Lenore (ballad)  

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"At sunrise, their journey ends and they arrive at the cemetery's doors. As the horse goes through the tombstones, the knight begins to lose its human appearance, and is revealed as Death, a skeleton with a scythe and an hourglass. The marriage bed is shown to be the grave where, together with his shattered armour, William's skeleton lies. The ground beneath Lenore's feet begins to crumble and the spirits, dancing in the moonlight, surround dying Lenore, declaring that "no one is to quarrel with God in Heaven" ("mit Gott im Himmel hadre nicht"). However, Lenore, punished with death, still has hope for forgiveness ("des Leibes bist du ledig/Gott sei der Seele gnädig")."

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Lenore, sometimes translated as Leonora, Leonore or Ellenore, is a poem written by German author Gottfried August Bürger in 1773, and published in 1774 in the Göttinger Musenalmanach. Lenore is generally characterised as being part of the 18th century Gothic ballads, and although the character that returns from its grave in the poem is not considered to be a vampire, the poem has been very influential on vampire literature. William Taylor, who published the first English translation of the ballad, would later claim that "no German poem has been so repeatedly translated into English as Ellenore".

Synopsis

Although the Battle of Prague is over, William, the fiancé of a young woman named Lenore, has not returned from the Seven Years' War yet. Ever since he had gone to battle in the army of King Frederick, Lenore has been impatiently worrying about William every day and longing for his return, but she has not heard any news from him. When the other warriors return from the war without William, she begins to quarrel with God, complaining about His unfairness and proclaiming that He has never done her any good, which prompts her mother to ask for her daughter's forgiveness because she knows that such a thought is blasphemous and will condemn her to Hell. Lenore's mother also suggests that William probably found another woman in Hungary, and that Lenore should forget him.

At midnight, a mysterious stranger who looks like William knocks on the door searching for Lenore and asks her to accompany him on horseback to their marriage bed. Lenore happily gets on the stranger's black steed and the two ride at a frenetic pace, under the moonlight, along a path filled with eerie landscapes. Terrorised, Lenore demands to know why they are riding so fast, to which he responds that they are doing so because "the dead travel fast" ("die Todten reiten schnell"). Lenore asks William to "leave the dead alone" ("Laß sie ruhn, die Todten").

At sunrise, their journey ends and they arrive at the cemetery's doors. As the horse goes through the tombstones, the knight begins to lose its human appearance, and is revealed as Death, a skeleton with a scythe and an hourglass. The marriage bed is shown to be the grave where, together with his shattered armour, William's skeleton lies. The ground beneath Lenore's feet begins to crumble and the spirits, dancing in the moonlight, surround dying Lenore, declaring that "no one is to quarrel with God in Heaven" ("mit Gott im Himmel hadre nicht"). However, Lenore, punished with death, still has hope for forgiveness ("des Leibes bist du ledig/Gott sei der Seele gnädig").

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