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Anna Alice Chapin.

Wonder tales from Wagner, told for young people online

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the knowledge of my name nor my home nor my



race.'



" Never, my lord, will I question you," replied
Elsa.




I HAVE COME TO DO BATTLE BEFORE GOD FOR THIS MAIDEN



The Coining of the Knight 77

Anxiously the Knight repeated his command,
begging her to think well before promising.

" My shield ! My protector !" said Elsa, simply.
"As you have trusted and defended me, so will I
hold myself true and obedient to your behest."

Advancing towards her the Knight took her hands
in his.

" Elsa, I love you," he said ; and the people, un-
able to keep silence longer, burst into words of de-
light and of complete trust in the stranger Knight.

" Now hear !" he cried, turning towards them, his
clear voice making itself heard by every one. "To
you, nobles and people of Brabant, I make this
known : Free from all guilt is Elsa of Brabant, and,
Count von Telramund, your accusation is false. Be-
fore God you shall retract it !"

The Brabantian nobles surrounded Telramund, en-
deavoring to dissuade him from the combat, for
which he had begun to prepare.

" Heaven has sent him," they urged. " Oh, sur-
render without blood !"

" I love death better than submission," returned
Friedrich, frowning angrily. " Stranger, whatever
magic sent you here, I shall conquer, if victory at-
tends the right."

At the King's command, three knights came for-
ward for each warrior, and measured the ground for
the combat. They then took their stand in the front



78 Lohengrin

of the crowd, a regular number of feet apart, the
six thus forming a complete circle, and drove their
spears into the ground. The King then proclaimed
the circle to be a field of battle, and the herald came
forward. He pronounced the ground to be for the
combatants only, and threatened dire punishment
on him who dared break the circle, or in any \vay
hinder the battle ; he enjoined the warriors to con-
duct themselves nobly in fair battle, to use no magic,
and to submit to and abide by the divine decision.
All bent their heads in prayer for some minutes;
then, in the midst of a breathless excitement, the
trumpeters blew the battle-call.

The two knights completed their preparations and
stood ready to enter the circle. The King struck
his shield three times with his sword. With the
first stroke they swiftly took their places ; with the
second stroke each moved forward a step, his shield
on his arm and his sword drawn and presented ;
with the third and last stroke the combat began.

The stranger Knight attacked, and after a few
passes struck his adversary to the earth ; then, al-
though he held the right to slay his fallen enemy,
he drew back, leaving him prostrate. Telramund
rose, staggered, and though not seriously hurt, fell
back again, overcome with humiliation. In the
noise of acclamation which followed, he dragged
himself to Ortrud's feet, and remained there, bowed



The Coming of the Knight 79

and stricken with despair. She wrung her hands
passionately, without sympathy for him, but full of
angry disappointment.

"Oh, shame !" she muttered. " Is this the end of
all my hopes ?"

Meanwhile, oblivious to the misery of Telramund
and Ortrud, the Brabantians, frantic with delight
and excitement, had raised the Knight upon his
shield, and their young Duchess upon the shield of
the King, and now bore them away, with a glad
chorus of rejoicing.



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CHAPTER II
BEFORE THE MINSTER

THE royal fortress at Antwerp was divided into
the Pallas, the abode of the knights ; the Kemmen-
ate, the residence of the ladies ; the dwellings of the
men-at-arms and servants ; and the Minster, a majes-
tic building, in which were held all religious and
state ceremonies. On the evening following the
coming of the Knight, Friedrich von Telramund and
his wife Ortrud were seated upon the steps of the
Minster. They were dressed in the rough garments
worn only by beggars and wanderers. Friedrich,
crushed still by the weight of his degradation, sat in
deep and unhappy meditation. Ortrud gazed con-
stantly at the windows of the Pallas, through which
poured brilliant light and gay music, telling of the
festivities within.

"Arouse yourself," said Telramund, low and gloom-
ily. "When the day dawns we must not be here."

" Nay," returned his wife, "I wait to be re-
venged."



Before the Minster Si

" You strange, cruel woman !" cried Friedrich, in
sudden excitement. " Was it not through you that
we met this disgrace ? It was you who gave me
proofs of the maiden's guilt. Did you lie, or did
you speak truth ?"

And now the time has come when we should un-
derstand some of these dark mysteries. The Lady
Ortrud, before her marriage, had dwelt in a towered
castle in the heart of the gloomy wood where Elsa
and little Gottfried had wandered on that fateful
day. It was whispered that the castle was the scene
of strange magic rites and spells, and that the lady
who dwelt there was both witch and prophetess.
She had come to Count Telramund with a terrible
tale of a sight seen from her tower window the
stealthy figure of Elsa of Brabant, who came behind
her brother as he stood on the brink of the castle
moat, and pushed him in. She further told strange
secrets of the future, which had been revealed to
her through her magic powers. The race of Rad-
bod, now almost extinct, would rise again, she said,
and rule two lands Friesland and Brabant. She
had easily won the belief of the Count, and, more-
over, his ambition was excited. As for her story
about Elsa, he accepted it as absolute truth, and
even after his defeat believed that justice had been
conquered by sorcery. Ortrud w r as clever as well

as beautiful, and tenacious to her purpose. That
6



82 Lohengrin

purpose was to attain the government of Brabant,
and to introduce the old worship of gods in place of
Christianity. Ortrud remained true to the great
deities adored by her race, and she believed that
they bestowed her mystic powers of evil as a means
of destroying all enemies and those who stood be-
tween her and her desires.

To Telramund's question as to whether she had
spoken truth or falsehood, when instigating him to
the persecution of Elsa, she replied in short, bitter
words of scorn, taunting him with his easy over-
throwal in the combat, laughing at his remaining
evidences of honorable regret, and finally declaring
that she could show him means to overcome the
stranger Knight.

" Look !" she said, at last, leaning forward and
smiling secretly in the darkness. ''They are extin-
guishing the lights there in the Pallas. The feast is
over, the music has ceased, and they are at rest.
Come, sit beside me."

Mechanically obeying her beckoning hand, Tel-
ramund, who had been pacing to and fro while she
spoke, returned, and seated himself upon the steps
below her.

" The time is come," said Ortrud, mysteriously,
" when I read the stars, and gather my hoards of
mystic wisdom. Tell me, does any one know who
this Knight is?"



Before the Minster 83

" No," returned Telramund, in a whisper.

" He is helped by magic ; but the spell can be
broken if he is obliged to answer the three questions
which he has forbidden. Elsa must be the one to
ask them."

" How can she be persuaded to break her word ?"
asked Telramund, with eagerness.

11 We must kindle her suspicions," declared Ortrud,
swiftly, " and we must go forth and proclaim to every
one the fact that he has won by sorcery."

" Yes, it must have been sorcery," muttered
Friedrich.

" I understand many things," whispered Ortrud,
with significance, " and I know that any one who
works by magic can be rendered helpless if one drop
of his blood be spilled."

" Ah," cried Telramund, sharply, " if that be
true !" Then he turned fiercely upon her. " If you
are deceiving me again, woe for you!"

"You are raving," said Ortrud, contemptuously.
" I will but teach you the pleasure of the gods re-



venge."



At that moment a door opened and a woman
came out on to a balcony on the Kemmenate, and,
advancing to the parapet, rested her arm upon it and
her head upon her hand. It was Elsa, passing in
happy vigil her bridal eve, for the next day she was
to wed her knight in the Minster. The moonlight



84 Lohengrin

shone upon the bright hair hanging loose over her
robe, the soft winds blew against her face, and to
the nistfit she confided her sadness.

o o

" It is she," whispered Ortrud, harshly. " Go !
Leave her to me !" Telramund crept out of sight
among the shadows. Ortrud advanced with a stealthy
step until she was under the balcony.

" Elsa!" she cried, her voice sounding weird in the
darkness.

Much bewildered, Elsa leaned over the parapet,
and, straining her eyes in the dim light, recognized
the wife of the man who had so greatly wronged her.
" Is it indeed you, unfortunate woman ?" she said,
pityingly.

Lowly bending, as though in deep contrition and
sadness, Ortrud assured her of the regret which tore
her husband's heart for the wrong which he had
done her, and besought her forgiveness for him.
She added that though she herself had never harmed
Elsa, she had been banished from her high position
with her husband, and shared with him all his hard-
ships and his remorse.

" I am so happy, how can I let unhappiness go un-
comforted ?" said Elsa, softly. "Wait, Ortrud." She
hastily entered the Kemmenate. Ortrud sprang
from her kneeling posture.

" Now, my gods," she cried, " grant me your aid,
and help me to accomplish my revenge !"




'THE DUCHESS OF BRABANT WITH OUTSTRETCHED HANDS BIDDING

ORTRUD ENTER "



Before the Minster 85

The great door of the Kemmenate swung open,
two servants appeared bearing torches, and behind
them came the Duchess of Brabant with outstretched
hands bidding Ortrud enter, with gentle words of
welcome. Checking the assurances of humble grati-
tude which met her, Elsa promised that she would
sue for pardon for Ortrud and her husband on the
morrow, and she concluded by bidding the Countess
array herself in rich attire, to follow her to the alter
on the coming day.

"Only in one way can I requite you," said Ortrud,
with hypocritical gratitude, " and that is by making
use of my poor powers of prophecy in your behalf.
Oh, do not trust too blindly, nor love too well ! I
hope that he who was sent you by magic " she
paused for a moment "may never leave you."

Smiling, Elsa assured her that her trust was too
deep for doubt to disturb it. Then, with the ut-
most tenderness, she led Ortrud in, and the door
was closed.

" There entered the powers of evil !" muttered
Friedrich von Telramund, lurking in the shadows.
" May they prosper, and overthrow my enemies!"

The dawn broke. Two warders appeared on the
ramparts of the Pallas and blew the reveille on their
trumpets. Telramund concealed himself behind one
of the carved pillars of the Minster. The warders
descended a flight of steps and unlocked the gates.



86 Lohengrin

The fortress was now astir, and busy life filled the
morning. Various knights soon appeared, and final-
ly the herald came out from the Pallas with his
trumpeters. He proclaimed that Friedrich von Tel-
ramund was banished and exiled, and that the
stranger Knight would hereafter take the title of
Protector of Brabant, having refused to accept the
name or state of Duke. On that day he would wed
the Duchess of Brabant, and on the morrow would
stand ready to lead the Brabantians to battle against
the invaders.

As the herald finished the proclamation, four
pages descended the steps leading from the balcony
of the Kemmenate to the ground, crying, " Make
way for our Lady Elsa, who goes to the Minster to
pray !" Behind the pages came Elsa's ladies, all in
the richest of court dresses ; they walked two-by-
two, and, on reaching the ground, they formed an
aisle through which the Duchess was to pass.

Looking very fair and stately in her bridal dress,
Elsa came slowly down the steps, followed by a few
chosen ladies of high degree, among the foremost of
whom was the Countess Ortrud von Telramund.
Elsa descended amid a clamor of welcome and adora-
tion, and, looking about her with a soft color in her
face, passed on to the Minster. Close behind her
walked the Countess von Telramund, and as the
Duchess placed her foot upon the lowest step of the



Before the Minster 87

Minster, Ortrud swept before her, claimed prece-
dence, and commanded Elsa to follow her. Being
met with a chorus of amazed derision, she entirely
lost her self-control, and broke into words of stormy
anger, declaring that her husband had been unjust-
ly conquered, and taunting Elsa with the mystery
which hung over the stranger Knight.

Elsa, full of indignation, answered her hotly and
reproachfully, saying that the Knight had been
given fair victory by God, and accusing Ortrud of
slander.

At the same instant the people shouted, " Make
way, make way, the King comes !"

The royal procession which now issued from the
Pallas was stopped by the commotion before it, and
seeing that there was a general disturbance, the
King and the stranger Knight came forward. While
the King questioned the people the Knight made
his way to Elsa's side, and received from her an ex-
planation of the event which had delayed her pro-
cession as well as that of the King.

Commanding Ortrud to stand aside, the Knight
took Elsa's hand, and, escorted by the King, they
went towards the Minster, and a second attempt was
made to enter. From within, the chords of the or-
gan could be heard, pealing forth in salutation.
Slowly the procession formed and advanced in time
to the music. Once more the bride's foot was upon



88 Lohengrin

the step, once more she started back in horror, for
at the door stood Friedrich von Telramund, crying,
" Oh, King, deceived lady, wait !"

Now thoroughly incensed, King Heinrich bade
him to begone in a voice of thunder, assuring the
Knight that the attempts of this enemy to poison
their hearts against him would be useless, and de-
claring that Friedrich was unbelieved by all. Many
of the nobles hastened forward, to press the stranger
Knight's hands in expression of their trust.

While he, deeply touched, spoke words of grati-
tude to them, Telramund crept to Elsa's side and
told her that he had a secret which he wished to
confide to her. Shuddering, Elsa commanded him
to leave her, but he pressed nearer, and, speaking
in a hurried whisper, told her that if but one drop of
the Knight's blood were spilled he would confess all
his past, and, moreover, would be obliged to stay
with her forever. Then, while Elsa faintly whis-
pered, "Forever !" he swiftly left her, and the Knight
came to her side.

Led by the King, the bridal pair mounted the
steps of the Minster. The doors opened wide to re-
ceive them, the organ-tones rolled out upon the air
in the rich harmonies of the wedding-march.

At the door-way the Knight paused and clasped
Elsa in his arms. She raised her eyes and saw be-
yond him the face of Ortrud, who stood at the foot



Before the Minster 89

of the steps, with uplifted hand and a smile of
ominous triumph upon her lips. Trembling, Elsa
turned away and entered the Minster.



Wedding-March.




Wedding- Song




CHAPTER III
THE THREE QUESTIONS

THE long wedding-day was over. The feasting
was ended, the merriment stilled. The King, ac-
cording to the mediaeval custom, accompanied, with
his retinue, the Knight and his young wife to the
bridal chamber. Then he clasped their hands to-
gether, and blessed them, and the ladies sang a soft
joyful wedding-song, as at last every one went away,
leaving the Knight and Elsa alone.

The room was lofty and full of shadows. Torches
set in stationary sockets sent a dim flickering light
over the stone floor and walls and the rich hangings.
At one side was an oriel window, through which
streamed the pale moonlight.

When the last sound of the singing had died
away, the Knight spoke to Elsa tenderly, telling her
that not only had God sent him to be her champion,



The Three Questions 91

but the power of love as well had led him to her.
Elsa answered that she had loved him since she saw
him in her dream ; but she ended, a faint note of sad-
ness coming into her voice, with words of longing,
a deep desire to know those mysteries which he con-
cealed from her.

" Elsa!" said the Knight, sorrowfully. But she con-
tinued, with piteous eagerness, " My name sounds so
sweet from your lips," she whispered. " Can you
deny me the melody of yours?"

In answer, the Knight led her silently to the open
window. Before them lay the land, masked in dim-
ness ; dark and mysterious lay the shadows every-
where ; the scent of many flowers came to them,
borne by the night wind.

" Breathe this fragrance," said the Knight, gently.
" It brings a strange happiness ; and if one knew
whence it came, could it be sweeter? I am bound
to you by just such enchantment; when I did not
know who you were I still loved you, and unques-
tioningly believed in your truth. These scent-laden
winds bring me joy as they reach me in the dark-
ness, and so was I touched by your innocence and
beauty when you were in the black shadow of sus-
picion."

"Ah," sighed Elsa, "if you could but trust me
enough to confide in me! You would find my pow-
er of secrecy great."



92 Lohengrin

" I have asked your love and belief in me," said the
Knight, gravely. " Do not doubt me, my wife. I
leave nothing of shame behind me. I come to you
from happiness, not darkness or sorrow."

"Ah," cried Elsa, with a gesture of passionate de-
spair, " you still long for the joy you have left be-
hind you ! I see that you will soon grow weary,
and wish to return to it. Oh, how can I bind you
to me? You are surrounded by magic, you came to
me through a spell ! How can I be rid of all doubt ?
How can I have surety ?"

As she spoke she fancied that she heard a step
without. " Did you hear nothing ?" she whispered.
" Did you hear no one coming?"

Then suddenly she grew rigid, motionless, staring
before her as though she saw a vision.

''Ah !" she gasped, under her breath. " There the
swan the swan ! It comes nearer there, swimming
over the flowing waters ! It comes for you ! It is
drawing the boat hither !"

" Elsa," said the Knight, anxiously, " calm your-
self; banish your dreams." But, almost beside her-
self, she turned wildly towards him :

" Hear me, for I must question you !" she cried.
" Tell me your name !"

"Forbear!"

" Where is your home?"

"Alas alas!" he exclaimed, sorrowfully.



The Three Questions 93

"What is your race?" cried Elsa, in desperation.

At the same moment Friedrich von Telramund,
with four nobles who had joined him in his evil
errand, entered noiselessly through a door at the
farther end of the room. Perceiving them, Elsa at
once recollected herself, and catching up her hus-
band's sword, which had been removed, held it out
to him, crying, " Save yourself !"

With the weapon in his hand he turned and
struck at his enemy in time to save himself from
the uplifted blade, which now fell with a ring on the
floor, as Telramund sank dead at the feet of the
Knight. The four nobles flung away their swords,
and knelt before him to whom Heaven had again
given victory.

" Bear him to the King," he said, quietly ; and
lifting their burden, the nobles departed.

Elsa had sunk fainting upon the Knight's arm.
He raised her gently, and carried her to the couch,
where he laid her, sighing, " Alas, all our happiness
is gone !"

Elsa turned her face to the pillow in despair,
praying brokenly in a whisper. The Knight struck
a bell, and as one of Elsa's ladies appeared, he bade
her make the Duchess ready to go before the King.

" There," he said, slowly and sadly, " I will reveal
all she asks."

As the lady hastened to Elsa's side, he turned



94 Lohengrin

away in silence, and passed out with bowed head
through the door-way.

The morning had dawned dimly in the great room.
The torches had burned out.



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CHAPTER IV
HOW THE KNIGHT WENT AWAY

WHEN the King seated himself upon his throne,
under the Oak of Justice, that morning, the sun, ris-
ing in majesty behind the hills, disclosed to him the
Brabantian nobles assembled in full armor to await
their leader, the Protector of Brabant. Soon the
four nobles who had accompanied Telramund on the
previous night appeared, bearing a bier, and an-
nounced that they had been sent to the King by
the Protector of Brabant. At the same moment
Elsa was seen advancing slowly, supported on either
side by her ladies. Her robes were of many soft
colors, embroidered with great richness and beauty,
and the Brabantian circlet shone upon her fair hair ;
but her face was pale, and her sad eyes filled every
heart with pity, for all fancied that she grieved be-
cause the hour drew near for her husband's depart-
ure for the wars. She was led to a lower throne,
near that of the King, and sat there silent, and
bowed with misery.



96 Lohengrin

Then, amid a glad sound of welcome, the Protec-
tor of Brabant appeared, clad in the silver armor
which he had worn at the time of his coming, with
the same cloak hanging from his shoulders, the same
golden horn gleaming at his belt, and his long sword
at his side. Advancing to the King's throne, he sad-
ly announced to him and to the assembled knights
that he could not lead them to battle.

Checking the loud cries of dismay and wonder
which greeted his words, he further said that he
had a question to put to the people. He pointed
to the bier borne by the four nobles, and after say-
ing that Telramund had attempted his life unfairly,
asked if he had been right in slaying him. All
agreed that he had been but an instrument of God
in dealing justice to a coward. Then, as the nobles
bore the bier away in silence, the Knight, with
solemn impressiveness, declared that his wife had
been false to her word, that she had asked the ques-
tions which he had forbidden her, and from which
she had promised him so earnestly to refrain. He
was now prepared, he said, to answer her demands,
and to tell all that he had concealed. Speaking in
grave, hushed tones, the Knight began his tale.

"In a far land," he said, slowly, "stands a castle
named Monsalvat. A shrine is within it, blessed
by a marvellous Cup called the Holy Grail.
The guardians of the sacred treasure are a great



Hoiv the Knight Went Away 97

Brotherhood of Knights, who are made strong with
a might which conquers all evil. The Knights of
the Brotherhood may journey to distant lands, on
errands of mercy, help, or protection, and may con-
tinue to live among men ; but if they disclose the
secret of their power they are forced to return to
Monsalvat. I was sent as champion for the honor
and rights of yonder lady, for I am one of the
Brotherhood. The holy father of the Knights, and
the holder of the crown of rulership, is Parsifal. I
am his Knight, and I am named Lohengrin."

He ceased speaking. Many faces were wet with
tears, and whispers of sorrow and awe were faintly
heard from the people. Elsa started to her feet.

" The ground wavers beneath me," she muttered.
"What darkness!"

" The swan !" cried the people, pointing to the
gleaming river. " The swan alas, he comes !"

"Horror! The swan!" wailed Elsa, gazing with
wide, terrified eyes at the glistening plumage of the
bird, which was floating towards the shore on the
bright undulations of the water.

" This is the summons of the Grail," said Lohen-
grin, sadly. " Oh, that this grief might have been
spared us !"

The swan had now reached the shore, and the
Knight addressed it in tones of regret :

" I had hoped that when the year was over
7



98 Lohengrin

you might have sought me in your own shape."
He turned away, and going to Elsa's side bade her
farewell. There was no trace of reproach in his
words to her only a deep and tender sorrow.

" Oh, Elsa !" he said. " When one year had
passed your brother would have been restored to
you through the Grail's might, for its power has
been shed upon him in protection. Now the con-


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Online LibraryAnna Alice ChapinWonder tales from Wagner, told for young people → online text (page 5 of 10)