Along the roof o’ergrown with moss
Has many a tuft of thatch projected,
A spider-web is built across
The window-jamb, else unprotected;
The wing of a gleaming dragon-fly
Hangs in it like some petal tender,
The body armed in golden splendor
Lies headless on the sill near-by.
A butterfly sometimes may chance
In heedless play to flutter hither
And stop in momentary trance
Where the narcissus blossoms wither;
A dove that through the grove has flown
Above this dell no more will utter
Her coo, one can but hear her flutter
And see her shadow on the stone.
And in the fireplace where the snow
Each winter down the chimney dashes
A mass of bell-capped toad-stools grow
On viscid heaps of moldering ashes.
High on a peg above the rest
A hank of rope-yarn limply dangles
Like rotted hair, and in the tangles
The swallow built her last year’s nest.
An old dog-collar set with bells
Swings from a hook by clasp and tether,
With rude embroidery that spells
“Diana” worked upon the leather.
A flute too, when the woodsman died,
The men who dug his grave forgot here;
The dog, his only friend, they shot here
And laid her by her master’s side.
But while I sit in reverie,
A field-mouse near me shrilly crying,
The squirrel barking from his tree,
And from the marsh the frogs replying—
Then eerie shudders o’er me shoot,
As if I caught from out the dingle
Diana’s bells once more a-jingle
And echoes of the dead man’s flute.
* * * * *
BY ANNETTE ELIZABETH VON DROSTE-HUeLSHOFF
TRANSLATED BY LILLIE WINTER, A.B.
Frederick Mergel, born in 1738, was the son of a so-called Halbmeier or property holder of low station in the village of B., which, however badly built and smoky it may be, still engrosses the eye of every traveler by the extremely picturesque beauty of its situation in a green woody ravine of an important and historically noteworthy mountain chain. The little country to which it belonged was, at that time, one of those secluded corners of the earth, without trade or manufacturing, without highways, where a strange face still excited interest and a journey of thirty miles made even one of the more important inhabitants the Ulysses of his vicinage—in short, a spot, as so many more that once could be found in Germany, with all the failings and the virtues, all the originality and the narrowness that can flourish only under such conditions.