A knight (Sir Huldbrand) stands in a mountain stream and holds a water nymph against his body with his left arm. Her arms are wrapped around his neck. The knight wears a plumed helmet, carries a sword at his side, and holds a walking staff. His cape flies in the wind behind him. The knight and the nymph look toward an old bearded man—the nymph’s foster-father—who stands on the ground beside the water. He approaches them with his arms held out in front of his body. Behind him, the strange and wide-eyed face of a hermit peeks out from among the shadows. Full-page illustration.


Versification of Part of De La Motte Fouqué’s Ro-
mance, in Illustration of a Painting by M. Retzsch,
in the Collection of His Serene Highness Prince

In the bright dawning of a summer morn,1
Ere yet the lark had left its dewy nest,2
A noble knight, on milk-white courser borne,3
To an enchanted wood his course addrest :4
Bright was his eye, and his whole mien exprest5
Aquaintance with the lance, the helm, and sword ;6
A soldier from the stirrup to the crest,7
Yet fitted well for hall or festal board :8
Sir Huldbrand was he styl’d—Ringstetten’s youthful
Amidst the leaves from morn till noon he rode,10
When sounds unearthly murmur’d on his ear,11
And phantom shapes, of wild and evil bode,12
Amongst the haunted boughs began to peer ;13
Whereat the steed, oppress’d with sudden fear,14
Across the forest with his rider flew ;15
And soon had made a deep abyss his bier,16
But that a hermit old, all white of hue,17
His palely-mantled form athwart the pathway threw.18
Check’d in the moment of his fellest ire,19
The steed, as touch’d by an enchanter’s wand,20
Grew still as stone, with eyes of living fire,21
And breath that roll’d like smoke along the land,22
Whilst his proud neck, like bow in archer’s hand.23
Was by his tow’ring rider strongly bent,24
Who in his heart could scarce a fear withstand,25
When the old hermit’s form seem’d strangely blent26
With a wild mountain-stream that thro’ the forest went.27
Yet, ne’er the less the adventurous knight spurr’d on,28
Albeit the angry waves, with deafening roar,29
Would rise in nodding piles, and then anon30
Assail him with their foam for evermore ;31
Till, at the last, of reason nigh forlore32
And wildly flying over bosk and brake,33
He reach’d, at close of day, a cottage door,34
O’erhung with many a rich and fragrant flake35
Of hawthorn boughs that dipp’d into a silv’ry lake ;36
Where in a nook of blossoms he espied37
An aged sire, low seated on the ground,38
Mending his nets in the cool eventide,39
With whom he rest and shelter gladly found40
But soon new wonders rose; for whilst the sound41
Of water dash’d against the ivied pane,42
There came a blue-eyed nymph, with hair unbound,43
And song as sweet as linnet’s after rain,44
Who playfully approach’d, and knelt before the twain.45
Meanwhile, with courteous words, in accents mild,46
The aged sire besought his noble guest47
To pardon this his wilful foster-child,48
Whom, whilst reproachfully he then addrest,49
The untutor’d girl, like dove that seeks its nest,50
Close to the wond’ring stranger trembling clung ;51
And, while her golden locks droop’d o’er his breast,52
With looks of innocence, and artless tongue,53
Inquired if from the wood, or whence, the traveller
sprung ?
But ere her question gain’d the knight’s reply,55
Her sire with angry chidings interposed,56
And, as a vision from the awakening eye,57
So fled the maid who at his knee reposed ;58
Fast they pursued, but darkness round them closed,59
And nought gave answer to their eager cries,60
Save the loud winds, and waters that uproused61
Their foamy crests against the ebon skies,62
Beneath whose sable pall the enchanted wood did rise.63
Amidst the crashing boughs the well-known stream64
Roll’d like a mighty river, in whose wave65
The knight, when plunged, beheld, as in a dream,66
Upon isle the form he sought to save,67
And heard that voice of music softly crave,68
That of the hermit old he would beware ;69
Whereat, with heart a thousand times more brave,70
He stemm’d the flood, and, with a lover’s care,71
In safety o’er its tide the youthful maiden bare.72
Weeping with joy, the aged father threw73
His arms across the brook to clasp his child,74
With whom as to the shore Sir Huldbrand drew,75
At every step the waves appear’d less wild,76
And through the boughs the hermit grimly smiled,77
As in approval of the passing scene :78
Whilst now, of every care and fear beguiled,79
And joyful as if sorrow ne’er had been,80
The knight to her old sire restored the young Undine.81