WHAT is yonder white thing in the forest?
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Is it snow, or can it swans perchance be?
Were it snow, ere this it had been melted,
Were it swans, they all away had hastend.
Snow, in truth, it is not, swans it is not,
'Tis the shining tents of Asan Aga.
He within is lying, sorely wounded;
To him come his mother and his sister;
Bashfully his wife delays to come there.
When the torment of his wounds had lessen'd,
To his faithful wife he sent this message:
"At my court no longer dare to tarry,
At my court, or e'en amongst my people."
When the woman heard this cruel message,
Mute and full of sorrow stood that true one.
At the doors she hears the feet of horses,
And bethinks that Asan comes--her husband,
To the tower she springs, to leap thence headlong,
Her two darling daughters follow sadly,
And whilst weeping bitter tears, exclaim they:
These are not our father Asan's horses;
'Tis thy brother Pintorowich coming!"
So the wife of Asan turns to meet him,
Clasps her arms in anguish round her brother:
"See thy sister's sad disgrace, oh brother!
How I'm banish'd--mother of five children!"
Silently her brother from his wallet,
Wrapp'd in deep red-silk, and ready written,
Draweth forth the letter of divorcement,
To return home to her mother's dwelling,
Free to be another's wife thenceforward.
When the woman saw that mournful letter,
Fervently she kiss'd her two sons' foreheads,
And her two girls' cheeks with fervour kiss'd she,
But she from the suckling in the cradle
Could not tear herself, so deep her sorrow!
So she's torn thence by her fiery brother,
On his nimble steed he lifts her quickly,
And so hastens, with the heart-sad woman,
Straightway tow'rd his father's lofty dwelling.
Short the time was--seven days had pass'd not,--
Yet enough 'twas; many mighty princes
Sought the woman in her widow's-mourning.
Sought the woman,--as their wife they sought her.
And the mightiest was Imoski's Cadi,
And the woman weeping begg'd her brother:
By thy life, my brother, I entreat thee,
Let me not another's wife be ever,
Lest my heart be broken at the image
Of my poor, my dearly-cherish'd children!"
To her prayer her brother would not hearken,
Fix'd to wed her to Imoski's Cadi.
Yet the good one ceaselessly implored him:
"Send, at least a letter, oh, my brother,
With this message to Imoski's Cadi:
'The young widow sends thee friendly greeting;
Earnestly she prays thee, through this letter,
That, when thou com'st hither, with thy Suatians,
A long veil thou'lt bring me, 'neath whose shadow
I may hide, when near the house of Asan,
And not see my dearly cherish'd orphans.'"
Scarcely had the Cadi read this letter,
Than he gather'd all his Suatians round him,
And then tow'rd the bride his course directed,
And the veil she ask'd for, took he with him.
Happily they reach'd the princess' dwelling,
From the dwelling happily they led her.
But when they approach'd the house of Asan,
Lo! the children saw from high their mother,
And they shouted: "To thy halls return thou!
Eat thy supper with thy darling children!"
Mournfully the wife of Asan heard it,
Tow'rd the Suatian prince then turn'd she, saying:
"Let, I pray, the Suatians and the horses
At the loved ones' door a short time tarry,
That I may give presents to my children."
And before the loved ones' door they tarried,
And she presents gave to her poor children,
To the boys gave gold-embroider'd buskins,
To the girls gave long and costly dresses,
To the suckling, helpless in the cradle,
Gave a garment, to be worn hereafter.
This aside saw Father Asan Aga,--
Sadly cried he to his darling children:
"Hither come, ye dear unhappy infants,
For your mother's breast is turn'd to iron,
Lock'd for ever, closed to all compassion!"
When the wife of Asan heard him speak thus,
On the ground, all pale and trembling, fell she,
And her spirit fled her sorrowing bosom,
When she saw her children flying from her.