Lohengrin And Elsa The Beautiful





The young Duchess of Brabant, Elsa the Beautiful, had gone into the

woods hunting, and becoming separated from her attendants, sat down to

rest under a wide-branching linden-tree.



She was sorely troubled, for many lords and princes were asking for

her hand in marriage. More urgent than all the others was the

invincible hero, Count Telramund, her former guardian, who since the

death of her father had ruled over the land with masterly hand. Now

the duke, her father, on his death-bed had promised Telramund that he

might have Elsa for wife, should she be willing; and Telramund was

continually reminding her of this. But Elsa blushed with shame at the

mere thought of such a union, for Telramund was a rough warrior, as

much hated for his cruelty as he was feared for his strength. To make

matters worse he was now at the court of the chosen King Henry of

Saxony, threatening her with war and even worse calamities.



In the shade of the linden Elsa thought of all this, and pitied her

own loneliness in that no brother or friend stood at her side to help

her. Then the sweet singing of birds seemed to comfort her, and she

dropped into a gentle sleep. As she dreamed it seemed to her that a

young knight stepped out of the depths of the forest. Holding up a

small silver bell, he spoke in friendly tones:



"If you should need my help, just ring this."



Elsa tried to take the trinket, but she could neither rise nor reach

the outstretched hand. Then she awoke.



Thinking over the apparition Elsa noted a falcon circling over her

head. It came nearer and finally settled on her shoulder. Around his

neck hung a bell exactly like that she had seen in the dream. She

loosened it, and as she did so the bird rose and flew away. But she

still held the little bell in her hand, and in her soul was fresh hope

and peace.



When she returned to the castle she found there a message, bidding her

appear before the king in Cologne on the Rhine. Filled with confidence

in the protection of higher powers, she did not hesitate to obey. In

gorgeous costume, with many followers, she set out.



King Henry was a man who loved justice and exercised it, but his

kingdom was in constant danger from inroads by wild Huns, and for this

reason he wished to do whatever would win the favor of the powerful

Count Telramund. When, however, he saw Elsa in all her beauty and

innocence he hesitated in his purpose.



The plaintiff brought forward three men who testified that the duchess

had entered into a secret union with one of her vassals. Only two of

these men were shown to be perfidious; the testimony of the other

seemed valid, though this was not enough to condemn her.



Then Telramund seized his sword, crying out that God Himself should be

the judge, and that a duel should decide the matter. So a duel was

arranged to take place three days later.



Elsa cast her eyes around the circle of nobles, but saw no one grasp

his sword in defense of her innocence. Fear of the mighty warrior

Telramund filled them all.



Remembering the little bell, she drew it forth from her pocket and

rang it. The clear tones broke the stillness, grew louder and louder

until they reached even the distant mountains.



"My champion will appear in the contest," she said; whereupon the

count let forth such a mocking laugh that the hearts of all were

filled with intense fear.



The day of the contest was at hand. The king sat on his high throne

and watched the majestic river that sent its mighty waters through the

valley. Princes and brave knights were gathered together. Before them

stood Telramund, clad in armor, and at his side the accused Elsa,

adorned with every grace that Nature can bestow.



Three times the mighty hero challenged some one to come forward as a

champion for the accused girl, but no one stirred. Then arose from the

Rhine the sound of sweet music; something silvery gleamed in the

distance, and as it came nearer it was plain that it was a swan with

silver feathers. With a silver chain he was pulling a small ship, in

which lay sleeping a knight clad in bright armor.



When the bark landed, the knight awoke, rose, and blew three times on

a golden horn. This was the signal that he took up the challenge.

Quickly he strode into the lists.



"Your name and descent?" cried the herald.



"My name is Lohengrin," answered the stranger, "my origin royal: more

it is not necessary to tell."



"Enough," broke in the king, "nobility is written on your brow."



Trumpets gave the signal for the fight to begin. Telramund's strokes

fell thick as hail, but suddenly the stranger knight rose and with one

fearful stroke split the count's helmet and cut his head.



"God has decided," cried the king. "His judgment is right; but you,

noble knight, will help us in the campaign against the barbarian

hordes and will be the leader of the detachment which the fair duchess

will send from Brabant."



Gladly Lohengrin consented, and amid cries of delight from the

assembled people he rode over to Elsa, who greeted him as her

deliverer.



Lohengrin escorted Elsa back to Brabant, and on the way love awoke in

their hearts, and they knew that they were destined for each other. In

the castle of Antwerp they were pledged, and a few weeks later the

marriage took place. As the bridal couple were leaving the cathedral,

Lohengrin said to Elsa:



"One thing I must ask of you, and that is that you never inquire

concerning my origin, for in the hour that you put that question must

I surely part from you."



It was not long after the ceremony that the cry to arms came from King

Henry, and Elsa accompanied her husband and his troops to Cologne,

where all the counts of the kingdom were assembled. Here there were

many inquiries concerning Lohengrin, and when none seemed to know of

his origin, some jealously claimed that he was the son of a heathen

magician, and that he gained his victories by the power of black arts.



Elsa, who had heard rumors of these charges, was deeply grieved; for

she knew the noble heart of her husband. He had even relieved her

fears for his safety by the assurance that he was under the protection

of powers higher than human.



But she could not banish the evil rumors from her mind, and forgetting

the warning her husband had given her on the day of her marriage, she

dropped to her knees and asked him concerning his birth.



"Dear wife," he cried in great distress, "now will I tell to you and

to the king and to all the assembled princes, what up to this time I

have kept secret; but know that the time of our parting is at hand."



Then the hero led his trembling wife before the king and his nobles

who were assembled on the banks of the Rhine.



"The son of Parsifal am I," he said, "the son of Parsifal, the keeper

of the Holy Grail. Gladly would I have helped you, O King, in your

fight against the barbarians, but an unavoidable fate calls me away.

You will, however, be victorious, and under your descendants will

Germany become a powerful nation."



When he finished speaking there was a deep silence, and then, as upon

his arrival, there rose the sound of music--not joyful this time, but

solemn, like a chant at the grave of the dead. It came nearer and

again the swan and the boat appeared.



"Farewell, dear one," Lohengrin cried, folding his wife in his arms.

"Too dearly did I hold you and your pleasant land of earth; now a

higher duty calls me."



Weeping, Elsa clung to him; but the swan song sounded louder, like a

warning. He tore himself free and stepped into the boat. Was it the

ship of death and destruction, or only the ship that carried the

blessed to the sacred place of the Grail? No one knew.



Elsa, lonely and sad, did not live long after the separation. Her only

hope was that she would be reunited to her dear husband; and she

parted willingly with her own life, as other children of earth have

done when they have lost all that they held most precious.





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