Romanze des Richard Löwenherz, D 907

Romance of Richard the Lionheart

(Poet's title: Des Kreuzfahrers Rückkehr)

Set by Schubert:

  • D 907

Text by:

Walter Scott
Karl Ludwig Methusalem Müller

First published 1820.

Müller’s German text is a translation from Scott’s English original

Des Kreuzfahrers Rückkehr

Großer Taten tat der Ritter
Fern im heil’gen Lande viel,
Und das Kreuz auf seiner Schulter
Bleicht’ im rauen Schlachtgewühl,
Manche Narb auf seinem Schilde
Trug er aus dem Kampfgefilde,
An der Dame Fenster dicht
Sang er so im Mondenlicht:

Heil der Schönen! aus der Ferne
Ist der Ritter heimgekehrt,
Doch nichts durft’ er mit sich nehmen,
Als sein treues Ross und Schwert:
Seine Lanze, seine Sporen
Sind allein ihm unverloren,
Dies ist all sein irdisch Glück,
Dies und Theklas Liebesblick.

Heil der Schönen! was der Ritter
Tat, verdankt er ihrer Gunst,
Darum soll ihr Lob verkünden
Stets des Sängers süße Kunst.
»Seht, da ist sie,« wird es heißen,
Wenn sie ihre Schöne preisen,
»Deren Augen Himmelsglanz
Gab bei Ascalon den Kranz«.

Schaut ihr Lächeln, eh´rne Männer
Streckt’ es leblos in den Staub,
Und Iconium, ob sein Sultan
Mutig stritt, ward ihm zum Raub.
Diese Locken, wie sie golden
Schwimmen um die Brust der Holden,
Legten manchem Muselman
Fesseln unzerreißbar an.

Heil der Schönen! dir gehöret,
Holde, was dein Ritter tat,
Darum öffne ihm die Pforte,
Nachtwind streift, die Stunde naht,
Dort in Syriens heißen Zonen
Musst’ er leicht des Nords entwohnen,
Lieb ersticke nun die Scham,
Weil von ihm der Ruhm dir kam.

Romance of Richard the Lionheart

The knight achieved great deeds,
A great number, far away in the holy land,
And the cross on his shoulder
Faded in the rough turmoil of battle.
Many scars on his shield
He carried away from the field of battle,
Close to his lady’s window
He sang in the moonlight as follows:

Greetings to the beautiful one! From far away
The knight has returned home,
But he was not able to bring back anything with him
Except his faithful horse and sword:
His lance, his spurs,
Are all that he has not lost,
This is all his earthly happiness,
This and Thekla’s loving glance! –

Greetings to the beautiful one! What the knight
Did he attributes to her favour,
Therefore proclaiming her praise should
Always be the singer’s art!
“Look, there she is,” will be the cry
When they laud her beauty,
“The heavenly radiance of whose eyes
Won the garland at Ascalon!”

“Look at her smile! iron men
Were struck lifeless by it in the dust!
And Iconium, although its Sultan
Fought courageously, became its prey!
Those locks, with their golden
Swimming around the fair one’s breast,
Laid many a Muslim
In unbreakable fetters!”

Greetings to the beautiful one! It belongs to you,
Fair one, what that knight achieved –
Therefore open the gate to him,
The nightwind is stirring, the hour is approaching!
There is Syria’s hot regions
He had to lose his familiarity with the north!
Let love now stifle modesty,
Because glory came to you from him!



This ‘Romance of Richard the Lionheart’ was written by Walter Scott in 1819, and in the context of his novel Ivanhoe it is supposed to be sung by the King just after his return from the ‘Third’ Crusade in 1194.

Historical Background

Richard ‘Coeur de Lion’, Count of Anjou, Duke of Aquitaine and Normandy, King of England etc. etc. was a real person (b.1157, d.1199), though legends began to surround him within his own lifetime. Every story that has ever been told about him has an element of ‘romance’. However, the basics are undisputed.

In 1187 the Kurdish leader Saladin (Salah ad-Din) led the army of the Sultanate of Egypt and Syria in a successful assault on the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Richard (not yet King of England) immediately ‘took the cross’, a formal gesture whereby soldiers swore to fight for the army of Christ, led by the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, under the sign of the cross (which, as described in the Romance, was sown onto their tunics). By the time he arrived in the eastern Mediterranean his father (Henry II) had died and he was King of England.

Richard was only one of the westerners involved in the attempt to retake Jerusalem. On 14th May 1190 the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) defeated the army of the Sultanate of Rum at Iconium (modern Konya in Turkey). Despite the claim in Scott’s Romance, Richard the Lionheart was not present for this battle.

He was, however, involved in the fight to take back the coast around Acre and Jaffa on behalf of Outremer (the Crusader state). He tried to ensure that Ascalon (modern Ashkelon) was refortified so that it could continue to act as a bridgehead for future planned assaults on Jerusalem.

Scott’s Romance implies that all of these military deeds were done in honour of a ‘fair lady’, that knights in shining armour were motivated mainly by damsels (not necessarily in distress). Although there were traces of what came to be called ‘courtly love’ in 12th century culture (not least in connection with Richard’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine) there is more or less universal consensus that this was not the primary motivation of crusading knights. (What that primary motivation might have been remains one of the great debates, though).

Literary background

Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) made his name as a poet. He published his first novels (beginning with Waverley in 1814) anonymously. Ivanhoe (1820) was the first of his novels not to be set in Scotland, though it has been argued that many of its themes relate closely to his own Scottish context. The events of Ivanhoe revolve around the last gasp of Saxon resistance to the victory of the Normans, and King Richard I is presented as reconciling the two traditions by embodying the best of both – Norman chivalry and a love of down-to-earth Saxon freedom. This reconciliation happens 128 years after the Battle of Hastings, and when Scott wrote Ivanhoe 112 years had passed since the Act of Union between Scotland and England. It is as if Scott (a keen Unionist and Tory, despite also being a Scottish ‘nationalist’) is urging his compatriots to learn the lesson of this previous union.

The relationship between Normans and Saxons is central to the context in which the Romance (‘The Crusader’s Return’) appears in Ivanhoe chapter 17.  A knight dressed all in black had intervened in a grand tournament at Ashby de la Zouche to support Wilfred of Ivanhoe but left the lists before he could be asked to identify himself. On his way north he needs to rest, and in the midst of the woods (Sherwood Forest) he asks for hospitality from a hermit, the Clerk of Copmanhurst (aka Friar Tuck). Spoiler alert! Robin Hood is not far away and the anonymous knight is actually King Richard the Lionheart himself, who does not want his presence known to his evil brother Prince John.

Chapter 16 of the novel presents the meeting between the King (not yet known as such) and the outlaw (still pretending to be an ascetic friar). The knight soon sees that the monk has a stash of food and drink and is not all that he seems:

"By my faith," said the knight, "thou makest me more curious than ever! Thou art the most mysterious hermit I ever met; and I will know more of thee ere we part. As for thy threats, know, holy man, thou speakest to one whose trade it is to find out danger wherever it is to be met with."

"Sir Sluggish Knight, I drink to thee," said the hermit; "respecting thy valour much, but deeming wondrous slightly of thy discretion. If thou wilt take equal arms with me, I will give thee, in all friendship and brotherly love, such sufficing penance and complete absolution, that thou shalt not for the next twelve months sin the sin of excess of curiosity."

The knight pledged him, and desired him to name his weapons.

"There is none," replied the hermit, "from the scissors of Delilah, and the tenpenny nail of Jael, to the scimitar of Goliath, at which I am not a match for thee---But, if I am to make the election, what sayst thou, good friend, to these trinkets?"

Thus speaking, he opened another hutch, and took out from it a couple of broadswords and bucklers, such as were used by the yeomanry of the period. The knight, who watched his motions, observed that this second place of concealment was furnished with two or three good long-bows, a cross-bow, a bundle of bolts for the latter, and half-a-dozen sheaves of arrows for the former. A harp, and other matters of a very uncanonical appearance, were also visible when this dark recess was opened.

"I promise thee, brother Clerk," said he, "I will ask thee no more offensive questions. The contents of that cupboard are an answer to all my enquiries; and I see a weapon there" (here be stooped and took out the harp) "on which I would more gladly prove my skill with thee, than at the sword and buckler."

"I hope, Sir Knight," said the hermit, "thou hast given no good reason for thy surname of the Sluggard. I do promise thee I suspect thee grievously. Nevertheless, thou art my guest, and I will not put thy manhood to the proof without thine own free will. Sit thee down, then, and fill thy cup; let us drink, sing, and be merry. If thou knowest ever a good lay, thou shalt be welcome to a nook of pasty at Copmanhurst so long as I serve the chapel of St Dunstan, which, please God, shall be till I change my grey covering for one of green turf. But come, fill a flagon, for it will crave some time to tune the harp; and nought pitches the voice and sharpens the ear like a cup of wine. For my part, I love to feel the grape at my very finger-ends before they make the harp-strings tinkle."

Chapter 17

Notwithstanding the prescription of the genial hermit, with which his guest willingly complied, he found it no easy matter to bring the harp to harmony.

"Methinks, holy father," said he, "the instrument wants one string, and the rest have been somewhat misused."

"Ay, mark'st thou that?" replied the hermit; "that shows thee a master of the craft. Wine and wassail," he added, gravely casting up his eyes---"all the fault of wine and wassail!---I told Allan-a-Dale, the northern minstrel, that he would damage the harp if he touched it after the seventh cup, but he would not be controlled---Friend, I drink to thy successful performance."

So saying, he took off his cup with much gravity, at the same time shaking his head at the intemperance of the Scottish harper.

The knight in the meantime, had brought the strings into some order, and after a short prelude, asked his host whether he would choose a "sirvente" in the language of "oc", or a "lai" in the language of "oui", or a "virelai", or a ballad in the vulgar English. [See Scott's Note on Minstrelsy, below]

"I will assay, then," said the knight, "a ballad composed by a Saxon glee-man, whom I knew in Holy Land."
It speedily appeared, that if the knight was not a complete master of the minstrel art, his taste for it had at least been cultivated under the best instructors. Art had taught him to soften the faults of a voice which had little compass, and was naturally rough rather than mellow, and, in short, had done all that culture can do in supplying natural deficiencies. His performance, therefore, might have been termed very respectable by abler judges than the hermit, especially as the knight threw into the notes now a degree of spirit, and now of plaintive enthusiasm, which gave force and energy to the verses which he sung.

      THE CRUSADER'S RETURN.

               1.

    High deeds achieved of knightly fame,
    From Palestine the champion came;
    The cross upon his shoulders borne,
    Battle and blast had dimm'd and torn.
    Each dint upon his batter'd shield
    Was token of a foughten field;
    And thus, beneath his lady's bower,
    He sung as fell the twilight hour:---

               2.

    "Joy to the fair!---thy knight behold,
    Return'd from yonder land of gold;
    No wealth he brings, nor wealth can need,
    Save his good arms and battle-steed
    His spurs, to dash against a foe,
    His lance and sword to lay him low;
    Such all the trophies of his toil,
    Such---and the hope of Tekla's smile!

               3.

    "Joy to the fair! whose constant knight
    Her favour fired to feats of might;
    Unnoted shall she not remain,
    Where meet the bright and noble train;
    Minstrel shall sing and herald tell---
    'Mark yonder maid of beauty well,
    'Tis she for whose bright eyes were won
    The listed field at Askalon!

               4.

    "'Note well her smile!---it edged the blade
    Which fifty wives to widows made,
    When, vain his strength and Mahound's spell,
    Iconium's turban'd Soldan fell.
    Seest thou her locks, whose sunny glow
    Half shows, half shades, her neck of snow?
    Twines not of them one golden thread,
    But for its sake a Paynim bled.'

               5.

    "Joy to the fair!---my name unknown,
    Each deed, and all its praise thine own
    Then, oh! unbar this churlish gate,
    The night dew falls, the hour is late.
    Inured to Syria's glowing breath,
    I feel the north breeze chill as death;
    Let grateful love quell maiden shame,
    And grant him bliss who brings thee fame.

During this performance, the hermit demeaned himself much like a first-rate critic of the present day at a new opera. He reclined back upon his seat, with his eyes half shut; now, folding his hands and twisting his thumbs, he seemed absorbed in attention, and anon, balancing his expanded palms, he gently flourished them in time to the music. At one or two favourite cadences, he threw in a little assistance of his own, where the knight's voice seemed unable to carry the air so high as his worshipful taste approved. When the song was ended, the anchorite emphatically declared it a good one, and well sung.

"And yet," said he, "I think my Saxon countrymen had herded long enough with the Normans, to fall into the tone of their melancholy ditties. What took the honest knight from home? or what could he expect but to find his mistress agreeably engaged with a rival on his return, and his serenade, as they call it, as little regarded as the caterwauling of a cat in the gutter? Nevertheless, Sir Knight, I drink this cup to thee, to the success of all true lovers---I fear you are none," he added, on observing that the knight (whose brain began to be heated with these repeated draughts) qualified his flagon from the water pitcher.

"Why," said the knight, "did you not tell me that this water was from the well of your blessed patron, St Dunstan?"

"Ay, truly," said the hermit, "and many a hundred of pagans did he baptize there, but I never heard that he drank any of it. Every thing should be put to its proper use in this world. St Dunstan knew, as well as any one, the prerogatives of a jovial friar."

And so saying, he reached the harp, and entertained his guest with the following characteristic song, to a sort of derry-down chorus, appropriate to an old English ditty. 

      THE BAREFOOTED FRIAR.

               1.

   I'll give thee, good fellow, a twelvemonth or twain,
   To search Europe through, from Byzantium to Spain;
   But ne'er shall you find, should you search till you tire,
   So happy a man as the Barefooted Friar.

               2.

   Your knight for his lady pricks forth in career,
   And is brought home at even-song prick'd through with a spear;
   I confess him in haste---for his lady desires
   No comfort on earth save the Barefooted Friar's.

               3.


   Your monarch?---Pshaw! many a prince has been known
   To barter his robes for our cowl and our gown,
   But which of us e'er felt the idle desire
   To exchange for a crown the grey hood of a Friar!

               4.

   The Friar has walk'd out, and where'er he has gone,
   The land and its fatness is mark'd for his own;
   He can roam where he lists, he can stop when he tires,
   For every man's house is the Barefooted Friar's.

               5.

   He's expected at noon, and no wight till he comes
   May profane the great chair, or the porridge of plums
   For the best of the cheer, and the seat by the fire,
   Is the undenied right of the Barefooted Friar.

               6.

   He's expected at night, and the pasty's made hot,
   They broach the brown ale, and they fill the black pot,
   And the goodwife would wish the goodman in the mire,
   Ere he lack'd a soft pillow, the Barefooted Friar.

               7.

   Long flourish the sandal, the cord, and the cope,
   The dread of the devil and trust of the Pope;
   For to gather life's roses, unscathed by the briar,
   Is granted alone to the Barefooted Friar.
Scott's Note C.—Minstrelsy.

The realm of France, it is well known, was divided betwixt the Norman and Teutonic race, who spoke the language in which the word Yes is pronounced as “oui”, and the inhabitants of the southern regions, whose speech bearing some affinity to the Italian, pronounced the same word “oc”. The poets of the former race were called “Minstrels”, and their poems “Lays”: those of the latter were termed “Troubadours”, and their compositions called “sirventes”, and other names. Richard, a professed admirer of the joyous science in all its branches, could imitate either the minstrel or troubadour. It is less likely that he should have been able to compose or sing an English ballad; yet so much do we wish to assimilate Him of the Lion Heart to the band of warriors whom he led, that the anachronism, if there be one may readily be forgiven.

Scott, The Crusader’s Return

High deeds achieved of knightly fame,
From Palestine the champion came;
The cross upon his shoulders borne,
Battle and blast had dimm’d and torn.
Each dint upon his batter’d shield
Was token of a foughten field;
And thus, beneath his lady’s bower,
He sung as fell the twilight hour:

“Joy to the fair! – thy knight behold,
Return’d from yonder land of gold;
No wealth he brings, nor wealth can need,
Save his good arms and battle steed;
His spurs, to dash against a foe,
His lance and sword to lay him low;
Such all the trophies of his toil,
Such – and the hope of Tekla’s smile! “

Joy to the fair! whose constant knight
Her favour fired to feats of might;
Unnoted shall she not remain
Where meet the bright and noble train;
Minstrel shall sing and herald tell –
‘Mark yonder maid of beauty well,
‘Tis she for whose bright eyes was won
The listed field at Ascalon!

“‘Note well her smile! – it edged the blade
Which fifty wives to widows made,
When, vain his strength and Mahound’s spell,
Iconium’s turban’d soldan fell.
See’st thou her locks, whose sunny glow
Half shows, half shades, her neck of snow?
Twines not of them one golden thread,
But for its sake a Paynim bled.’

“Joy to the fair! – my name unknown,
Each deed, and all its praise, thine own;
Then, oh! unbar this churlish gate,
The night-dew falls, the hour is late.
Inured to Syria’s glowing breath,
I feel the north breeze chill as death;
Let grateful love quell maiden shame,
And grant him bliss who brings thee fame.”

Müller, Des Kreuzfahrers Rückkehr

Großer Thaten that der Ritter
Fern im heil’gen Lande viel,
Und das Kreuz auf seiner Schulter
Bleicht’ im rauhen Schlachtgewühl.
Manche Narb’ auf seinem Schilde
Trug er aus dem Kampfgefilde,
An der Dame Fenster dicht
Sang er so im Mondenlicht:

Heil der Schönen! aus der Ferne
Ist der Ritter heimgekehrt,
Doch nichts durft’ er mit sich nehmen,
Als sein treues Roß und Schwert:
Seine Lanze, seine Sporen,
Sind allein ihm unverloren,
Dieß ist all sein irdisch Glück,
Dieß und Thekla’s Liebesblick! –

Heil der Schönen! was der Ritter
That, verdankt er ihrer Gunst,
Darum soll ihr Lob verkünden
Stets des Minstrels süße Kunst!
»Seht, das ist sie,« wird es heißen,
Wenn sie ihre Schöne preisen,
»Deren Augen Himmelsglanz
Gab bei Ascalon den Kranz!«

»Schaut ihr Lächeln! Fünfzig Männer
Streckt’ es leblos in den Staub!
Und Iconium, ob sein Sultan
Muthig stritt, ward ihm zum Raub!
Diese Locken, wie sie golden
Schwimmen um die Brust der Holden,
Legten manchem Muselmann
Fesseln unzerreißbar an!« –

Heil der Schönen! dir gehöret,
Holde, was dein Ritter that –
Öffne darum ihm die Pforte,
Nachtluft streift, die Stund’ ist spat!
Dort in Syriens heißen Zonen
Mußt’ er leicht des Nords entwohnen!
Lieb’ ersticke jetzt die Scham,
Weil von ihr der Ruhm dir kam!

Back translation, German-English

The knight achieved great deeds,
A great number, far away in the holy land,
And the cross on his shoulder
Faded in the rough turmoil of battle.
Many scars on his shield
He carried away from the field of battle,
Close to his lady’s window
He sang in the moonlight as follows:

Greetings to the beautiful one!,From far away
The knight has returned home,
But he was not able to bring back anything with him
Except his faithful horse and sword:
His lance, his spurs,
Are all that he has not lost,
This is all his earthly happiness,
This and Thekla’s loving glance! –

Greetings to the beautiful one! What the knight
Did he attributes to her favour,
Therefore proclaiming her praise should
Always be the minstrel’s art!
“Look, that is her,” will be the cry
When they laud her beauty,
“The heavenly radiance of whose eyes
Won the garland at Ascalon!”

“Look at her smile! fifty men
Were struck lifeless by it in the dust!
And Iconium, although its Sultan
Fought courageously, became its prey!
Those locks, with their golden
Swimming around the fair one’s breast,
Laid many a Muslim In unbreakable fetters!”

Greetings to the beautiful one! It belongs to you,
Fair one, what that knight achieved –
Therefore open the gate to him,
The night air is stirring, the hour is late!
There is Syria’s hot regions
He had to lose his familiarity with the north!
Let love now stifle modesty,
Because glory came to you from love!

Original Spelling and notes on the text

Romanze des Richard Löwenherz

Großer Thaten that der Ritter
Fern im heil'gen Lande viel,
Und das Kreuz auf seiner Schulter
Bleicht' im rauhen Schlachtgewühl.
Manche Narb' auf seinem Schilde
Trug er aus dem Kampfgefilde,
An der Dame Fenster dicht
Sang er so im Mondenlicht:

Heil der Schönen! aus der Ferne
Ist der Ritter heimgekehrt,
Doch nichts durft' er mit sich nehmen,
Als sein treues Roß und Schwert:
Seine Lanze, seine Sporen,
Sind allein ihm unverloren,
Dieß ist all sein irdisch Glück,
Dieß und Thekla's Liebesblick! -

Heil der Schönen! was der Ritter
That, verdankt er ihrer Gunst,
Darum soll ihr Lob verkünden
Stets des Sängers1 süße Kunst!
»Seht, da ist sie2,« wird es heißen,
Wenn sie ihre Schöne preisen,
»Deren Augen Himmelsglanz
Gab bei Ascalon den Kranz!«

»Schaut ihr Lächeln! eh´rne Männer3
Streckt' es leblos in den Staub!
Und Iconium, ob sein Sultan
Muthig stritt, ward ihm zum Raub!
Diese Locken, wie sie golden
Schwimmen um die Brust der Holden,
Legten manchem Muselmann
Fesseln unzerreißbar an!« -

Heil der Schönen! dir gehöret,
Holde, was dein Ritter that -
Darum öffne4 ihm die Pforte,
Nachtwind5 streift, die Stunde naht!6
Dort in Syriens heißen Zonen
Mußt' er leicht des Nords entwohnen!
Lieb' ersticke nun7 die Scham,
Weil von ihm8 der Ruhm dir kam!



1  Schubert changed 'Minstrels' (minstrel's) to 'Sängers' (singers')
2  Schubert changed 'das ist sie' (that is her) to 'da ist sie' (there she is)
3  Schubert changed 'Fünfzig Männer' (fifty men) to 'eh´rne Männer' (iron men)
4  Schubert changed 'Öffne darum' to 'Darum öffne'
5  Schubert changed 'Nachtluft' (night air) to 'Nachtwind' (night wind)
6  Schubert changed 'die Stund´ist spat' (the hour is late) to 'die Stunde naht' (the hour is approaching)
7  Schubert changed 'jetzt' to 'nun' (no essential change in meaning)
8  Schubert changed 'ihr' (love) to 'ihm' (him)

Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Ivanhoe. Nach dem Englischen von Walter Scott. Neue verbesserte Auflage. Erster Theil. [Walter Scott’s auserlesene Werke. Vierzehnter Band.] Wien. Gedruckt bey Anton Strauß. 1825, pages 242-244; and with Ivanhoe. Nach dem Englischen des Walter Scott von K. L. Meth. Müller. Zweyter Theil. Leipzig, 1820. J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, pages 41-42.

To see an early edition of the text, go to page 242  [246 von 322] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ182524208