VALENTINE (a soldier, MARGARET’s brother)
When seated ’mong the jovial crowd,
Where merry comrades boasting loud
Each named with pride his favorite lass,
And in her honor drain’d his glass;
Upon my elbows I would lean,
With easy quiet view the scene,
Nor give my tongue the rein, until
Each swaggering blade had talked his fill.
Then smiling I my beard would stroke,
The while, with brimming glass, I spoke;
“Each to his taste!—but to my mind,
Where in the country will you find,
A maid, as my dear Gretchen fair,
Who with my sister can compare?”
Cling! clang! so rang the jovial sound!
Shouts of assent went circling round;
Pride of her sex is she!—cried some;
Then were the noisy boasters dumb.
And now!—I could tear out my hair,
Or dash my brains out in despair!—
Me every scurvy knave may twit,
With stinging jest and taunting sneer!
Like skulking debtor I must sit,
And sweat each casual word to hear!
And though I smash’d them one and all,—
Yet them I could not liars call.
Who comes this way? who’s sneaking here?
If I mistake not, two draw near.
If he be one, have at him;—well I wot
Alive he shall not leave this spot!
How far from yon sacristy, athwart the night,
Its beams the ever-burning taper throws,
While ever waning, fades the glimmering light,
As gathering darkness doth around it close!
So night like gloom doth in my bosom reign.
I’m like a tom-cat in a thievish vein
That up fire-ladders tall and steep
And round the walls doth slyly creep;
Virtuous withal I feel, with, I confess.
A touch of thievish joy and wantonness.
Thus through my limbs already burns
The glorious Walpurgis night!
After tomorrow it returns;
Then why one wakes, one knows aright!
Meanwhile, the treasure I see glimmering there.
Will it ascend into the open air?
Ere long thou wilt proceed with pleasure
To raise the casket with its treasure;
I took a peep, therein are stored
Of lion-dollars a rich hoard.
And not a trinket? not a ring?
Wherewith my lovely girl to deck?
I saw among them some such thing,
A string of pearls to grace her neck.
’Tis well! I’m always loath to go,
Without some gift my love to show.