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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Lament: ‘Ah me! whither have vanished the years of age and youth?’

By Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170–c. 1230)

Translation of Adolph Ernst Kroeger

AH me! whither have vanished the years of age and youth?

Has life been but a dream, then, or was it all a truth?

And was that really somewhat which I have lived and thought?

Surely I must have slumbered, although I knew it not.

And now that I’m awakened, I not a whit recall

That once I was acquainted amongst these people all:

The country and the people ’mongst whom my life passed by

Have grown to be estrangèd, as if ’twere all a lie.

They who were once my playmates are weary now and cold;

The prairies have been broken, the woods cut down and sold.

If yonder river flowed not e’en as it once did flow,

I do believe my sorrow would, growing, lay me low.

Me greet with hesitation many who knew me well:

This wretched world is everywhere a dark, ungrateful hell;

And then I think of many days of ecstasy and joy,

That now e’en as a stroke on the sea have gone forever by—

Forever, forevermore, ah me!

Ah me, how sad and careworn our young men now appear!

The men who never sorrow in their fresh minds did wear

Do nothing now but weary— Ah me! how can it be?

Wherever in the world I turn, no one seems glad to me.

Dancing, laughing, singing, grief has driven away;

Christian man saw never a world so sombre aye:

Look now how our women walk with strange headgear,

And how our knights and nobles in clownish dress appear.

Letters sharp reproving from Rome have come our way:

To mourn we have permission; we must no more be gay.

It grieves me to my heart’s core—we once did live so grand—

That now from cheerful laughter to weeping I must bend.

The wild birds of the forest sadden at our complaint,

Is’t wonder if I also despair and grow more faint?

But what— O wretched me! have I been led to scoff?

Who follows earthly happiness, from heaven’s bliss turneth off

Forevermore, ah me!

Ah me, how we are poisoned with the sweetness of the world!

I see the bitter gall amidst the sweetest honey curled.

The world is outward beautiful, white, and green, and red,

But inward, oh! a sombre black, gloomy, aye, and dead.

Yet now to who have listened a comfort I will show:

Even a gentle penance forgiveness shall bestow.

Remember this, O knightly lords, ’tis yours to do and seal;

You bear the glittering helmets and breastplates of strong steel,

Moreo’er the shields so steady and the consecrated swords:

O God, that I were worthy to join the victor lords!

Then should I like the others achieve a prize untold,—

Not lands that have been promised, nor king’s or nobles’ gold,

But oh, a wondrous crown, and forevermore to wear

A crown which poorest soldier can win with axe or spear.

Yea, if the noble crusade I might follow o’er the sea,

I evermore should sing, All’s well! and nevermore, Ah me!

Nevermore, Ah me!