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THE SPECTRE BRIDEGROOM.
IMITATED FROM THE GERMAN OF BURGER.
BY ALEXANDER H. EVERETT.
Burger's Lenora is acknowledged, by all who are familiar with German poetry, to be the masterpiece of ballads. No composition of the kind in the German, or perhaps any other language, can be compared with it for effect. It is rather remarkable that the works of a poet who was capable of producing it, should be so scanty, and generally of so little value. With the exception of the Wild Huntsman (Wilde Jaeger), another ballad of great power, though not equal to the Lenora, the contents of his little volume are almost wholly destitute of interest.
There is a fine translation of the Wild Huntsman by Sir Walter Scott. The Lenora has been several times attempted, but without much success. The poem, which is published in Sir Walter's works under the title of William and Helen, though founded upon that of Burger, can hardly be said with propriety to be a translation, or even an imitation of it. It was written by Scott after having heard a friend relate the substance of the ballad, as he had heard it read by a lady in the translation of Mr. Taylor, at the house of Dugald Stewart. That, with so little knowledge of the original, Scott should have approached it as nearly as he did in William and Helen, is a fact which does credit to his memory as well as to that of his relator. There are, however, great deviations, not only in the language, but in the narration; and the poem, in general, has but little merit.
Among other alterations, Sir Walter has changed the time to that of the Crusades, and the scene from the common walks of life to those of knighthood and romance. This change, as Mr. J. Q. Adams has justly remarked in a letter to the late Dr. Follen, injures the effect. It was a part of the author's plan to give an air of reality to his wild machinery, by placing it among ordinary characters and incidents. For the same reason he makes the language, which is exceedingly bold, striking, and poetical, at the same time colloquial and familiar. I have attempted, to the extent of my limited powers, to combine the same classes of characteristics, and also to bring out more distinctly than is done in some of the other translations, the sneering, Mephistopheles tone of the spectre.