GRISELDA: A DRAMIC POEM IN FIVE ACTS
Griselda: A Dramatic Poem in Five Acts, translated by Elizabeth Prentiss from the German by Friederich Halm.
The "German tragedy" referred to fell into her hands in the spring of 1869, and her letters, written at the time, show how it delighted her. It is, indeed, a literary gem. The works of its author, Baron Münch-Bellinghausen—for Friederich Halm is a pseudonym—are much less known in this country than they deserve to be. He is one of the most gifted of the minor poets of Germany, a master of vivid style and of impressive, varied, and beautiful thought. Griselda first appeared at Vienna in 1835. It was enthusiastically received and soon passed through several editions.
The scene of the poem is laid in Wales, in the days of King Arthur. The plot is very simple. Percival, count of Wales, who had married Griselda, the daughter of a charcoal burner, appears at court on occasion of a great festival, in the course of which he is challenged by Ginevra, the Queen, to give an account of Griselda, and to tell how he came to wed her. He readily consents to do so, but has hardly begun when the Queen and ladies of the court, by their mocking air and questions, provoke him to such anger that swords are at length drawn between him and Sir Lancelot, a friend of the Queen, and only the sudden interposition of the King prevents a bloody conflict. The feud ends in a wager, by which it is agreed that if Griselda's love to Percival endure certain tests, the Queen shall kneel to her; otherwise, Percival shall kneel to the Queen. The tests are applied, and the young wife's love, although perplexed and tortured in the extreme, triumphantly endures them all. The character of Griselda, as maiden, daughter, wife, mother, and woman, is wrought with exquisite skill, and betokens in the author rare delicacy and nobility of sentiment, as well as deep knowledge of the human heart.—The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (1882).