The action takes place in a provincial German town during the French bourgeois revolution. The poem consists of nine songs, each of which bears the name of one of the Greek Muses – patrons of different arts. The names of the muses determine the content of each song.
On the roads coming from the Rhine, there are trains of refugees. Unhappy people are saved with the surviving good from the chaos that arose in the border areas of Germany and France as a result of the French revolution.
A poor couple from a nearby town sends his son Herman to tell people who are in trouble, something from clothes and food. A young man meets a truck on the road that has lagged behind the bulk of refugees. A girl is ahead, who is asking him to help them. In the wagon, a young woman had just
Parents have long dreamed of marrying Herman. Opposite their house lives a rich merchant, who has three daughters to be extradited. He is rich and eventually all his good will pass to heirs. Hermann’s father, who dreams of a daughter-in-law with enough money, advises his son to woo the younger daughter of a merchant, but he does not want to know with prim and flirtatious girls, often mocking his simple manners. Indeed, Herman was always reluctant to study at school, was indifferent to the sciences, but good, “excellent host and a nice worker.”
Noticing the change in the mood of his son after the meeting with the refugees, Herman’s mother, a woman simple and determined, tells him that he met there with a girl who touched his heart. Afraid to lose her in this general commotion, he now wants to declare her his bride. Mother and son ask their father to give permission for Herman’s marriage to a stranger. A young man is being interceded by a shepherd and an apothecary who just went to visit his father.
The three of us, the shepherd, the pharmacist and Herman himself, go to the village, where, as they know, the refugees stopped for the night.
The shepherd and the apothecary return to the house of Herman’s parents, and the young man remains, he wants to speak frankly to the girl and confess her feelings to her. He meets Dorothea, that’s the name of the stranger, near the village, at the well. Herman honestly confesses to her that he came back for her, because he liked her friendliness and quickness, and his mother needs a good assistant in the house. Dorothea, thinking that the young man is calling her into the workers, agrees. She takes water to her companions, says goodbye to them, although they are very reluctant to part with her, and taking her bundle, she goes with Herman.
Parents welcome them, a young man, seizing the moment, asks the shepherd to explain to Dorothea that he did not take her into the house as a servant, but as a future mistress. Meanwhile, Herman’s father, awkwardly joking about the successful choice of his son, causes confusion in Dorothea. Then the shepherd pestered her with questions about how she would react to the fact that her young master was going to marry. The frustrated girl is about to leave. As it turned out, Herman immediately liked her, and deep down she hoped that eventually she would manage to win his heart. Unable to remain silent, the young man opens Dorotee in his love and asks for forgiveness for his shyness, which prevented him from doing it before.
Young people are happy that they found each other. Having removed their wedding rings from Herman’s parents, the shepherd betters them and blesses “a new union so similar to the old one,” but it appears that Dorothea already has an engagement ring on her finger. The girl talks about her fiance, who, inspired by the love of freedom, after learning about the revolution, hurried to Paris and died there. In the noble Herman, Dorothea’s story only strengthens the determination to tie “her life forever with her and protect her in this difficult time” with the courage of her husband. “