The first of the Hohenstaufen at Winsperg did he lay,
King Konrad with his army, he held the town at bay.
The foe, the Guelph, was beaten, the town not giving, yet,
The villagers they held it, not minding weapon's threat.
The hunger came, the hunger! That is a piercing thorn;
For mercy they did ask now, but they found only scorn.
'You've slain in days gone by, many of my band,
Though if the gates you open, you still will find your end.'
The women begging came now: 'And if this is your will,
So let us go in peace, Sir, we did the blood not spill.'
The miserable wretches thus cooled the warrior's breast,
He felt the pity swelling softly in his chest.
'The women they may leave, and each may freely take,
What she can carry with her, for what her heart does ache.
And don't hold back the women, with their treasured thing;
That is the king's decision, the order of the king.'
And when with early morning rose the dawn's first light,
From camp you'd see with wonder a strange and curious sight:
So gently, gently opens the much beleaguered gate,
A staggering line of women steps out with heavy gait.
The load that's on their shoulders, it weighs them to the ground,
Carrying their husbands, that is the gem they found.
'Oh, stop those wretched women! ' the knights shout in a fret.
The Chancellor utters gravely: 'That is not what he said! '
The emperor laughed loudly when he heard them yell:
'It may not be the meaning, but they have done quite well;
My word is still my word, a king's word must be true,
No chancellor can twist it, and may not misconstrue.'
And thus the king kept holy the crown and kept it clear.
The tale it echoes forward from that faded year.
The year Eleven-fourty, of that time I sing,
In Germany we honored the word of our king.
from the German original:
Die Weiber von Winsperg
Adelbert von Chamisso