The Soldier's Return Introduction

Chapter 1 from The Soldier's Return 
by Laura Libricz

To be realeased in October 2014  

Excerpts from the Journal of Sebald Tucher XI von Simmelsdorf und Sichardtshof

March 1626--This is the last page in my journal. This could well be a reflection of the amount of time I have left. This last chapter comes to a close and I am no longer guaranteed another one. With this entry I mark the end of a decade here at Sichardtshof. I have allowed the last ten years to race by light-heartedly. The fear that my life here is about to be violently and abruptly terminated haunts me with every echo of war that reaches my ears. Rumors of mercenary movement and of the villages they reduce to ash-piles are delivered with every message we receive from any fleeing source that passes through.
Simmering under the surface for years, the animosities between the Catholics and the Protestants has turned into an excuse to destroy much of the landscape here in the ununited German territories situated between France, Italy and Denmark. The obvious fact that the ruthless greed and charred egos of the princes and the warlords is fueling this fire tends to be overlooked as the underlying evil. And having no centralized government, the German cities and villages are left to not only fund this savage war, but they are also reduced to wring an existence from muddy, trampled, burned or ravished homelands, often destroyed by the troops that are supposedly freeing them.
And naturally, other stronger powers sense an opportunity to gorge themselves, taking everything, leaving us broken and scarred behind, if we are lucky to be alive. What better way to do this than with underpaid, starving, sick, desperate mercenary soldiers? In my opinion, we could be building ships, bridges, transportation for trade routes. But the rights to these channels, routes, means and ends are exactly what the powers are fighting about.
Now, after much deliberation and endless discussions with my mother, advisement from my uncle, I have come to the conclusion that I have no choice but to collect my wife and two boys from the walled city of Nuremberg and bring them here to Sichardtshof to live. But is country life the lesser of two evils?
I am willing to stay here and wait for the devil to come stake his claim. But the decision to bring my children here is difficult. In Nuremberg they are protected behind the city walls. There is enough money and ammunition and weapons to keep them safe. But others have this impression too, and the city steadily fills with all sorts: refugees seeking religious sanction, homeless who have lost everything because of the fighting, fortune seekers and undesirables who want to earn from others’ sufferings. And with the masses comes the plague. Rats, sickness, hunger, fever, dysentery. More dwellers of the city are dying from these problems as from the effects of the fighting. My opinion, it’s quite a waste of manpower.
Why not send the wife and the boys away to the parts of the countryside that remain unscathed? My Uncle Paul suggested to the wife that she may seek solace in a convent but even there young women find no refuge. Defiling God’s houses in search of booty is the normal course of things and the women are not safe there either. And then I still have the two boys.
Here at the Sichardtshof farm, my muse, my elation, my pearl in the Aisch River Valley, my paradise on earth, here we are free. But freedom comes with a high price. Troops are moving along the river valley in regular intervals. We have erected fences of spiked logs, we are armed and we have secured the animals as best we could. We’ve hidden our valuables—buried many things in the forest or in the fields. Much of our food is hidden or buried. I must say, honestly, and no one knows this except Uncle Paul, I am so badly in debt that there is no money to bribe the regiments to continue on their way and leave us in peace.
So, with having nothing to appease these brutes with, I am afraid these desperate soldiers will relive us of all our belongings, maybe take the men and myself as necessary manpower for their march, abuse our women into insanity, burn the buildings to the ground and then just kill us all to be done with it. So, my choice is not an easy one. Do I allow my wife and children to rot in the rancid city? Or do I subject them to their worst nightmares at the hands of roguish soldiers? I haven’t even mentioned the responsibility I have towards my loyal counterparts here on the farm.
Last of all, not to mention my responsibility to my one and only love, to the woman who owns my heart, my dearest Katarina.

The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott (1832)

Part I
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
       To many-tower'd Camelot;
The yellow-leaved waterlily
The green-sheathed daffodilly
Tremble in the water chilly
       Round about Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens shiver.
The sunbeam showers break and quiver
In the stream that runneth ever
By the island in the river
       Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
       The Lady of Shalott.

Underneath the bearded barley,
The reaper, reaping late and early,
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
Like an angel, singing clearly,
       O'er the stream of Camelot.
Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,
Beneath the moon, the reaper weary
Listening whispers, ' 'Tis the fairy,
       Lady of Shalott.'

The little isle is all inrail'd
With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd
With roses: by the marge unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken sail'd,
       Skimming down to Camelot.
A pearl garland winds her head:
She leaneth on a velvet bed,
Full royally apparelled,
       The Lady of Shalott.

Part II
No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves alway.
A curse is on her, if she stay
Her weaving, either night or day,
       To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be;
Therefore she weaveth steadily,
Therefore no other care hath she,
       The Lady of Shalott.

She lives with little joy or fear.
Over the water, running near,
The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.
Before her hangs a mirror clear,
       Reflecting tower'd Camelot.
And as the mazy web she whirls,
She sees the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
       Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
       Goes by to tower'd Camelot:
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
       The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
       And music, came from Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead
Came two young lovers lately wed;
I am half sick of shadows,' said
       The Lady of Shalott.

Part III
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flam'd upon the brazen greaves
       Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
       Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
       As he rode down from Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
       Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
       Moves over green Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
'Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:'
       Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro' the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
       The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV
In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
       Over tower'd Camelot;
Outside the isle a shallow boat
Beneath a willow lay afloat,
Below the carven stern she wrote,
       The Lady of Shalott.

A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,
All raimented in snowy white
That loosely flew (her zone in sight
Clasp'd with one blinding diamond bright)
       Her wide eyes fix'd on Camelot,
Though the squally east-wind keenly
Blew, with folded arms serenely
By the water stood the queenly
       Lady of Shalott.

With a steady stony glance—
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance—
       She look'd down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos'd the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.

As when to sailors while they roam,
By creeks and outfalls far from home,
Rising and dropping with the foam,
From dying swans wild warblings come,
       Blown shoreward; so to Camelot
Still as the boathead wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her chanting her deathsong,
       The Lady of Shalott.

A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,
She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her eyes were darken'd wholly,
And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly,
       Turn'd to tower'd Camelot:
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
       The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden wall and gallery,
A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold, between the houses high,
       Dead into tower'd Camelot.
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
To the planked wharfage came:
Below the stern they read her name,
       The Lady of Shalott.

They cross'd themselves, their stars they blest,
Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.
There lay a parchment on her breast,
That puzzled more than all the rest,
       The wellfed wits at Camelot.
'The web was woven curiously,
The charm is broken utterly,
Draw near and fear not,—this is I,
       The Lady of Shalott.'