Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Lenore. by G. A. Burger
Author: DGR
Date of Composition: 1844
Type of Manuscript: fair copy holograph
Scribe: DGR

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Bürger's “Lenore”

(from the German)


Gabriel Charles Rossetti

(aged 16.)

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Bürger's “Lenore”

* * I have retained the German version

of the heroine's name; thinking it more

suited to the metre than the lengthy En-

glish word, “Leonora,” - and by far less

unpleasing to the ear than the stunted

and ugly abbreviation, “Leonor.”


  • Up rose Lenore as the red morn wore
  • From weary visions starting;
  • “Art faithless, William, or, William,
  • art dead?
  • 'Tis long since thy departing.”
  • For he, with Frederick's men of might,
  • In fair Prague waged the uncertain fight;
  • Nor once had he writ in the hurry of war,
  • And sad was the true heart that sick-
  • -ened afar.
  • The Empress and the King,
  • 10With ceaseless quarrel tired,
  • At length relaxed the stubborn hate
  • Which rivalry inspired:
  • And the martial throng, with laugh
  • and song,
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  • Spoke of their homes as they rode along,
  • And clank, clank, clank! came every
  • rank,
  • With the trumpet-sound that rose
  • and sank.
  • And here and there and everywhere,
  • Along the swarming ways,
  • Went old man and boy, with the
  • music of joy,
  • 20On the gallant bands to gaze;
  • And the young child shouted to spy
  • the vaward,
  • And trembling and blushing the
  • bride pressed forward:
  • But ah! for the sweet lips of Lenore
  • The kiss and the greeting are vanished
  • and o'er.
  • From man to man all wildly she
  • ran,
  • With a swift and searching eye;
  • But she felt alone in the mighty
  • mass,
  • As it crushed and crowded by:
  • On hurried the troop, —a gladsome group,—
  • 30And proudly the tall plumes wave and droop:
  • She tore her hair and she turned her round,
  • And madly she dashed her against the
  • ground.
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  • Her mother clasped her tenderly,
  • With soothing words and mild:
  • “My child, may God look down on thee,—
  • God comfort thee, my child.”
  • “Oh! mother, mother! gone is gone!
  • I reck no more how the world runs on:
  • What pity to me does God impart?
  • 40Woe, woe, woe! for my heavy heart!”
  • “Help, Heaven, help and favour her!
  • Child, utter an Ave Marie!
  • Wise and great are the doings of God;
  • He loves and pities thee.”
  • “Out, mother, out, on the empty lie!
  • Doth he heed my despair, —doth he list
  • to my cry?
  • What boots it now to hope or to pray?
  • The night is come,— there is no more
  • day.”
  • “Help, Heaven, help! who knows the
  • Father
  • 50Knows surely that he loves his child:
  • The bread and the wine from the hand
  • divine
  • Shall make thy tempered grief less
  • wild.”
  • “Oh! mother, dear mother! the wine
  • and the bread
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  • Will not soften the anguish that bows
  • down my head;
  • For bread and for wine it will yet be
  • as late
  • That his cold corpse creeps from the
  • grim grave's gate.”
  • “What if the traitor's false faith failed,
  • By sweet temptation tried,—
  • What if in distant Hungary
  • 60He clasp another bride?—
  • Despise the fickle fool, my girl,
  • Who hath ta'en the pebble and spurned
  • the pearl:
  • While soul and body shall hold
  • together
  • In his perjured heart shall be stormy
  • weather.”
  • “Oh! mother, mother! gone is gone,
  • And lost will still be lost!
  • Death, death is the goal of my weary
  • soul,
  • Crushed and broken and crost.
  • Spark of my life! down, down to the tomb:
  • 70Die away in the night, die away in the gloom!
  • What pity to me does God impart?
  • Woe, woe, woe! for my heavy heart!”
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  • “Help, Heaven, help, and heed her not,
  • For her sorrows are strong within;
  • She knows not the words that her tongue
  • repeats,—
  • Oh! count them not for sin!
  • Cease, cease, my child, thy wretchedness,
  • And think on the promised happiness;
  • So shall thy mind's calm ecstasy
  • 80Be a hope and a home and a bridegroom
  • to thee.”
  • “My mother, what is happiness?
  • My mother, what is Hell?
  • With William is my happiness,—
  • Without him is my Hell!
  • Spark of my life! down, down to the tomb:
  • Die away in the night, die away in the gloom!
  • Earth and Heaven, and Heaven and earth,
  • Reft of William are nothing worth.”
  • Thus grief racked and tore the breast of Lenore,
  • 90And was busy at her brain;
  • Thus rose her cry to the Power on high,
  • To question and arraign:
  • Wringing her hands and beating her breast,—
  • Tossing and rocking without any rest;—
  • Till from her light veil the moon shone
  • thro',
  • And the stars leapt out on the dark-
  • -ling blue.
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  • But hark to the clatter and the pat pat patter!
  • Of a horse's heavy hoof!
  • How the steel clanks and rings as the
  • rider springs!
  • 100How the echo shouts aloof!
  • While slightly and lightly the gentle bell
  • Tingles and jingles softly and well;
  • And low and clear through the door
  • plank thin
  • Comes the voice without to the ear
  • within:
  • “Holla! holla! unlock the gate;
  • Art waking, my bride, or sleeping?
  • Is thy heart still free and faith-
  • -ful to me?
  • Art laughing, my bride, or weeping?”
  • “Oh! wearily, William, I've waited for
  • you,—
  • 110Woefully watching all the long day thro',—
  • With a great sorrow sorrowing
  • For the cruelty of your tarrying."
  • “Till the dead midnight we saddled not,—
  • I have journeyed far and fast—
  • And hither I come to carry thee back
  • Ere the darkness shall be past.”
  • “Ah! rest thee within till the night's more
  • calm;
  • Smooth shall thy couch be, and soft, and
  • warm:
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  • Hark to the winds, how they whistle and
  • rush
  • 120Thro' the twisted twine of the hawthorn-
  • bush.“
  • “Thro' the hawthorn-bush let whistle
  • and rush,—
  • Let whistle, child, let whistle!
  • Mark the flash fierce and high of my
  • steed's bright eye,
  • And his proud crest's eager bristle.
  • Up, up and away! I must-not-stay:
  • Mount swiftly behind me! up, up and
  • away!
  • An hundred miles must be ridden and
  • sped
  • Ere we may lie down in the bridal-bed.”
  • “What! ride an hundred miles to-night,
  • 130By thy mad fancies driven!
  • Dost hear the bell with its sullen swell,
  • As it rumbles out eleven?”
  • “Look forth! look forth! the moon shines
  • bright:
  • We and the dead gallop fast thro' the night.
  • 'Tis for a wager I bear thee away
  • To the nuptial couch ere break of day.”
  • “Ah! where is the chamber, William dear,
  • And William, where is the bed?”
  • “Far, far from here: still, narrow,
  • and cool;
  • 140Plank and bottom and lid.”
  • “Hast room for me?”-- “For me and thee;
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  • Up, up to the saddle right speedily!
  • The wedding-guests are gathered and met,
  • And the door of the chamber is open set.”
  • She busked her well, and into the selle
  • She sprang with nimble haste,—
  • And gently smiling with a quick be-
  • -guiling,
  • Her white hands clasped his waist:—
  • And hurry, hurry! ring, ring, ring!
  • 150To and fro they sway and swing;
  • Snorting and snuffing they skim the ground,
  • And the sparks spurt up, and the stones
  • run round.
  • Here to the right and there to left
  • Flew fields of corn and clover,
  • And the bridges flashed by to the dazzled eye,
  • As rattling they thundered over.
  • “What ails my love? the moon shines bright:
  • Bravely the dead men ride through the night.
  • Is my love afraid of the quiet dead?”
  • 160“Ah! no;—let them sleep in their dusty
  • bed!”
  • On the breeze cool and soft what tune floats
  • aloft,
  • While the crows wheel overhead?—
  • Ding dong! ding dong! 'tis the sound, 'tis
  • the song,—
  • “Room, room for the passing dead!”
  • Slowly the funeral-train drew near,
  • Bearing the coffin, bearing the bier;
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  • And the chime of the chaunt was hiss-
  • -sing and harsh,
  • Like the note of the bull-frog within the
  • marsh.
  • “You bury your corpse at the dark mid-
  • -night,
  • 170With hymns and bells and wailing;—
  • But I bring home my youthful wife
  • To a bride-feast's rich regaling.
  • Come, chorister, come with thy choral throng,
  • And solemnly sing me a marriage-song;
  • Come, friar come,— let the blessing be spoken,
  • That the bride and the bridegroom's sweet-
  • rest be unbroken.”
  • Died the dirge and vanished the bier:—
  • Obedient to his call,
  • Hard hard behind, with a rush like the wind,
  • 180Came the long steps' pattering fall:
  • And ever further! ring, ring, ring!
  • To and fro they sway and swing;
  • Snorting and snuffing they skim the ground,
  • And the sparks spurt up, and the stones
  • run round.
  • How flew to the right, how flew to the left,
  • Trees, mountains in the race!
  • How to the left, and the right and the
  • left
  • Flew town and market-place!
  • “What ails my love? the moon shines
  • bright:
  • 190Bravely the dead men ride thro' the night.
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  • Is my love afraid of the quiet dead?”
  • “Ah! let them alone in their dusty bed!”
  • See, see, see! by the gallows-tree,
  • As they dance on the wheels' broad hoop,
  • Up and down in the gleam of the moon
  • Half lost, an airy group:—
  • “Ho! ho! mad mob, come hither amain,
  • And join in the wake of my rushing train;—
  • Come, dance me a dance, ye dancers thin,
  • 200Ere the planks of the marriage-bed close
  • us in.”
  • And hush, hush, hush! the dreamy rout
  • Came close with a ghastly bustle
  • Like the whirlwind in the hazel-bush,
  • When it makes the dry leaves rustle:
  • And faster, faster! ring, ring, ring!
  • To and fro they sway and swing!
  • Snorting and snuffing they skim the ground,
  • And the sparks spurt-up, and the stones
  • run round.
  • How flew the moon high overhead,
  • 210In the wild race madly driven!
  • In and out, how the stars danced about,
  • And reeled o'er the flashing heaven!
  • “What ails my love! the moon shines
  • bright:
  • Bravely the dead men ride thro' the night.
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  • Is my love afraid of the quiet dead?”
  • “Alas! let them sleep in their dusty bed.”
  • “Horse, Horse! meseems 'tis the cock's shrill
  • note,
  • And the sand is well nigh spent;
  • Horse, horse, away! 'tis the break of day,—
  • 220'Tis the morning air's sweet scent.
  • Finished, finished is our ride:
  • Room, room for the bridegroom and the
  • bride!
  • At last, at last we have reached the spot,
  • For the speed of the dead man has slack-
  • -ened not!”
  • And swiftly up to an iron gate
  • With reins relaxed they went;
  • At the rider's touch the bolts flew back,
  • And the bars were broken and bent;
  • The doors were burst with a deafening
  • knell,
  • 230And over the white graves they dashed
  • pell mell:
  • The tombs around looked grassy and grim,
  • As they glimmered and glanced in the moon-
  • -light dim.
  • But see! but see! in an eyelid's beat,
  • To whoo! a ghastly wonder!
  • The horseman's jerkin, piece by piece,
  • Dropped off like brittle tinder!
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  • Fleshless and hairless, a naked skull,
  • The sight of his weird head was horrible;
  • The lifelike mask was there no more,
  • 240And a scythe and a sandglass the skeleton
  • bore.
  • Loud snorted the horse as he plunged and
  • reared,
  • And the sparks were scattered round:—
  • What man shall say if he vanished away,
  • Or sank in the gaping ground?
  • Groans from the earth and shrieks in
  • the air!
  • Howling and wailing everywhere!
  • Half dead, half living, the soul of Lenore
  • Fought as it never had fought before.
  • The churchyard troop,— a ghostly group,—
  • 250Close round the dying girl;
  • Out and in they hurry and spin
  • Through the dance's weary whirl:
  • “Patience, patience, when the heart is
  • breaking;
  • With thy God there is no question-making:
  • Of thy body thou art quit and free:
  • Heaven keep thy soul eternally!”

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Manuscript Addition: Ricevuto nella meta di Giugno del 1844, qualche g[iorn]o dopo che l'amico, d'anni 16, o poco piu, fini di tradurle dal tedesco. / F. Mortara
Editorial Description: A typed translation of Mortara's note is attached to the Harvard MS; it reads: “Received in the middle of June 1844 a few days after my friend of 16 years, or a little more, had finished translating it from the German.

[Cavaliere] F. Mortara.”
Editorial Note: For Mortara see WMR, Family Letters 10: “'The Cavaliere' was the Cavalier Mortara, an exceedingly frequent visitor at our parents' house--the brother of a Conte Mortara, a bibliophile of some name”.
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