The Marble Statue by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff tr by Michael Haldane.pdf

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The Marble Statue
By Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff
Translated by Michael Haldane
On a fine summer’s evening Florio, a young nobleman, was riding
slowly towards the gates of Lucca, enjoying both the delicate fragrance that
shimmered over the beautiful landscape and the towers and roofs of the city
before him, and the colourful procession of spruce ladies and gentleman
which strolled in a merry throng down the avenues of chestnut-trees along
both sides of the street.
Then another rider, heading in the same direction on a dainty palfrey,
and wearing brightly-coloured clothes, with a golden chain around his neck
and a velvet cap with feathers over his dark-brown locks, trotted up to his
side with a friendly greeting. Riding side by side into the darkling evening,
the two entered into conversation in no time at all; and the youthful Florio
found the stranger’s slim figure, his cheerful, jaunty manner, even his merry
voice, so extremely charming that he could not take his eyes off him.
“What business brings you to Lucca?” the stranger at last inquired.
“Actually, I have no business at all,” Florio answered with a touch of
“No business at all? – Well, then you must be a poet!” the other said
with a merry laugh.
“Not exactly that,” replied Florio, turning red all over.
“I have,
admittedly, occasionally tried my hand at the happy art of song; but ever
since I read the great old Masters, and found all my secret wishes and
presentiments there, really there, with flesh and breath, then I have seemed
to myself to be a weak little lark’s voice, blown away in the wind beneath
the vast vault of Heaven.”
“Everyone sings his own hymn to God,” said the stranger, “and a
chorus of voices makes the spring.” And his large, intelligent eyes rested
with visible pleasure on the handsome youth, who looked out before him
with such innocence into the duskening world.
“I have now chosen to travel,” the latter continued in a bolder and
more familiar tone, “and I find myself as though delivered from prison; all
my old wishes and joys have now, all at once, been set free. Having grown
up in seclusion in the country, for how long have I fixed a yearning gaze on
the distant blue mountains when Spring passed through our garden like an
enchanting minstrel, singing of the wondrous beauty of distant lands and of
great, immeasurable joy.”
At these last words the stranger had sunk into deep thought. “Have
you ever heard,” he remarked absent-mindedly, yet in deadly earnest, “about
the miraculous minstrel whose tune enticed the youths into a magic
mountain, from which none of them has returned? Be on your guard!”
Florio did not know what to make of the stranger’s words, nor was he
able to question him; for just at that moment, having followed the procession
of strollers unnoticed, they had arrived, not at the gates, but in a broad,
grassy square, where a merrily resounding realm of music, many-hued
palfreys, riders, and strollers, was shimmering back and forth in the fading
flush of evening.
“This is a good place to stay,” said the stranger cheerfully, swinging
himself down off his palfrey, “see you soon!” And with this he quickly
disappeared into the throng.
Florio stood still for a moment in joyous amazement before the
unexpected prospect. Then he followed his companion’s example, leaving
his horse with his servant and mingling with the lively swarm.
Concealed choirs sent out music from the blooming bushes on all
sides; demure ladies walked up and down under the tall trees, surveying the
radiant meadow with beautiful eyes, laughing and chatting, their colourful
feathers nodding in the mild, golden evening like a flowerbed swaying in the
wind. On a bright green plain, several girls were amusing themselves with
ball games. The multicoloured, feathered balls fluttered like butterflies,
describing dazzling arcs through the blue air; while the girlish forms, gliding
up and down at the bottom of the garden, presented the most delightful
spectacle. One in particular, with her dainty, almost childlike figure, and the
grace of her every movement, attracted Florio’s gaze. She wore a thick,
gaily coloured floral wreath in her hair, and she looked just like a merry
picture of spring as she now flew over the turf, now bent forward, now
reached up into the clear air with her graceful limbs, moving with such
exceeding vivacity. As a result of an error on her opponent’s part, her
shuttlecock flew off in the wrong direction and fluttered down directly in
front of Florio. He picked it up and presented it to the garlanded girl as she
came running up in pursuit. She stood, almost frightened, before him,
observing him in silence with beautiful large eyes.
Then she bowed,
blushing, and hurried back to her playmates. However, the great, sparkling
stream of carriages and riders, which was moving in slow magnificence
along the main avenue, claimed Florio’s attention away from that charming
game, and he wandered alone for a good hour among the eternally changing
“There is the singer Fortunato!” he suddenly heard several ladies and
cavaliers at his side cry out. Quickly following their pointing fingers, he
descried, to his great astonishment, the graceful stranger who had, only a
short while before, accompanied him to this place. Standing on the edge of
the meadow, leaning against a tree, he was in the centre of a dignified ring of
ladies and cavaliers who were listening to his song; from time to time a few
voices from the circle would sing a sweet reply. Among their number Florio
recognised the beautiful ball-player, who was gazing straight ahead with
eyes opened wide in silent joy at the melody.
It was with quite a start that Florio recalled how he had been chatting
so familiarly with the famous singer, whom he had long revered on account
of his reputation; and he remained shyly standing some distance away, also
listening to the delightful contest. He would willingly have stood there
throughout the night, for the strains winged towards him bearing such
encouragement; and he was really quite annoyed when Fortunato finished so
soon and the entire company rose from the lawn.
Then the songster espied Florio in the background and immediately
walked up to him. Cordially taking him by both hands, he led the dazed
youth, in spite of his protests, like a favourite prisoner towards the open
marquee nearby, where the company had now assembled and prepared a
cheerful supper. Everyone greeted him as if they were old acquaintances,
and many beautiful eyes rested in astonished joy on the young, blossoming
After a number of jocund conversations, everyone settled down at the
round table in the centre of the marquee. Refreshing fruits and wine in
brightly-cut glasses sparkled against the dazzling white table-cover; pretty
girls’ faces peeked out charmingly between the large bunches of flowers
which cast forth their scent from silver receptacles; outside, the last lights of
evening played in beams of gold on the lawn and the river sliding along as
smooth as glass before the marquee. Florio had, almost involuntarily, sat
down beside the pretty little ball-player. She recognised him at once and sat
there shy and silent; but her long, timorous eyelashes kept but a poor guard
over her dark, ardent glances.
It had been arranged that every man would take his turn at toasting his
sweetheart with a short, improvised ditty. The light songs, merely flitting
like a spring breeze over the surface of life, without immersing life in their
depths, made a merry stir with the ring of happy faces around the table.
Florio was delighted in his innermost being; all dull apprehension had been
removed from his soul, and with an almost dreamy silence of joyous
thoughts he looked out before him, between the lights and the flowers, into
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