Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The thick fog of an early autumnal morning obscured the extensive courts which surrounded the prince's castle; but through the mists, which gradually dispersed, a stranger might observe a cavalcade of horse and foot, already engaged in their early preparations for the field. The active employments of the domestics were already discernible. These latter were engaged in lengthening and shortening stirrup-leathers, preparing the rifles and ammunition, and arranging the game-bags whilst the dogs, impatient of restraint, threatened to break away from the slips by which they were held. Then the horses became restive, from their own high mettle, or excited by the spur of the rider, who could not resist the temptation to make a vain display of his prowess, even in the obscurity by which he was surrounded. The cavalcade awaited the arrival of the prince, who was delayed too long while taking leave of his young wife.

Lately married, they thoroughly appreciated the happiness of their own congenial dispositions: both were lively and animated, and each shared with delight the pleasures and pursuits of the other. The prince's father had lived long enough to enjoy that period of life when one learns that all the members of a state should spend their time in diligent employments, and that every one should engage in some energetic occupation corresponding with his taste, and should by this means first acquire, and then enjoy, the fruits of his labour.

How far these maxims had proved successful might have been observed on this very day; for it was the anniversary of the great market in the town, a festival which might indeed be considered a species of fair. The prince had, on the previous day, conducted his wife on horseback through the busy scene, and had caused her to observe what a convenient exchange was carried on between the productions of the mountainous districts and those of the plain; and he took occasion then and there to direct her attention to the industrious character of his subjects.

But whilst the prince was entertaining himself and his courtiers almost exclusively with subjects of this nature, and was perpetually employed with his finance minister, his chief huntsman did not lose sight of his duty: and, upon his representation, it was impossible, during these favourable autumnal days, any longer to postpone the amusement of the chase; as the promised meeting had already been several times deferred, not only to his own mortification, but to that of many strangers who had arrived to take part in the sport.

The princess remained, reluctantly, at home. It had been determined to hunt over the distant mountains, and to disturb the peaceful inhabitants of the forests in those districts by an unexpected declaration of hostilities. Upon taking his departure, the prince recommended his wife to seek amusement in equestrian exercise, under the conduct of her uncle Frederick.

"And I commend you, moreover," he said, "to the care of our trusty Honorio, who will act as your esquire, and pay you every attention."

Saying this as he descended the stairs, and gave the needful instructions to a comely youth, the prince quickly disappeared amid the crowd of assembled guests and followers. The princess, who had continued waving her handkerchief to her husband as long as he remained in the courtyard, now retired to an apartment at the back of the castle, which showed an extensive prospect over the mountain; as the castle itself was situated on the brow of the hill, from which a view at once distant and varied opened in all directions.

She found the telescope in the spot where it had been left on the previous evening, when they had amused themselves in surveying the landscape, and the extent of mountain and forest amid which the lofty ruins of their ancestral castle were situated. It was a noble relic of ancient times, and shone out gloriously in the evening illumination. A grand but somewhat inadequate idea of its importance was conveyed by the large masses of light and shadow which now fell on it. Moreover, by the aid of the telescope, the autumnal foliage was seen to lend an indescribable charm - to the prospect, as it waved upon trees which had grown up amid the ruins, undisturbed, for a great many years.

But the princess soon turned the telescope in the direction of a dry and sandy plain beneath her, across which the hunting cavalcade was expected to bend its course. She patiently surveyed the spot, and was at length rewarded, as the clear magnifying power of the instrument enabled her delighted eyes to recognise the prince and his chief equerry. Upon this she once more waved her handkerchief as she observed or, rather, fancied she observed, a momentary pause in the advance of the procession.

Her uncle Frederick was now announced; and he entered the apartment, accompanied by an artist, bearing a large portfolio under his arm.

"Dear cousin," observed the vigorous old man, addressing her, "we have brought some sketches of the ancestral castle for your inspection, to show how the old walls and battlements were calculated to afford defence and protection during stormy seasons in years long passed; though they have tottered in some places, and in others have covered the plain with their ruins. Our efforts have been unceasing to render the place accessible, since few spots offer more beauty or sublimity to the eye of the astonished traveller."

The prince continued, as he opened the portfolio containing the different news, "Here, as you ascend the hollow way, through the outer fortifications, you meet the principal tower; and a rock forbids all farther progress. It is the firmest of the mountain range. A castle has been erected upon it, so constructed that it is difficult to say where the work of nature ceases and that of art begins. At a little distance side walls and buttresses have been raised, the whole forming a sort of terrace. The height is surrounded by a wood. For upwards of a century and a half no sound of an axe has been heard within these precincts, and giant trunks of trees appear on all sides. Close to the very walls spring the glossy maple, the rough oak, and the tall pine. They oppose our progress with their boughs and roots, and compel us to make a circuit to secure our advance. See how admirably our artist has sketched all this upon paper; how accurately he has represented the trees as they become entwined amid the masonry of the castle, and thrust their boughs through the opening in the walls. It is a solitude which possesses the indescribable charm of displaying the traces of human power, long since passed away, contending with perpetual and still reviving nature."

Opening a second picture, he continued his discourse, "What say you to this representation of the castle court, which has been rendered impassable for countless years by the falling of the principal tower? We endeavoured to approach it from the side, and, in order to form a convenient private road, were compelled to blow up the old walls and vaults with gunpowder. But there was no necessity for similar operations within the castle walls. Here is a flat, rocky surface which has been levelled by the hand of nature, through which, however, mighty trees have here and there been able to strike their roots. They have thriven well, and thrust their branches into the very galleries where the knights of old were wont to exercise, and have forced their way through doors and windows into vaulted halls, from which they are not likely now to be expelled, and whence we, at least, shall not remove them. They have become lords of the territory, and may remain so. Concealed beneath heaps of dried leaves, we found a perfectly level floor, which probably cannot be equalled in the world.

"In ascending the steps which lead to the chief tower, it is remarkable to observe, in addition to all we have mentioned above, how a maple-tree has taken root on high, and grown to a great size; so that, in ascending to the highest turret to enjoy the prospect, it is difficult to pass. And here you may refresh yourself beneath the shade; for, even at this elevation, the tree of which we speak throws its shadows over all around.

"We feel much indebted to the talented artist, who, in the course of several views, has brought thus the whole scenery as completely before us as if we had actually witnessed the original scene. He selected the most beautiful hours of the day, and the most favourable season of the year, for his task, to which he devoted many weeks. A small dwelling was erected for him and his assistant in the corner of the castle: you can scarcely imagine what a splendid view of the country, court, and ruins he there enjoyed. We intend these pictures to adorn our country-house; and every one who enjoys a view of our regular parterres, of our bowers and shady walks, will doubtless feel anxious to feed his imagination and his eyes with an actual inspection of these scenes, and so enjoy at once the old and new, the rigid and the unyielding, the indestructible and the young, the pliant and the irresistible."

Honorio now entered, and announced the arrival of the horses. The princess, thereupon, addressing her uncle, expressed a wish to ride up to the ruins, and examine personally the subjects he had so graphically described. "Ever since my arrival here," she said, "this excursion has been intended; and I shall be delighted to accomplish what has been declared almost impracticable, and what the pictures show to be so difficult."

"Not yet, my dear," replied the prince; "these pictures only portray what the place will become, but many difficulties impede a commencement of the work."

"But let us ride a little toward the mountain," she rejoined, "if only to the beginning of the ascent: I have a great desire to-day to enjoy an extensive prospect."

"Your desire shall be gratified," answered the prince.

"But we will first direct our course through the town," continued the lady, " and across the marketplace, where a countless number of booths wear the appearance of a small town or of an encampment. It seems as if all the wants and occupations of every family in the country were brought together and supplied in this one spot; for the attentive observer may here behold whatever man can produce or require. You would suppose that money was wholly unnecessary, and that business of every kind could be carried on by means of barter; and such, in fact, is the case. Since the prince directed my attention to this view yesterday, I have felt pleasure in observing the manner in which the inhabitants of the mountain and of the valley mutually comprehend each other, and how both so plainly speak their wants and their wishes in this place. The mountaineer, for example, has cut the timber of his forests into a thousand forms, and applied his iron to multifarious uses; while the inhabitant of the valley meets him with his various wares and merchandise, the very materials and object of which it is difficult to know or conjecture."

"I am aware," observed the prince, "that my nephew devotes his attention wholly to these subjects, for at this particular season of the year he receives more than he expends; and this, after all, is the object and end of every national financier, and, indeed, of the pettiest household economist. But excuse me, my dear, I never ride with any pleasure through the market or the fair; obstacles impede one at every step: and my imagination continually recurs to that dreadful calamity which happened before my own eyes, when I witnessed the conflagration of as large a collection of merchandise as is accumulated here. I had scarcely -"

"Let us not lose our time," said the princess, interrupting him, as her worthy uncle had more than once tortured her with a literal account of the very same misfortune. It had happened when he was upon a journey, and had retired, fatigued, to bed, in the best hotel of the town, which was situated in the marketplace. It was the season of the fair, and in the dead of the night he was awoke by screams and by the columns of fire which approached the hotel.

The princess hastened to mount her favourite palfrey, and led the way for her unwilling companion, when she rode through the front gate down the hill, in place of passing through the back gate up the mountain. But who could have felt unwilling to ride at her side, or to follow wherever she led? And even Honorio had gladly abandoned the pleasure of his favourite amusement, the chase, in order to officiate as her devoted attendant.

As we have before observed, they could only ride through the market step by step; but the amusing observations of the princess rendered every pause delightful.

"I must repeat my lesson of yesterday," she remarked, "for necessity will try our patience."

And, in truth, the crowd pressed upon them in such a manner that they could only continue their progress at a very slow pace. The people testified great joy at beholding the young princess, and the complete satisfaction of many a smiling face evinced the pleasure of the people at finding that the first lady in the land was at once the most lovely and the most gracious.

Promiscuously mingled together were rude mountaineers who inhabited quiet cottages amongst bleak rocks and towering pine-trees, lowlanders from the plains and meadows, and manufacturers from the neighbouring small towns. After quietly surveying the motley crowd, the princess remarked to her companion, that all the people she saw seemed to take delight in using more stuff for their garments than was necessary, whether it consisted of cloth, linen, ribbon, or trimming.

It seemed as if the wearers, both men and women, thought they would be better if they looked puffed out as much as possible.

"We must leave that matter to themselves," answered the uncle. "Every man must dispose of his superfluity as he pleases: well for those who spend it in mere ornament."

The princess nodded her assent.

They had now arrived at a wide, open square which led to one of the suburbs: they there perceived a number of small booths and stalls, and also a large wooden building whence a most discordant howling issued. It was the feeding-hour of the wild animals which were there enclosed for exhibition. The lion roared with that fearful voice with which he was accustomed to terrify both woods and wastes. The horses trembled, and no one could avoid observing how the monarch of the desert made himself terrible in the tranquil circles of civilised life. Approaching nearer, they remarked the tawdry, colossal pictures on which the beasts were painted in the brightest colours, intended to afford irresistible temptation to the busy citizen. The grim and fearful tiger was in the act of springing upon a negro to tear him to pieces. The lion stood in solemn majesty, as if he saw no worthy prey before him. Other wonderful creatures in the same group presented inferior attractions.

"Upon our return," said the princess, "we will alight, and take a nearer inspection of these rare creatures."

"Is it not extraordinary," replied the prince, "that man takes pleasure in fearful excitements? The tiger, for instance, is lying quietly enough within his cage; and yet here the brute must be painted in the act of springing fiercely on a negro, in order that the public may believe that the same scene is to be witnessed within. Do not murder and death, fire and desolation, sufficiently abound, but that every mountebank must repeat such horrors? The worthy people like to be alarmed, that they may afterward enjoy the delightful sensation of freedom and security."

But whatever feelings of terror such frightful representations might have inspired, they disappeared when they reached the gate and surveyed the cheerful prospects around. The road led down to a river, a narrow brook in truth, and only calculated to bear light skiffs, but destined afterward, when swelled into a wider stream, to take another name, and to water distant lands. They then bent their course farther through carefully cultivated fruit and pleasure gardens, in an orderly and populous neighbourhood, until first a copse and then a wood received them as guests, and delighted their eyes with a limited but charming landscape.

A green valley leading to the heights above, which had been lately mowed for the second time, and wore the appearance of velvet, having been copiously watered by a rich stream, now received them with a friendly welcome. They then bent their course to a higher and more open spot, which, upon issuing from the wood, they reached after a short ascent, and whence they obtained a distant view of the old castle, the object of their pilgrimage, which shone above the groups of trees, and assumed the appearance of a well-wooded rock. Behind them (for no one ever attained this height without turning to look round) they saw, through occasional openings in the lofty trees, the prince's castle on the left, illuminated by the morning sun; the higher portion of the town, obscured by a light, cloudy mist; and, on the right hand, the lower part, through which the river flowed in many windings, with its meadows and its mills; whilst straight before them the country extended in a wide, productive plain.

After they had satisfied their eyes with the landscape, or rather, as is often the case in surveying an extensive view from an eminence, when they had become desirous of a wider and less circumscribed prospect, they rode slowly along a broad and stony plain, where they saw the mighty ruin standing with its coronet of green, whilst its base was clad with trees of lesser height; and proceeding onward they encountered the steepest and most impassable side of the ascent. It was defended by enormous rocks, which had endured for ages: proof against the ravages of time, they were fast rooted in the earth, and towered aloft. One part of the castle had fallen, and lay in huge fragments irregularly massed, and seemed to act as an insurmountable barrier, the mere attempt to overcome which is a delight to youth: as supple limbs ever find it a pleasure to undertake, to combat, and to conquer. The princess seemed disposed to make the attempt; Honorio was at hand; her princely uncle assented, unwilling to acknowledge his want of agility. The horses were directed to wait for them under the trees; and it was intended they should make for a certain point where a large rock had been rendered smooth, and from which a prospect was beheld, which, though of the nature of a bird's-eye view, was sufficiently picturesque.

It was mid-day: the sun had attained its highest altitude, and shed its clearest rays around; the princely castle, in all its parts, battlements, wings, cupolas, and towers, presented a glorious appearance. The upper part of the town was seen in its full extent: the eye could even penetrate into parts of the lower town, and, with the assistance of the telescope, distinguish the market-place, and even the very booths. It was Honorio's invariable custom to sling this indispensable instrument to his side. They took a view of the river in its course and its descent, and of the sloping plain, and of the luxuriant country with its gentle undulations and then of the numerous villages, for it had been from time immemorial a subject of contention, how many could be counted from this spot.

Over the wide plain there reigned a calm stillness such as is accustomed to rule at mid-day, - an hour when, according to classical phraseology, the god Pan sleeps, and all nature is breathless, that his repose may be undisturbed.

"It is not the first time," observed the princess, "that standing upon an eminence which presents a wide extended view, I have thought how pure and peaceful is the look of holy Nature; and the impression comes upon me, that the world beneath must be free from strife and care: but returning to the dwellings of man, be they the cottage or the palace, be they roomy or circumscribed, we find that there is, in truth, ever something to subdue, to struggle with, to quiet and allay."

Honorio, in the meantime, had directed the telescope toward the town, and now exclaimed, "Look, look! the town is on fire in the market-place."

They looked, and saw some smoke; but the glare of daylight eclipsed the flames.

"The fire increases!" they exclaimed, still looking through the instrument. The princess saw the calamity with the naked eye: from time to time they perceived a red flame ascending amid the smoke.

Her uncle at length exclaimed, "Let us return: it is calamitous! I have always feared the recurrence of such a misfortune."

They descended; and, having reached the horses, the princess thus addressed her old relative: "Ride forward, sir, hastily, with your attendant, but leave Honorio with me, and we will follow."

Her uncle perceived the prudence and utility of this advice, and, riding on as quickly as the nature of the ground would allow, descended to the open plain.

The princess mounted her steed, upon which Honorio addressed her thus: "I pray your Highness to ride slowly; the fire-engines are in the best order, both in the town and in the castle; there can surely be no mistake or error, even in so unexpected an emergency. Here, however, the way is dangerous, and riding is insecure, from the small stones and the smooth grass; and, in addition, the fire will no doubt be extinguished before we reach the town."

But the princess indulged in no such hope: she saw the smoke ascend, and thought she perceived a flash of lightning and heard a thunder-clap; and her mind was filled with the frightful pictures of the conflagration her uncle's oft-repeated narrative had impressed on her.

That calamity had indeed been dreadful, sudden, and impressive enough to make one apprehensive for the repetition of a like misfortune. At midnight a fearful fire had broken out in the market-place, which was filled with booths and stalls, before the occupants of those temporary habitations had been roused from their profound dreams. The prince himself, after a weary day's journey, had retired to rest, but, rushing to the window, perceived with dismay the flames which raged around on every side, and approached the spot where he stood. The houses of the market-place, crimsoned with the reflection, appeared already to burn, and threatened every instant to burst out into a general conflagration. The fierce element raged irresistibly; the beams and rafters crackled; whilst countless pieces of consumed linen flew aloft, and the burnt and shapeless rags sported in the air and looked like foul demons revelling in their congenial element.

With loud cries of distress, each individual endeavoured to rescue what he could from the flames. Servants and assistants vied with their masters in their efforts to save the huge bales of goods already half consumed, to tear what still remained uninjured from the burning stalls, and to pack it away in chests; although they were even then compelled to abandon their labours, and leave the whole to fall a prey to the conflagration. How many wished that the raging blaze would allow but a single moment's respite, and, pausing to consider the possibility of such a mercy, fell victims to their brief hesitation. Many buildings burned on one side, while the other side lay in obscure darkness. A few determined, self-willed characters bent themselves obstinately to the task of saving something from the flames, and suffered for their heroism. The whole scene of misery and devastation was renewed in the mind of the beautiful princess: her countenance was clouded, which had beamed so radiantly in the early morning; her eyes had lost their lustre; and even the beautiful woods and meadows around now looked sad and mournful.

Riding onward, she entered the sweet valley, but felt uncheered by the refreshing coolness of the place. She had, however, not advanced far, before she observed an unusual appearance in the copse near the meadow where the sparkling brook which flowed through the adjacent country took its rise. She at once recognised a tiger crouched in the attitude to spring, as she had seen him represented in the painting. The impression was fearful.

"Flee! gracious lady," cried Honorio, "flee at once!"

She turned her horse to mount the steep hill she had just descended: but her young attendant drew his pistol, and, approaching the monster, fired; unfortunately he missed his mark, the tiger leaped aside, the horse started, and the terrified beast pursued his course and followed the princess. The latter urged her horse up the steep, stony acclivity, forgetting for a moment that the pampered animal she rode was unused to such exertions; but, urged by his impetuous rider, the spirited steed made a new effort, till at length, stumbling at an inequality of the ground, after many attempts to recover his footing, he fell exhausted to the ground. The princess released herself from the saddle with great expertness and presence of mind, and brought her horse again to its feet. The tiger was in pursuit at a slow pace. The uneven ground and sharp stones appeared to retard his progress; though, as Honorio approached, his speed and strength seemed to be renewed.

They now came nearer to the spot where the princess stood by her horse; and Honorio, bending down, discharged a second pistol. This time he was successful, and shot the monster through the head. The animal fell, and, as he lay stretched upon the ground at full length, gave evidence of that might and terror which was now reduced to a lifeless form.

Honorio had leaped from his horse, and was now kneeling on the body of the huge brute. He had already put an end to his struggles with the hunting-knife which gleamed within his grasp. He looked even more handsome and active than the princess had ever seen him in list or tournament. Thus had he oftentimes driven his bullet through the head of the Turk in the riding-school, piercing his forehead under the turban, and, carried onward by his rapid courser, had oftentimes struck the Moor's head to the ground with his shining sabre. In all such knightly feats he was dexterous and successful, and here he had found an opportunity for putting his skill to the test.

"Dispatch him quickly," said the princess, faintly: "I fear he may injure you with his claws."

"There is no danger," answered the youth; "he is dead enough: and I do not wish to spoil his skin, - it shall ornament your sledge next winter."

"Do not jest at such a time," continued the princess: "such a moment calls forth every feeling of devotion that can fill the heart."

"And I never felt more devout than now," added Honorio, "and therefore are my thoughts cheerful: I only consider how this creature's skin may serve your pleasure."

"It would too often remind me of this dreadful moment," she replied.

"And yet," answered the youth, with burning cheek, "this triumph is more innocent than that in which the arms of the defeated are borne in proud procession before the conqueror."

"I shall never forget your courage and skill," rejoined the princess; "and let me add that you may, during your whole life, command the gratitude and favour of the prince. But rise, - the monster is dead: rise, I say; and let us think what next is to be done."

"Since I find myself now kneeling before you," replied Honorio, "let me be assured of a grace, of a favour, which you can bestow upon me. I have oftentimes implored your princely husband for permission to set out upon my travels. He who dares aspire to the good fortune of becoming your guest should have seen the world. Travellers flock hither from all quarters, and when the conversation turns on some town, or on some peculiar part of the globe, your guests are asked if they have never seen the same. No one can expect confidence who has not seen everything. We must instruct ourselves for the benefit of others."

"Rise! " repeated the princess: "I can never consent to desire or request anything contrary to the wish of my husband; but, if I mistake not, the cause of your detention here has already been removed. It was the wish of your prince to mark how your character would ripen, and prove worthy of an independent nobleman, who might one day be to both himself and his sovereign as great an honour abroad as had hitherto been the case here at court; and I doubt not that your present deed of bravery will prove as good a passport as any youth can carry with him through the world."

The princess had scarcely time to mark, that, instead of an expression of youthful delight, a shade of grief now darkened his countenance; and he could scarcely display his emotion, before a woman approached, climbing the mountain hastily, and leading a boy by the hand. Honorio had just risen from his kneeling posture, and seemed lost in thought, when the woman advanced with piercing cries, and immediately flung herself upon the lifeless body of the tiger. Her conduct, no less than her gaudy and peculiar attire, bore evidence that she was the owner and attendant of the animal. The boy, by whom she was accompanied, was remarkable for his sparkling eyes and jet-black hair. He carried a flute in his hand, and joined his tears to those of his mother; whilst, with a more calm but deep-felt sorrow than she displayed, he knelt quietly at her side.

The violent expression of this wretched woman's grief was succeeded by a torrent of expostulations, which rushed from her in broken sentences, reminding one of a mountain stream whose course is interrupted by impeding rocks. Her natural expressions, short and abrupt, were forcible and pathetic: vain would be the endeavor to translate them into our idiom; we must be satisfied with their general meaning:

"They have murdered thee, poor animal, murdered thee without cause! Tamely thou wouldst have lain down to await our arrival; for thy feet pained thee, and thy claws were powerless. Thou didst lack thy burning native sun to bring thee to maturity. Thou wert the most beautiful animal of thy kind! Whoever beheld a more noble royal tiger stretched out to sleep, than thou art as thou liest here, never to rise again? When in the morning thou awokest at the earliest dawn of day opening thy wide jaws, and stretching out thy ruddy tongue, thou seemedst to us to smile, and even when a growl burst from thee, still didst thou ever playfully take thy food from the hand of a woman, or from the fingers of a child. Long did we accompany thee in thy travels, and long was thy society to us as indispensable as profitable. To us, in very truth, did food come from the ravenous, and sweet refreshment from the strong. But alas, alas! this can never be again!"

She had not quite ended her lamentations, when a troop of horsemen was observed riding in a body over the heights which led from the castle. They were soon recognised as the hunting cavalcade of the prince, and he himself was at their head. Riding amongst the distant hills, they had observed the dark columns of smoke which obscured the atmosphere; and pushing on over hill and dale, as if in the heat of the chase, they had followed the course indicated by the smoke, which served them as a guide. Rushing forward, regardless of every obstacle, they had come by surprise upon the astonished group, who presented a remarkable appearance in the opening of the hills.

Their mutual recognition produced a general surprise; and, after a short pause, a few words of explanation cleared up the apparent mystery. The prince heard with astonishment the extraordinary occurrence as he stood surrounded by the crowd of attendants on foot and on horseback. There seemed no doubt about the necessary course. Orders and commands were at once issued by the prince. A stranger now forced his way forward, and appeared within the circle. He was tall in figure, and attired as gaudily as the woman and her child. The members of the family recognised each other with mutual surprise and pain.

But the man, collecting himself, stood at a respectful distance from the prince, and addressed him thus: "This is not a moment for complaining. My lord and mighty master, the lion has also escaped, and is concealed somewhere here in the mountain; but spare him, I implore you! Have mercy upon him, that he may not perish like this poor animal!"

"The lion escaped!" exclaimed the prince. "Have you found his track? "

"Yes, sir. A peasant in the valley, who needlessly took refuge in a tree, pointed to the direction he had taken, - this is the way, to the left; but, perceiving a crowd of men and horses before me, I became curious to know the occasion of their assembling, and hastened forward to obtain help."

"Well," said the prince, "the chase must begin in this direction. Load your rifles, go deliberately to work: no misfortune can happen, if you but drive him into the thick woods below us. But in truth, worthy man, we can scarcely spare your favourite: why were you negligent enough to let him escape? "

"The fire broke out," replied the other, "and we remained quiet and prepared: it quickly spread round, but raged at a distance from us. We were provided with water in abundance; but suddenly an explosion of gunpowder took place, and the conflagration immediately extended to us and beyond us. We were too precipitate and are now reduced to ruin."

The prince was still engaged in issuing his orders, and there was general silence for a moment, when a man was observed flying, rather than running, down from the castle. He was quickly recognised as the watchman of the artist's studio, whose business it was to occupy the dwelling and look after the workmen.

Breathless he advanced, and a few words served to announce the nature of his business: "The lion had taken refuge on the heights, and had lain down in the sunshine behind the lofty walls of the castle. He was reposing at the foot of an old tree in perfect tranquillity. But," continued the man in a tone of bitter complaint, "unfortunately, I took my ride to the town yesterday, to have it repaired, or the animal had never risen again: his skin, at least, would have been mine; and I had worn it in triumph all my life."

The prince, whose military experience had often served him in time of need, - for he had frequently been in situations where unavoidable danger pressed on every side, - observed, in reply to the man, "What pledge can you give, that, if we spare your lion, he will do no mischief in the country? "

"My wife and child," answered the father hastily, "will quiet him and lead him peacefully along, until I repair his shattered cage; and then we shall keep him harmless and uninjured."

The child seemed to be looking for his flute. It was that species of instrument which is sometimes called the soft, sweet flute, short in the mouthpiece, like a pipe. Those who understood the art of using it could draw from it the most delicious tones. In the meantime, the prince inquired of the keeper by which path the lion had ascended the mountain.

"Through the low road," replied the latter: "it is walled in on both sides, has long been the only passage, and shall continue so. Two foot-paths originally led to the same point; but we destroyed them, that there might remain but one way to that castle of enchantment and beauty which is to be formed by the taste and talent of Prince Frederick."

After a thoughtful pause, during which the prince stood contemplating the child, who continued playing softly on his flute, the former turned toward Honorio, and said: "Thou hast this day performed a great deal: finish the task you have begun. Occupy the narrow road of which we have heard; hold your rifle ready, but do not shoot if you think it likely that the lion may be driven back; but, under any circumstances, kindle a fire, that he may be afraid to descend in this direction. The man and his wife must answer for the consequences."

Honorio proceeded without delay to execute the orders he had received.

The child went on with his tune, which was not exactly a melody: but a mere succession of notes followed, without any precise order or artistic arrangement; yet, perhaps for this very reason, the effect seemed replete with enchantment. Every one was delighted with the simple music; when the father, full of a noble enthusiasm, addressed the assembled spectators thus: "God has bestowed the gift of wisdom upon the prince, and the power of seeing that all divine works are good, each after its kind. Behold how the rocks stand firm and motionless, proof against the effects of sun and storm. Their summits are crowned with ancient trees; and, elated with the pride of their ornaments, they look round boldly far and wide. But, should a part become detached, it no longer appears as before: it breaks into a thousand pieces, and covers the side of the declivity. But even there the pieces find no resting-place: they pursue their course downward, till the brook receives them, and carries them onward to the river. Thence, unresisting and submissive, their sharp angles having become rounded and smooth, they are borne along with greater velocity from stream to stream, till they finally attain the ocean, in whose mighty depths giants abide and dwarfs abound.

"But who celebrates the praise of the Lord, whom the stars praise from all eternity? Why, however, should we direct our vision so far? Behold the bee, how he makes his provision in harvest-time, and constructs a dwelling, correct in angle and level, at once the architect and workman. Behold the ant: she knows her way, and loses it not; she builds her habitation of grass and earth and tiny twigs, builds it high, and strengthens it with arches, but in vain, - the prancing steed approaches, and treads it into nothing, destroying the little rafters and supports of the edifice.

"He snorts with impatience and with restlessness; for the Lord has formed the horse as companion to the wind, and brother to the storm, that he may carry mankind whither he will. But in the palm forest even he takes to flight. There, in the wilderness, the lion roams in proud majesty: he is monarch of the beasts, and nothing can resist his strength. But man has subdued his valour: the mightiest of animals has respect for the image of God, in which the very angels are formed; and they minister to the Lord and his servants. Daniel trembled not in the lions' den: he stood full of faith and holy confidence, and the wild roaring of the monsters did not interrupt his pious song."

This address, which was delivered with an expression of natural enthusiasm, was accompanied by the child's sweet music. But, when his father had concluded, the boy commenced to sing with clear and sonorous voice, and some degree of skill. His parent in the meantime seized his flute, and in soft notes accompanied the child as he sung:

Hear the prophet's song ascending
From the cavern's dark retreat,
Whilst an angel, earthward bending,
Cheers his soul with accents sweet.
Fear and terror come not o'er him,
As the lion's angry brood
Crouch with placid mien before him,
By his holy song subdued.

The father continued to accompany the verses with his flute, whilst the mother's voice was occasionally heard to intervene as second.

The effect of the whole was rendered more peculiar and impressive by the child's frequently inverting the order of the verses. And if he did not, by this artifice, give a new sense and meaning to the whole, he at least highly excited the feelings of his audience:

Angels o'er us mildly bending
Cheer us with their voices sweet
Hark! what strains enchant the ear!
In the cavern's dark retreat
Can the prophet quake with fear?
Holy accents, sweetly blending,
Banish ev'ry earthly ill,
Whilst an angel choir, descending,
Executes the heavenly will.

Then all three joined with force and emphasis:

Since the eternal Eye, far-seeing,
Earth and sea surveys in peace,
Lion shall with lamb agreeing
Live, and angry tempests cease.
Warriors' sword no more shall lower,
Faith and Hope their fruit shall bear:
Wondrous is the mighty power
Of Love, which pours its soul in prayer.

The music ceased. Silence reigned around. Each one listened attentively to the dying tones, and now only one could observe and note the general impression. Every listener was overcome, though each was affected in a different manner. The prince looked sorrowfully at his wife, as though he had only just perceived the danger which had lately threatened him; whilst she, leaning upon his arm, did not hesitate to draw forth her embroidered handkerchief to dry the starting tear. It was delightful to relieve her youthful heart from the weight of grief with which she had for some time felt oppressed. A general silence reigned around; and forgotten were the fears which all had experienced, both from the conflagration below and the appearance of the formidable lion above.

The repose of the whole company was first interrupted by the prince, who made a signal to lead the horses nearer: he then turned to the woman, and addressed her thus: "You think, then, to master the lion wherever you meet him, by the power of your song, assisted by that of the child and the tones of your flute, and believe that you can thus lead him harmless and uninjured to his cage? "

She protested and assured him that she would do so, whereupon a servant was ordered to show her the way to the castle. The prince and a few of his attendants now took their departure hastily; whilst the princess, accompanied by the rest, followed more slowly after. But the mother and the child, accompanied by the servant, who had armed himself with a rifle, hastened to ascend the mountain. At the very entrance of the narrow road which led to the castle, they found the hunting attendants busily employed in piling together heaps of dry brushwood to kindle a large fire.

"There is no necessity for such precaution," observed the woman: "all will yet turn out well."

They perceived Honorio at a little distance from them, sitting upon a fragment of the wall, with his double-barreled rifle in his lap, prepared as it seemed for every emergency. But he paid little attention to the people who approached: he was absorbed in his own contemplations, and seemed engaged in deepest thought. The woman entreated that he would not permit the fire to be kindled: he, however, paid not the smallest attention to her request. She then raised her voice, and exclaimed, "Thou handsome youth who killed my tiger, I curse thee not; but spare my lion, and I will bless thee! "

But Honorio was looking upon vacancy: his eyes were bent upon the sun, which had finished its daily course, and was now about to set.

"You are looking to the setting sun," cried the woman; "and you are right, for there is yet much to do: but hasten, delay not, and you will conquer. But, first of all conquer yourself."

He seemed to smile at this observation. The woman passed on, but could not avoid looking round to observe him once more. The setting sun had cast a rosy glow upon his countenance; she thought she had never beheld so handsome a youth.

"If your child," said the attendant, "can, as you imagine, with his fluting and his singing, entice and tranquillise the lion, we shall easily succeed in mastering him; for the ferocious animal has lain down to sleep under the broken arch, through which we have secured a passage into the castle court, as the chief entrance has been long in ruins. Let the child, then, entice him inside, when we can close the gate without difficulty; and the child may, if he please, escape by the small winding staircase, which is situated in one of the corners. We may, in the meantime, conceal ourselves; but I shall take up a position which will enable me to assist the child at any moment with my rifle."

"These preparations are all needless: Heaven, and our own skill, bravery, and good fortune, are our best defence."

"But first let me conduct you by this steep ascent to the top of the tower, right opposite to the entrance of which I have spoken. The child may then descend into the arena, and there he can try to exercise his power over the obedient animal."

This was done. Concealed above, the attendant and the mother surveyed the proceeding. The child descended the narrow staircase, and soon appeared in the wide courtyard. He immediately entered into the narrow opening opposite, when the sweet sounds of his flute were heard; but these gradually diminished, till they finally ceased. The pause was fearful: the solemnity of the proceeding filled the old attendant with apprehension, accustomed as he was to every sort of danger. He declared that he would rather engage the enraged animal himself. But the mother preserved her cheerful countenance, and, leaning over the parapet in a listening attitude, betrayed not the slightest sign of fear.

At length the flute was heard again. The child had issued from the dark recess, his face beaming with triumph: the lion was slowly following, and seemed to walk with difficulty. Now and then the animal appeared disposed to lie down; but the child continued to lead him quietly along, bending his way through the half-leafless autumn-tinged trees, until he arrived at a spot which was illumined by the last rays of the setting sun. They were shedding their parting glory through the ruins; and in this spot he recommenced his sweet song, which we cannot refrain from repeating:

Hear the prophet's song ascending
From the cavern's dark retreat,
Whilst an angel, earthward bending,
Cheers his soul with accents sweet.
Fear and terror come not o'er him,
As the lion's angry brood
Crouch with placid mien before him,
By his holy song subdued.

The lion, in the meantime, had lain quietly down, and, raising his heavy paw, had placed it in the lap of the child. The latter stroked it gently, and continued his chant, but soon observed that a sharp thorn had penetrated into the ball of the animal's foot. With great tenderness, the child extracted the thorn, and, taking his bright-coloured silk handkerchief from his neck, bound it round the foot of the huge creature; whilst the attentive mother, still joyfully leaning over the parapet with outstretched arms, would probably, as was her wont, have testified her approbation with loud shouts and clapping of hands, if the attendant had not rudely seized her, and reminded her that the danger was not yet completely over.

The child now joyfully continued his song, after he had hummed a few notes by way of prelude:

Since the eternal Eye, far-seeing,
Earth and sea surveys in peace,
Lion shall with lamb agreeing
Live, and angry tempests cease.
Warriors' sword no more shall lower,
Faith and Hope their fruit shall bear:
Wondrous is the mighty power
Of Love' which pours its soul in prayer.

If it were possible to conceive that the features of so fierce a monster, at once the tyrant of the forest and the despot of the animal kingdom, could display an expression of pleasure and grateful joy, it might have been witnessed upon this occasion, and, in very truth, the child, in the fulness of his beauty, looked like some victorious conqueror; though it could not be said that the lion seemed subdued, for his mighty power was only for a time concealed. He wore the aspect of a tamed creature, who had been content to make a voluntary surrender of the mighty power with which it was endued. And thus the child continued to play and to sing, transposing his verses or adding to them, as he felt inclined.

Holy angels, still untiring,
Aid the good and virtuous child,
Every noble deed inspiring,
And restraining actions wild.
So the forest king to render
Tame as child at parent's knee,
Still be gentle, kind, and tender,
Use sweet love and melody.

Translation by Thomas Carlyle and R.D. Boylan

Versions --> German

© 1994-1999 Robert Godwin-Jones
Virginia Commonwealth University