1. The Venusburg -

The Venusburg

In Germany the fabled Venusburg
A broad and fertile valley overlooked,
In fair Thuringia. The winds blew free
Along the mountain slopes, where shepherds watched
Their sheep, and played upon their pipes in sweet
Contentment all the day, beneath the blue
And arching sky. And in the valley rang
Often the cheery cry of noble knights
And jovial hunting parties on their way
To visit Wartburg castle, in which dwelt
The Landgrave, Herman, and his men-at-arms,
And his brave knights of fair Thuringia.
And with him dwelt his niece, Elizabeth,
The princess of the realm. The minstrel knights
And nobles, skilled in voice and on the harp,
Were wont to gather in the Landgrave's hall
And there contest in song. In this fine art
The sweetest singer of Thuringia
Was young Tannhauser, who, by his fair face
And wondrous melodies in song, had won
The heart of proud Elizabeth. And yet
This noble knight was dreamy in his mood
And restless in his life, dissatisfied,
And longed for change and new experiences.

And in this dreamy mood, with harp in hand,
He passed, one day, the grotto of the Venusburg.
The great enchantress of this fateful place
Put forth her magic spells and drew him on.
And when Tannhauser raised his eyes he saw
A country beautiful and strangely new.
As through a doorway seen, there flitted through
The gleaming, ever-changing, rose-hued mist
A countless throng of figures beautiful.
And heavy-headed flowers sent to him
Their all-compelling perfume through the air.
And far away he saw the misty lakes
Of magic blue. The sound of music came to him,
So strangely sweet it almost gave him pain
To hear. And in the midst of all there stood
The great enchantress, smiling, beckoning him
To come. So great her spell, he moved as in a dream,
Into the grotto passed, and fancied that
He heard a heavy door behind him clang.

For one long year, with ever changing scenes,
Tannhauser stayed within the Venusburg
And thought that he was happy there. The change
In shifting scenes, the wild bacchantes, and
The nymphs in mimic war, in graceful dance,
Afforded for his ever restless soul
The wild excitement which he craved. And for
His softer moods the chording voices of
The sirens satisfied. He breathed the scent
Of flowers wondrous sweet, and watched at times

Dissolving mist-wreaths as they faded out
Their rosy hues. With Venus long he sat
At other times, and more and more she wove
Her spells which bound him fast to her. She taught
To him her songs of love, which he before
Had never heard, and dazzled by her charms
He worshipped her as did the world of old
When she was grand and true and gave
The gift of noble love to all humanity.
Tannhauser, now enthralled by magic spells,
Had long forgotten all his former life —
His friends, his love for fair Elizabeth,
His love for God, for Christ and righteousness,
And all the good and true which come to man
By sacrifice and overcoming sin
Were banished from his mind, so lost was he
To all the life within the Venusburg.

And yet, the restless nature of his soul
That led him into sin was destined to
Arouse him to his lost estate. One day
Tannhauser felt himself awake once more.
He fancied that he heard the clanging peals
Of church bells far away, and through his mind
There struggled back the long forgotten life;
The sun, the friendly glimmer of the stars,
The song of nightingales, the morning light,
The freshness of the earth, the skies above,
In memory came rushing through his mind.
In wild appeal to Venus now he cried:
" Are these things lost to me? " And, rising from
Her couch, with quick though mild rebuke she bade
Him call to mind for her a scene less sad,
For she remembered well the world from which
She was dethroned and basely relegated to
This under-realm. Tannhauser, now aroused,
Felt all his restlessness, and would not be
Denied. In vain she wove about him now
Her magic spells. Tannhauser pleaded for
Releasement from her power, to live again
His former life, to know the natural joys,
The sorrows and the common things of earth.
In wrath she charged him with ingratitude
To her for all the lavished joys which she
Had given him. But when she saw in vain
Her wrath affected him, in softer tones
She promised him more perfect joys, and things
More beautiful. And while she spoke there came
From over all the dim blue lakes the soft
Caressing voices of the sirens in
Their wondrous harmonies. " My knight, " she cried,
" Why will you fly? " With stormy passion moved,
Tannhauser seized his harp and smote the strings,
And sang in mighty voice. He pledged to sing
When in the upper world, of Venus and
Her praise alone, but to that upper world
He now must go. The great enchantress saw
Her power on him now was gone, and bade him go.
Then in a moment flashed away from him
The Venusburg and all its wondrous spells;

And, stretched full length upon the mountain side,
Tannhauser found himself too weak to rise
Up from the grassy slope at first. Confused
In mind, up to the wide blue sky he gazed,
While slowly came to him the memory
Of all his former life, the bitter truth
Of sin in going to the Venusburg.
And from the pasture lands below he heard
The sheep bells, where the peaceful shepherd lad
Lay playing on his pipes, and pausing now and then
To sing a song to Holda, goddess of
The Spring. Across the quiet valley came
The sounds of hunting horns, the baying of
The hunting pack with full excitement for
The chase, and stirred the lonely knight upon
The mountain side to full activity.
And soon the Landgrave and five minstrel knights
Drew near and recognized Tannhauser, and
With words of welcome and much kindness asked
Where he had been. " I wandered in strange lands, "
Tannhauser said. " I pray you question not,
But let me pass. " The Landgrave saw his mood
And courteously forbore to further press
And question him, but pointed out how sad
Had been the princess, fair Elizabeth,
In his long absence from the hall, and asked
That he should join the coming revels of
The minstrelsy of song in Wartburg Hall.
With gladness in his heart he promised to
Attend. And now the heavens seemed to smile

A pardon down on him, and sweet the wind
Blew softly on his face. " Elizabeth, " he said.
The murmur of her name a sense of peace
And freedom brought to him. And now once more
He humbly prayed to God that he might be
Forgiven for his sin, and find a peace
Of heart, and full acceptance in His sight.
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