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The Forest Keep
The noble lord of the Falkenburg had fallen on the hot plains of Phrygia in one of those struggles for the holy sepulchre. His pious widow and his only child Dietlinde inhabited the family stronghold. As Dietlinde was of exceptional beauty and had a winning disposition, wooers came from far and near to sue for the hand of the maid who possessed for her dowry the magnificent castle of Falkenburg.
Among these wooers was knight Guntram, a scion of an ancient family, who won the heart of the fair Dietlinde. As this knight also pleased the mother there was nothing to delay the union of the lovers. Unexpectedly however, just on the eve of the marriage, Guntram received a command from the Elector to appear at court. Arriving there the young knight received from his overlord the honourable commission of accompanying an ,embassy to the Duke of Burgundy. With a heavy heart Guntram obeyed the command, and after taking a manly farewell of his weeping bride, he set out on his journey to Burgundy.
Several weeks after, he was hastening home to his beloved. Unfortunately, in a wild forest region he had separated from his companions, and lost his way. He wandered till sunset, searching in vain for his friends. After several hours of fruitless endeavour he observed a light in the deepening darkness, and this light led him to a lonely forest keep. He was welcomed by an old knight. This old knight's features were mild, his hair of a silvery gray, and the sound of his voice and the look in his eyes seemed to express the saddest melancholy. A sumptuous repast refreshed the wandering knight, and a comfortable couch in a splendid room invited him. to slumber for the remainder of the night. After a pious Ave Maria, and with fond thoughts of his distant bride, Guntram was closing his eyes in sleep, when a low, sweet, enchanting song became audible. The knight listened, and could hear the words of a yearning love-song, sung apparently by a lady. Curiosity induced him to find out the individual who thus entrusted her sorrows to the ear of night. In an adjoining chamber he found a maiden of wondrous beauty who ceased her singing on his entering. Overcome by this fair creature Guntram addressed her, but received no answer. Again he spoke some words, but encountered only a still stare from enravishing eyes. He stepped nearer, and again .expressed some tender words of admiration. Suddenly, he observed a marble tablet on the wall. A beam of light fell upon it, and there he could read as in letters of fire the following verse:"Alone in silent solitude I pine,
Ah! kiss me love, and be forever mine."
The knight seemed transported to some magic land. The spell of evil enchantment now completely overpowered him. He fondly seized the snow-white hand, and madly kissed the lips of his smiling enslaver. Then this syren seated herself on Guntram's knee and sang yearning songs in praise of love. When the ghostly hour sounded, the maiden turned from him, and suddenly vanished. She had left a ring in the knight's hand and when he entered his own chamber, he read, engraved on it, the three words: "Thou art mine." Then the conciousness of his faithless conduct overwhelmed the knight. Grief and shame oppressed his heart and drove sleep from his pillow. In the gray dawn he arose, and after kindly thanking his aged host hurried from the castle.
A friendly shepherd guided Guntram to the high-road, and from the lips of this man he learned to his consternation the secret of the sequestered forest keep. The gray-bearded knight who received him so hospitably had once had a daughter named Gerlinde. This maid possessed angelic beauty, but unfortunately her disposition seemed almost diabolic. Many had wooed this maid, but with sinful presumption she succeeded in inciting each of her lovers to some deed which wrought their destruction. One day the wretched mother of one of these unfortunate young men sought this godless woman and invoked the curse of Heaven upon such conduct. Before a month had sped death snatched away the wanton maiden of the Waldburg. Her ghost however haunted the castle, and she still strove to overcome by her irresistible charm each male guest who visited her old home. Only the man who yielded not to the temptation could release her from the curse. But all who yielded to her caresses died in three times nine days. Pale with dismay Guntram heard the shepherd's tale to the end, and then spurred his horse from the accursed neighbourhood.
In the Falkenburg his faithful bride patiently awaited her lover's return. The bridegroom urgently requested that the marriage should take place on the following day, and so it was arranged. In the beautifully decorated chapel Guntram and the fair daughter of the lord of Falkenstein stood before the altar. When however the lovers joined hands at the request of the priest, then the maid of the Waldburg appeared before the awe-struck bridegroom, and laid her ice-cold hand in his. Guntram sank unconscious on the floor of the chapel. With tender care the bride watched over her beloved, and when he came to himself he sorrowfully confessed to her his experience in the Waldburg. So deep was Dietlinde's love that she pardoned her repentant lover. The priest was again summoned, and the marriage ceremony completed. After three times nine days of calm happiness Count Guntram fell peacefully asleep in the arms of his faithful wife.
Dietlinde thenceforth lived quietly with her mother in the Falkenburg. She mourned deeply the loss of her husband, and prayed fervently for the eternal welfare of his soul. Her little son she named Guntram, and she early imbued him with love for the father he had never seen.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine