"Denn die Toten reiten schnell"

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"Denn die Toten reiten schnell"

Postby jonquil » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:14 pm

I feel really weird and gothic today. Well, it actually started last night when I was watching a particularly literate and interesting murder mystery and the coroner, in an early scene in the morgue, was talking on the phone with a friend and said, "Denn die Toten reiten schnell." I felt as though I'd heard it or read it before, it has a certain eerie sound and rhythm to it, so I looked it up. It means "For the dead travel fast." Bram Stoker used it in Dracula, but the idea of it comes from an 18th century German poem titled "Lenore" by Gottfried August Bürger. It reads and sounds like a poem from the German romantic tradition, but also very gothic with the weird, eerie supernatual excesses. It was interesting to see a little piece in the gothic tradition that eventually evolved into Dracula. I found it in the original German, but it's rather long, so I'll just provide a few verses, first in the German and then in translation by Rossetti. I bolded the relevant line.

»Wir satteln nur um Mitternacht.
Weit ritt ich her von Böhmen.
Ich habe spät mich aufgemacht,
Und will dich mit mir nehmen.« -
»Ach, Wilhelm, erst herein geschwind!
Den Hagedorn durchsaust der Wind,
Herein, in meinen Armen,
Herzliebster, zu erwarmen!« -

»Laß sausen durch den Hagedorn,
Laß sausen, Kind, laß sausen!
Der Rappe scharrt; es klirrt der Sporn.
Ich darf allhier nicht hausen.
Komm, schürze, spring und schwinge dich
Auf meinen Rappen hinter mich!
Muß heut noch hundert Meilen
Mit dir ins Brautbett eilen.« -

»Ach! wolltest hundert Meilen noch
Mich heut ins Brautbett tragen?
Und horch! es brummt die Glocke noch,
Die elf schon angeschlagen.« -
»Sieh hin, sieh her! der Mond scheint hell.
Wir und die Toten reiten schnell.
Ich bringe dich, zur Wette,
Noch heut ins Hochzeitbette.« -

»Sag an, wo ist dein Kämmerlein?
Wo? Wie dein Hochzeitbettchen?« -
»Weit, weit von hier! - - Still, kühl und klein! - -
Sechs Bretter und zwei Brettchen!« -
»Hat's Raum für mich?« - »Für dich und mich!
Komm, schürze, spring und schwinge dich!
Die Hochzeitgäste hoffen;
Die Kammer steht uns offen.« -

Schön Liebchen schürzte, sprang und schwang
Sich auf das Roß behende;
Wohl um den trauten Reiter schlang
Sie ihre Liljenhände;
Und hurre hurre, hopp hopp hopp!
Ging's fort in sausendem Galopp,
Daß Roß und Reiter schnoben,
Und Kies und Funken stoben.

Zur rechten und zur linken Hand,
Vorbei vor ihren Blicken,
Wie flogen Anger, Heid und Land!
Wie donnerten die Brücken! -
»Graut Liebchen auch? - - Der Mond scheint hell!
Hurra! die Toten reiten schnell!
Graut Liebchen auch vor Toten?« -
»Ach nein! - - Doch laß die Toten! –


"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:
Hark to the winds, how they whistle and rush
Thro' 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 on the bridal-bed."

"What! ride an hundred miles tonight,
By 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 the break of day."

"Ah, where is the chamber, William dear,
And William, where is the bed?"
"Far, far from here: still, narrow, and cool;
Plank and bottom and lid."
"Hast room for me?" -- "For me and thee;
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 sweet beguiling,
Her white hands clasped his waist: --
And hurry, hurry! 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.
"Sur le volcan ne pousse pas l'herbe" (Grass does not grow on a volcano). - Ivor Cutler on his bald pate
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