But on occasion he seemed withdrawn as though harbouring some secret desire. In truth Count Peter scarcely understood his longings. It was as if distant voices called to him from the forest; he wanted to follow but dared not.
His father held a tournament and invited many knights. It was wonderful to see how this tender youth unseated the most experienced warriors. He was hailed by one and all and honoured as a champion.
Among those gathered for the tournament was a much-travelled minstrel. He introduced himself to Count Peter and praised him highly, but added: ‘Knight, it is time you broadened your horizons, you must see something of the world beyond your homeland.’
He took up his lute and sang … Keinen hat es noch gereut
Peter stayed silent for a while. Then he said: ‘Now I understand what I long for. I must see the world beyond these forests. I wish I were already seated on my noble steed and bidding my father’s home farewell.’
Peter beseeched his parents to allow him to travel in search of adventure. The old count was alarmed: ‘My son, you are my only heir, what if I should die during your absence, what would become of my lands?’
His mother began to weep. ‘Beloved son, you know nothing of life’s hardships, you see only your ideals; yet a thousand difficulties may stand in your way.’
Peter replied: ‘Beloved parents, all I ask is to travel the wide world—and then to return to you a man of fame and honour. You, father, travelled to foreign lands and your name became known far and wide; you found my mother and made her your consort. Let me do the same.’
His parents were very moved and gave him their blessing. Commands were given to make every preparation for his journey.
His mother took Peter aside and gave him three rings. ‘Take them with you; guard them well and if you find a maiden whom you love, you may give them to her.’
On the day of his departure his father came to give his final blessing. ‘Seek out the good and avoid bad company. Be honest at all times, for that is the touchstone of true worth. Farewell my son.’
Peter rode forth. The sun rose and dew sparkled on the meadows. He was of good cheer and spurred on his fine steed. An old song came to mind and he sang aloud … Traun! Bogen und Pfeil
After travelling for many days he arrived at the lordly city of Naples. While on his way he had heard much about the king and his exceedingly beautiful daughter Magelone. He was eager to meet her face to face. He put up at an inn and learned from the landlord of the arrival of the famous knight, Sir Henry of Carpone, and of the splendid tournament that was to be held in celebration. Peter resolved to take part, and when the day of the tournament came, he donned his armour and went to the lists.
A herald entered to proclaim the opening of the tournament in honour of the beautiful Magelone. Sir Henry was the first to enter the lists. Peter took his place against him and unseated him so quickly that the crowd remarked on his strength. He soon emptied every other saddle and finally there were no more opponents.
Everyone was anxious to learn the name of the foreign knight, and the king sent his herald to discover it. But Peter begged to remain anonymous as he was a poor nobleman from France. The king was delighted with this reply which was proof of the knight’s humility.
It was not long before a second tournament was held and the beautiful Magelone hoped secretly that she would see the knight once more. This time the king invited Peter to his table. He sat opposite the princess and marvelled at her beauty. She kept looking at him in such a warm manner. Afterwards when they were alone in the hall the princess invited him to return often, whereupon he took his leave, and she released him with a tender look.
Peter found himself in a garden and time seemed to stand still. An inner music silenced the rustling of the trees and the gurgling of the fountains. It was as if heaven had turned round and given him a glimpse of paradise for the first time. The music flowed like a murmuring brook. An image of the princess shimmered over its silvery ripples; the stars stood still. The music was the only living thing in nature … Sind es Schmerzen, sind es Freuden?
He had comforted himself a little. He vowed he would win Magelone’s love or perish.
That night Magelone was as disturbed as the young knight. She paced her room like one caged; she went again and again to the window and looked down into the garden. Everything seemed dull and melancholy. She reproached the unknown knight for not being there under her window, and then wept because how could he be? When she closed her eyes she kept seeing the tournament and the beloved stranger.
In the evening Magelone decided to confide in her nurse from whom she had no secrets. ‘Did you see the knight? He is the only man in the tournament and the fairest. Since I have seen him, my eyes are useless, his image floods my being. Oh seek him out, dear nurse. Discover his name and rank so that I may know whether I live or die!’
When morning came the nurse went to church and prayed. She saw the knight also kneeling in devout prayer, and she approached him and spoke to him of the princess. Peter was overcome with joy and hope, but once again he begged to remain anonymous. He gave her instead one of his precious rings. The nurse went immediately to the princess and gave it to her. Inside the ring there was a scroll and Magelone read the words he had written in the fullness of his love … Liebe kam aus fernen Landen
Magelone read it and re-read it; it echoed her own feelings exactly. She looked at the precious ring and then hung it around her neck, so that it lay on her breast. That night she dreamt he appeared to her in all his beauty, embraced her and placed an even more precious ring on her finger.
When Magelone awoke from her dream she recounted everything to her nurse, who realized now that the princess had set her mind on the stranger whether he brought her joy or grief.
So the nurse waylaid the knight and told him how pleased the princess was with the ring and the song, and how she had dreamt of him in the night. Peter blushed with joy and said: ‘Oh dear nurse. I shall perish with longing if I cannot speak to her soon. I love her with a passion beyond compare. Please, give her this ring. Ask her to wear it. It is a trifling remembrance of me.’
The nurse hurried back to Magelone and gave her the message and the ring. ‘See! This is the very ring of my dream; now everything else must surely come true.’ Inside the ring was another song … So willst du des Armen?
The following morning the nurse found the knight in church and said: ‘If you will love my Lady with due modesty and virtue, I will tell you where you may meet her.’
The knight dropped to his knees, and swore before Almighty God of the purity of his love and his intentions.
The nurse told him to come to a secret door in the garden wall the next afternoon. ‘You may speak with her in my room; I shall leave the two of you alone, so that you may be undisturbed and reveal what is in your hearts.’
The knight, delirious with joy, stood rooted to the spot. When at last night came he sat in the dark looking out at the clouds and stars, and his heart beat fiercely whenever he thought of Magelone. He was alarmed at the thought of having to speak to her, yet it was his dearest desire. He could not be calm … Wie soll ich die Freude?
At last the hour came to visit his beloved. He went secretly to the nurse’s chamber, where he found the princess. She sat on a couch and almost rose to her feet to embrace him and shower him with tears and kisses, but she checked herself and remained seated, a deep blush suffusing her face. It was the same for him. He stood before her with a bashful face in which joy and confusion alternated.
The nurse left the chamber and Peter fell upon one knee; Magelone extended her lovely hand and bade him rise and sit by her side. Their conversation was faltering. Eventually the young man was able to tell her that he had loved her since he first saw her, and that his whole life was dedicated to her. He gave her the third ring which was the most precious of all.
‘Now you are mine and I am yours; wear it always if you love me.’ She kissed him warmly on the mouth. He was astonished. He returned the kiss and pressed her to his heart.
The time came to part and Peter hurried back to his room. He was happier than he had ever been. He took up his lute and began to sing … War es dir?
Peter often visited his beloved in secret and one day determined to test her love. He told her he would soon have to leave, since his parents had had no news of him for such a long time. When Magelone heard these words she grew pale.
‘Very well, go away … I will never see you again and my death will be certain … Oh, forgive me my beloved, of course you must see your parents again; you have stayed here so long already; how sad they must be. Yes fare you well, and I mean well!’
‘No, my dearest Magelone, I shall stay. How could I go and never see you again, never hear your dear voice? No, I shall stay; banish thoughts of home and parents, I live only in your sight.’
Magelone grew cheerful again, then pensive. ‘My father wants me to marry Sir Henry of Carpone. If you love me, flee from here and take me with you. I trust you completely; meet me at the secret door in the garden wall tomorrow night with two strong horses.’
‘Yes! We shall go quickly to my father and there the most holy bond shall unite us for ever.’
He left immediately to make the necessary preparations. He bade farewell to his room and was moved to see his faithful lute lying on the table. It had been the confidante of all his sweet secrets. He took it up for the last time … Wir müssen uns trennen
It was the night of their elopement. Magelone slipped out through the garden and found Peter standing at the gate with three horses—a palfrey with a light and comfortable gait for her, his own noble steed, and a third to carry provisions. He helped her to mount, and they fled secretly under cover of night.
Peter had the foresight to ride towards the forests which lay close to the sea, where paths were secluded and scarcely used at all. The treetops rustling in the dark made a fearful sound, but Magelone was light of heart, for her beloved was by her side.
At daybreak the sun rose and its rays of fire illuminated the dense forest; sweet music sounded from the bushes and larks soared into the sky singing to the dawn-reddened world.
Around midday Magelone was overcome with weariness so they found a cool spot in the forest and dismounted. Peter spread his cloak and Magelone lay down upon it with her head resting in the knight’s lap. They gazed at each other tenderly.
‘How good it is here, Peter, under this canopy of trees, listening to the murmuring of the leaves. Add your sweet voice to this harmony and I will try to sleep a little, but wake me in good time so that we get to your parents soon.’
Her lovely eyes closed and long black lashes cast delicate shadows on her sweet face … Ruhe, Süssliebchen
Peter looked up and saw that flock of fine birds had gathered in the branches. He was glad that these artless creatures seemed to find pleasure in Magelone’s beauty. But then he saw a black raven sitting in a tree and wondered what such an ugly bird was doing in this colourful company. It seemed to him as though Magelone caught her breath with fright, so he loosened the neck of her gown and in doing so he glimpsed her lovely white bosom.
Peter was entranced by this unutterable beauty; his senses were in turmoil. Then he saw the red silken pouch which she had hidden there. Being curious he opened it. In it were the three precious rings he had given her. He wrapped them up again and placed the pouch on the grass by his side.
Suddenly the raven flew down from the tree and carried it away. Peter was horrified but rose quietly so as not to disturb Magelone. The raven flew ahead of him and Peter threw stones at it, hoping to kill it or at least compel it to drop its prize. But the bird flew further away.
Peter followed it relentlessly until they came to the seashore. There was a sharp rock jutting into the sea and bird settled on it. Peter threw another stone; the bird flew off with a loud shriek and dropped the pouch into the sea. Peter could see it in the water. He raced up and down looking for something in which to brace the ocean. Finally he found a dilapidated little boat. He leapt in and with a tree branch rowed as best he could towards the silk.
Suddenly a strong wind blew from the shore. The waves piled one upon another and buffeted the little boat. He fought against them with all his might, but the waves carried him further and further out to sea. He looked back. The red spot of silk grew fainter in the water and disappeared. The shore receded still further. Now Peter thought of Magelone whom he had left asleep in the desolate wood. He cried out in torment, imagining her alone and unprotected in the vast forest at the mercy of wild beasts. ‘Why did I have to be so curious about the rings! Why couldn’t I just leave them in the beautiful place where they were safe? O woe is me! Now all is lost and I have nothing to look forward to but my utter ruin.’
He threw himself down in despair … Verzweiflung
In the forest Magelone awoke refreshed, thinking her beloved was still sitting by her side. When she did not find him there she was frightened and called out his name. When she got no answer she began to sob and weep. ‘O faithless knight, what have I done to you that you should steal me away from my parents and then abandon me in this wilderness? Have I loved you too much?’
She wandered mournfully through the wood and soon discovered the horses, still tethered as Peter had left them. ‘Oh forgive me my beloved, now I see that you are innocent! You haven’t left me deliberately. What misadventure could have torn us apart?’
Darkness fell and rays of moonlight filtered through the trees. How far away the hope that only yesterday had danced before them like a blue butterfly on light wings.
Magelone hoped to find some quiet place cut off from mankind where she could think forever of her beloved and wait in piety and loyalty for death.
She walked through the dense forest taking a few provisions with her. In order to disguise herself she hid her long golden hair and covered her face with a veil. Eventually she found herself on the edge of a pleasant meadow—only the tinkling bells of the cows grazing on a nearby hillside broke the quiet of the evening.
On the other side of the meadow was a small hut. Magelone went up to it and an old man came out to her. He was a shepherd who had settled there with his wife and built a small farm. She begged for shelter and, recognizing her distress, he received her gladly. Willingly she undertook any tasks she was able to carry out, although she kept quiet about her own history. If the old couple went out she would guard the house, and then she would sit before the door with her spindle and sing … Wie schnell verschwindet
The sun rose in all its majesty over the wide expanse of sea where Peter lay in the bottom of his small boat.
Peter felt his courage return. A great ship was sailing towards him, manned by Moors and heathens. They took him on board and were delighted with their prize for Peter was fair of face and figure and had such winning ways that it was impossible to dislike him. The captain decided to take him as a gift to the Sultan and as soon as they landed Peter was presented.
The Sultan was well pleased and showed him many kindnesses. He entrusted Peter to wait on him at the table and gave him the supervision of a delightful garden. Peter would often walk alone there among the flowers and think of his beloved. Sometimes he would sit there in the evening and sing … Muss es eine Trennung geben?
Two years passed without hope of returning to his homeland. Peter despaired of ever seeing his parents and his beloved, and as spring came again, he wept for his future.
Now the Sultan had a daughter—Sulima—who was famed throughout the land for her beauty. She had many opportunities to observe the foreigner and without realizing it at first, had fallen in love with him. One day she had a slave bring him to her in a secluded part of the garden. Peter was surprised and embarrassed; he marvelled at her beauty, but in his heart he remained true to Magelone. Sulima told Peter how much she loved him and how she wanted him to run away with her. She told him of a relative with a ship who would weigh anchor on a certain night and meet them on the shore when she would signal with a special song.
The appointed night arrived. Peter had been dozing for a little while under the cool trees when Magelone appeared to him in a dream in all her glory, but with a threatening gesture. His whole life flashed before his eyes: every hour of his blessed love came back to him. When he awoke, he was shocked at himself and his plans.
‘How faithless and ungrateful I am! How could I look Magelone in the face, if she were still alive? And why should she not be alive, when I have miraculously survived?’
It was a beautiful summer night, and his heart was full of longing. Bravely he climbed into a small boat and cast off, trusting himself to chance and the stars. He began to row out to sea. Then he heard the agreed signal. A zither rang forth from the garden, and a lovely voice sang to its accompaniment … Sulima
Peter’s heart sank as he heard the song for it reminded him of his infidelity and fickleness. The spirit of love swung through the heavens, drawing him back and propelling him on. He rowed faster to get away from the shore and the siren song.
The music died away as his courage returned. He set the sail, took the tiller and sang … Wie froh und frisch
When day dawned he saw that the land was no more than a blue cloud on the horizon. In the distance a ship sailed towards him and he feared he was about to exchange his old fortunes for new ones, but as it drew near he saw the sailors were Christians. They willingly took him on board, and he was overjoyed to learn they were bound for France.
Meanwhile, Peter’s parents were very concerned having heard nothing of their beloved son. About this time a great fish was delivered to the court in Provence. When the cook cut the fish open, he found three precious rings in its belly, which he brought to the Countess. She took heart at the sight of them for she believed they foretold that God would return her son to them.
Peter and his rescuers landed on a small, uninhabited island. Peter walked inland through a pleasant valley and sat down in a field full of flowers. He thought tenderly of his Magelone and how greatly she had loved him. He began to daydream and fell asleep.
Meanwhile the wind had picked up and the sailors hurried back to the ship. They called Peter but he did not hear them, and so they sailed away. They were far from land when Peter awoke and hurried to the shore. The ship was nowhere to be seen. His only hope had disappeared. He swooned and fell to the ground.
It was past midnight when two fishermen found the youth stretched out on the ground as though dead. They lifted him into their little boat. Once they were on their way Peter revived. He learned they were taking him to the mainland where lived an old shepherd who would look after him. They landed at sunrise and he thanked the good fishermen who told him the way to the shepherd’s hut.
He found this on the far side of a beautiful green meadow. A veiled maiden sat before the door singing while a lamb played at her feet. The shepherdess greeted him in a friendly manner and invited him to rest inside until the owners returned when they would be pleased to welcome their noble guest.
Meanwhile, Magelone—for it was she—had recognized the knight immediately. She went into the fields, and all her cares melted like snow in the spring sun. Her life lay before her fresh and green as far as the eye could see. She went back into the hut, but did not reveal herself, just yet.
Within two days Peter had completely recovered. He grew to trust his young nurse and told her all his misfortune and how he had lost his beloved Magelone. At this Magelone got up and went into her room. She loosened her hair, put off her veil and put on the fine clothes she had kept hidden. When she reappeared Peter was beside himself with amazement and embraced his long-lost beloved. They told each other their stories with such weeping and kissing that it was difficult to tell if they sobbed from anguish or overwhelming joy.
And so they spent the day.
Then Peter and Magelone journeyed to his parents and were married amidst a great rejoicing. The King of Naples was also reconciled with his new son and well-pleased with the marriage.
In the place where he had found Magelone, Peter built a magnificent summer palace. He installed the shepherd as caretaker, and in front of the palace Peter and his young bride planted a tree, and every spring they returned. And every spring they celebrated their reunion with this song … Treue Liebe dauert lange
Judy Hildesley © 2014
|Brahms: The Complete Songs, Vol. 5 – Christopher Maltman|
A new recording from renowned recitalist and winner of the Lieder Prize at the 1997 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Christopher Maltman. Graham Johnson is both accompanist and curator of this series that presents the entire piano-accompan ...» More
'One of the world's outstanding Lieder singers on fine form, sensitively accompanied, in 23 heart-easing miniature masterpieces' (The Independent)
'Magical' (CDReview)» More