17. The Knight's Dream
It was between night and dawn of day that the knight was lying on his couch, half-
waking, half-sleeping. Whenever he was on the point of falling asleep a terror seemed to
come upon him and scare his rest away, for his slumbers were haunted with spectres. If
he tried, however, to rouse himself in good earnest he felt fanned as by the wings of a
swan, and he heard the soft murmuring of waters, until soothed by the agreeable delusion,
he sunk back again into a half- conscious state. At length he must have fallen sound
asleep, for it seemed to him as if he were lifted up upon the fluttering wings of the swans
and borne by them far over land and sea, while they sang to him their sweetest music.
"The music of the swan! the music of the swan!" he kept saying to himself; "does it not
always portend death?" But it had yet another meaning. All at once he felt as if he were
hovering over the Mediterranean Sea. A swan was singing musically in his ear that this
was the Mediterranean Sea. And while he was looking down upon the waters below they
became clear as crystal, so that he could see through them to the bottom. He was
delighted at this, for he could see Undine sitting beneath the crystal arch. It is true she
was weeping bitterly, and looking much sadder than in the happy days when they had
lived together at the castle of Ringstetten, especially at their commencement, and
afterward also, shortly before they had begun their unhappy Danube excursion. The
knight could not help thinking upon all this very fully and deeply, but it did not seem as if
Undine perceived him.
Meanwhile Kuhleborn had approached her, and was on the point of reproving her for her
weeping. But she drew herself up, and looked at him with such a noble and commanding
air that he almost shrunk back with fear. "Although I live here beneath the waters," said
she, "I have yet brought down my soul with me; and therefore I may well weep, although
you can not divine what such tears are. They too are blessed, for everything is blessed to
him in whom a true soul dwells."
He shook his head incredulously, and said, after some reflection: "And yet, niece, you are
subject to the laws of our element, and if he marries again and is unfaithful to you, you
are in duty bound to take away his life."
"He is a widower to this very hour," replied Undine, "and his sad heart still holds me
"He is, however, at the same time betrothed," laughed Kuhleborn, with scorn; "and let
only a few days pass, and the priest will have given the nuptial blessing, and then you
will have to go upon earth to accomplish the death of him who has taken another to
"That I cannot do," laughed Undine in return; "I have sealed up the fountain securely
against myself and my race."