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  • Translation

The Knight of Toggenburg (1797) by Friedrich Schiller

An original German illustration for Schiller's poem from the 1800s

Sir knight, I can a sister’s love Happily offer you, But any other kind of love Would not be true. Softly I can appear to you, And softly you may go, But weeping eyes with flowery dew— I cannot know. And this he hears as his heart tears Open—his heart strings bleed! He holds her dear, besieged with fears, Then rides upon his steed. He gathers all his gallant men In noble Switzerland; Towards the holy grave they wend, With crosses tightly fastened. So many deeds were valiantly done By his heroic arm, His noble plumes blown through the storm Made foes retreat from harm. And the Toggenburger’s name Scared every Saracen. Yet, his heart from its lonely grave No longer can ascend. For one long year he’s carried on, But no more can he strive, Thus, losing hope he can’t hang on, To home he must now drive. A ship he sees on Jopa’s strand Its sails are fiercely swelling; It takes him back to his dear land Where his love is dwelling. At his beloved’s castle gate He finds himself once more, But ah! will this wonderous fate Open her castle door? “The one you seek now wears the veil, Her vows are made to heaven; The celebrations we did hail Just yesterday at even.” From father’s castle he departs And this time forever, No more to touch a sword or darts, His beaver’s noble feather. Upon the solitary roads He voyages unseen, Sporting his black repentant robes, Casting a mournful sheen. He sets out to erect his shed Close to those monasteries Where over each hill are spread Those lovely linden trees. From when the morning rays first race Until at night they’ve flown, Hope gently paints his youthful face As he sits there alone. He gazes on the convent there, There he looks on for hours. Through the window he will stare In hope of starry showers, In hope those twinkling eyes appear, In hope of that fair face, Ascending from that valley dear, That look of angel-grace. He happily lies himself down And finally takes his rest, For joyfully again tomorrow, Once more to make his test. And so he sits for many a day Sitting for many years, Until he sees that morning gay When her sweet face appears. In hope those twinkling eyes appear, In hope of that fair face, Ascending from that valley dear, That look of angel-grace. And so he lies, a corpse all pale, Still many mornings there, Towards that window now so frail, With cold and silent stare.

Translation © David B. Gosselin

IllusTration by Arthur von Ramberg for the Prachtausgabe 1859

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