At break of day, with frightful dreams
    Lenora struggled sore:
My William, art thou slaine, say’d she,
    Or dost thou love no more?

He went abroade with Richard’s host,
    The Paynim foes to quell;
But he no word to her had writt,
    An he were sick or well.

With sowne of trump, and beat of drum,
    His felow-soldyers come;
Their helmes bydeckt with oaken boughs,
   They seeke their long’d-for home.

And ev’ry roade, an ev’ry lane
    Was full of old and young,
To gaze at the rejoicing band,
    To hail with gladsome toung.

"Thank God!" their wives and children saide,
    "Welcome!" the brides did saye:
But greete or kiss Lenora gave
    To none upon that daye.

She askte of all the passing traine,
    For him she wisht to see:
But none of all the passing traine
    Could tell if lived hee.

And when the soldyers all were bye,
    She tore her raven haire,
And cast herself upon the growne
    In furious despaire.

Her mother ran and lyfte her up,
    And clasped in her arme,
"My child, my child, what dost thou ail?
    God shield thy life from harm!"

"O mother, mother! William’s gone!
    What’s all besyde to me?
There is no mercye, sure, above!
    All, all were spar’d but hee!"

"Kneel downe, thy paternoster saye,
    ’Twill calm they troubled spright;
The Lord is wyse, the Lord is good;
    What hee hath done is right."

"O mother, mother! say not so;
    Most cruel is my fate:
I prayde, and prayde; but watte avayl’d?
    ’Tis now, alas! Too late."

"Our Heavenly Father, if we praye,
    Will help a suff’ring childe:
Go take the holy sacrament;
    So shall they grief grow milde."

"O mother, what I feel within,
    No sacrament can staye;
No sacrament can teche the dead
    To bear the light of daye."

"May be, among the heathen folk
    Thy William false doth prove,
And puts away his faith and troth,
    And takes another love.

Then wherefore sorrow for his loss?
    Thy moans are all in vain:
And when his soul and body parte,
    His falsehode brings him paine."

"O mother, mother! Gone is gone:
    My hope is all forlorn;
The grave mie onlye safeguarde is–
    O, had I ne’er been borne!

Go out, go out, my lampe of life;
    In grislie darkness die:
There is no mercye, sure, above!
    For ever let me lie."

"Almighty God! O do not judge
    My poor unhappy childe;
She knows not what her lips pronounce,
    Her anguish makes her wilde.

My girl, forget thine earthly woe,
    And think on God and bliss;
For so, at least, shall not thy soule
    Its heavenly bridegroom miss."

"O mother, mother! what is blisse,
    And what the fiend is celle?
With him ’tis heaven any where,
    Without my William, helle.

"Go out, go out, my lamp of life;
    In endless darkness die:
Without him I must loathe the earth,
    Without him scorne the skye."

And so despaire did rave and rage
    Athwarte her boiling veins;
Against the Providence of God
    She hurdle her impious strains.

She bet her breaste, and wrung her hands,
    And rollde her tearlesse eye,
From rise of morne, till the pale stars
    Again did freeke the skye.

When harke! abroade she hearde the trampe
    Of nimble-hoofed steed;
She hearde a knighte with clank alighte,
    And climb the staire in speede.

And soon she herde a tinkling hande,
    That twirled at the pin;
And thro’ her door, that open’d not,
    These words were breathed in.

"What ho! what ho! thy dore undoe;
    Art watching or asleepe?
My love, dost yet remember mee,
    And dost thou laugh or weep?"

"Ah! William here so late at night!
    Oh! I have watche and wak’d:
Whence dost thou come? For thy return
    My hearte has sorely ak’d."

"At midnight only we may ride;
    I come o’er land and sea:
I mounted late, but soone I go;
    Aryse, and come with me."

"O William, enter first my bowre,
    And give me one embrace:
The blasts athwarte the hawthorne hiss;
    Awayte a little space."

"Tho’ blasts athwarte the hawthorn hiss,
    I may not harboure here;
My spurre is sharpe, my courser pawes,
    My houre of flighte is nere.

All as thou lyest upon thy couch,
    Aryse, and mount behinde;
To-night we’le ride a thousand miles,
    The bridal bed to finde."

"How, ride to-night a thousand miles?
    Thy love thou dost bemocke:
Eleven is the stroke that still
    Rings on within the clocke."

"Looke up; the moone is bright, and we
    Outstride the earthlie men:
I’ll take thee to the bridal bed,
    And night shall end but then."

"And where is, then, thy house and home;
    And where thy bridal bed?"
"Tis narrow, silent, chilly, dark;
    Far hence I rest my head."

"And is there any room for mee,
    Wherein that I may creepe?"
"There room enough for thee and mee,
    Wherein that we may sleepe.

All as thou ly’st upon thy couch,
    Aryse, no longer stop;
The wedding guests thy coming waite,
   The chamber dore is ope."

All in her sarke, as there she lay,
    Upon his horse she sprung;
And with her lilly hands so pale
    About her William clung.

And hurry-skurry forth they go,
    Unheeding wet or dry;
And horse and rider snort and blow,
   And sparkling pebbles fly.

How swift the flood, the mead, the wood,
    Aright, aleft, are gone!
The bridges thunder as they pass,
   But earthly sowne is none.

Tramp, tramp, across the land they speede;
    Splash, splash, across the see:
"hurrah! the dead can ride apace;
    Dost feare to ride with mee?

The moone is bryghte, and blue the nyghte;
    Dost quake the blast to stem?
Dost shudder, mayde, to seeke the dead?"
    "No, no, but what of them?

How glumlie sownes yon dirgye song!
    Night-ravens flappe the wing,
What knell doth slowlie toll ding-dong?
    The psalmes of death who sing?

It creeps, the swarthie funeral traine,
    The corse is onn the beere;
Like croke of todes from lonely moores,
    The chaunte doth meet the eere."

"Go, bear her corse when midnight’s past,
    With song, and tear, and wayle;
I’ve gott my wife, I take her home,
    My bowre of wedlocke hayl.

Lead forth, O clarke, the chaunting quire,
    To swell our nuptial song:
Come, preaste, and reade the blessing soone;
    For bed, for bed we long."

They heede his calle, and husht the sowne;
    The biere was seene no more;
And followde him ore feeld and flood
    Yet faster than before.

Halloo! halloo! away they goe,
    Unheeding wet or drye;
And horse and rider snort and blowe,
    And sparkling pebbles flye.

How swifte the hill, how swifte the dale,
    Aright, aleft, are gone!
By hedge and tree, by thorpe and towne,
    They gallop, gallop on.

Tramp, tramp, across the land they speede;
    Splash, splash, acrosse the see:
"Hurrah! the dead can ride apace;
    Dost fear to ride with me?

Look up, look up, and airy crewe
    In roundel daunces reele:
The moone is bryghte, and blue the nyghte,
    Mayst dimlie see them wheele.

Come to, some to, ye gostlie crew,
    Come to, and follow mee,
And daunce for us the wedding daunce,
    When we in bed shall be."

And brush, brush, brush, the gostlie crew
    Come wheeling ore their heads,
All rustling like the wither’d leaves
    That wyde the whirlwind spreads.

Halloo! halloo! away they go,
    Unheeding wet or dry;
And horse and rider snort and blowe,
    And sparkling pebbles flye.

And all that in the moonshyne lay,
    Behynde them fled afar;
And backwarde scudded overhead
   The sky and every star.

Tramp, tramp, across the lande they speede;
    Splash, splash, across the see:
"Hurrah! the dead can ride apace;
    Dost fear to ride with me?

I weene the cock prepares to crowe;
    The sand will soone be runne:
I snuffe the earlye morning aire;
    Downe, downe! our worke is done.

The dead, the dead can ryde apace;
    Oure wed-bed here is fit:
Our race is ridde, oure journey ore,
    Our endlesse union knit."

And lo! an yren-grated grate
    Soon biggens to their viewe:
He crackte his whyppe; the clangynge boltes,
    The doores asunder stewe.

They pass, and ’twas on graves they trode;
    "’Tis hither we are bounde:"
And many a tombstone gostlie white
    Lay inn the moonshyne round.

And when hee from his steede alytte,
    His armour, black as cinder,
Did moulder, moulder all awaye,
   As were it made of tinder.

His head became a naked skull;
    Nor haire nor eyne had hee:
His body grew a skeleton,
    Whilome so blythe of blee.

And att his dry and boney heele
    No spur was left to be;
And inn his witherde hande you might
    The scythe and hour-glasse see.

And lo! his steede did thin to smoke,
    And charnel fires outbreathe;
And pal’d, and bleach’d, then vanish’d quite
    The mayde from underneathe.

And hollow howlings hung in aire,
    And shrekes from vaults arose.
Then knew the mayde she mighte no more
    Her living eyes unclose.

But onwarde to the judgement seat,
    Thro’ myste and moonlight dreare,
The gostlie crewe their flyghte persewe,
    And hollowe inn her eare:--

"Be patient; tho’ thyne herte should breke,
    Arrayne not Heven’s decree;
Thou nowe art of thie bodie refte,
    Thie soule forgiven bee!"