Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff: “The Priest and the Jacobin”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.

Translator’s Note: There is one ballad by Eichendorff, which has pleased us well by its picturesque scenery. The Jacobin Captain rests in a little churchyard in Britanny. Raving in the fever of his wound, he confesses that he had burned his own father’s house. At night, he stands on the sea-shore and witnesses a strange spectacle. A priest comes over the quiet sea in a little shallop lit with tapers, and a congregation of worshippers come in their boats and perform their devotions on the waves, as they dare not worship in their church. The Jacobin Captain recognises his own father in the person of the priest, and, overcome with the amazement, falls and dies upon the shore.

The Priest and the Jacobin

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The blooming hills of Britanny

Were laved by gentle seas;

A little church stood peacefully

Between two ancient trees.

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The corn-fields, and the green woods wide,

Were bright in sabbath’s glow;

But not a bell dare o’er the tide

Its solemn music throw.

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For o’er the churchyard’s shady ground

The Frenchmen’s standard waves;

Their steeds are cropping, all around,

The daisies from the graves.

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Upon the cross, in mockery,

Canteens and sabres hung;

Instead of solemn litany,

The “Marseillaise” was sung.

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Sore wounded leaned the Captain there

Against an ancient tree,

And faintly look’d, with feverish stare,

On sultry land and sea;

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And talk’d, as in a fever-dream

“Our castle by the lake—

I fired it!—what a fearful gleam!—

It burns for freedom’s sake!

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“I see my father—through the rings

Of fire I see him there—

He stands upon the tower, and swings

His banner in the air!

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“I see the standard catch the flame,

Again I see my sire,

As, holding still the shaft, he came

Down through the blazing fire!

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“He looked at me, but nothing said—

I had no heart to slay—

The castle fell—my father fled—

He’s now a priest, they say!

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“And since that night, in all my dreams

I hear the loud bells ring,

And see, amid the fiery streams,

The cross—that hated thing!

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“But soon, no church-bell through the land

Shall break the still of night;

No cross upon the earth shall stand,

A sign of priestly might!

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“And yonder lowly church-walls there

(We’ll tear them down to-night!)

Shall sound no more with psalms and prayer

—We come to let in light!”

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At night, when woods and waves were still,

And only when he spoke,

The sentinel upon the hill

The dreamy silence broke.

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The Captain stood beside the sea—

A soft gray cloud arose,

Upon the waves—what can it be?—

And now it spreads and grows!

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And see, amid the misty air,

A tiny twinkling light—

Some little star has fallen there,

Or lost its way to-night.

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But see, along the quiet shore,

Where sleep the silent waves,

Dark moving figures, more and more,

Creep from the rocky caves;

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And boats are push’d into the sea,

Row’d softly through the night;

The mark they steer for seems to be

That little twinkling light!

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The light comes nearer now, afloat,

The rowers all have found it—

It is a little fisher-boat,

With tapers burning round it.

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And see, within the shallop stands

An old man tall and gray,

With flowing hair and folded hands,

—A Priest in full array.

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And round the floating altar, see,

The boatmen bow their heads:

The old Priest o’er the company

A solemn blessing sheds.

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The sea was still, and every breeze—

In marvellous array,

Within their boats, on bended knees,

The congregation lay.

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And now, the cross within his hand,

Amid the taper’s glare,

The Captain sees the old Priest stand—

 “‘Tis my old father there!”

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Said he, as, with a sudden prayer,

He reel’d and fell and swoon’d,

While life’s blood o’er the shingle there

Was streaming from his wound.

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The Jacobin soldiers on the shore

Came, found their Captain dead—

Then—death behind and death before,

Through all the land they fled.

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Like wither’d leaves in autumn’s breeze,

They fled and pass’d away—

That little church between the trees

Is standing at this day!

Gottfried Kinkel: “The Forboding of Winter”

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

Gottfried Kinkel: “Humanity”

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

Johann Gottfried Kinkel (1815-1882)  was born at Obercassel near Bonn. In 1846 he was appointed extraordinary professor of the history of art at the University of Bonn. In 1848, with his wife and Carl Schurz, he started a newspaper, the Bonner Zeitung, mostly devoted to following revolutionary activities, but also providing the traditional material like musical and theatrical reviews which people expected then from a full-service newspaper.

In 1849, Kinkel joined the armed rebellion in the Palatinate, believing himself to be acting legally in obedience to the directives of the Frankfurt rump parliament.  Wounded in battle, he was arrested and later sentenced to perpetual  imprisonment.  Yet in 1850, Kinkel achieved a daring and remarkable escape, descending by a rope from Spandau Prison’s wall.

Schiller: “Hope”

Excerpt, “A Book of Ballads from the German.”  Translated by Percy Boyd, Esq.  1848.

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Louise Brachman: “Consolation For Absence”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.

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August Graf von Platen: “In The Night”

Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt.  1869. Translated by Richard Garnett.

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Faust by Shelley: “May Day Night”

Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt.  1869. 

Illustrations by Harry Clarke.

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Ferdinand Freiligrath: “To Wolfgang in the Field”

Excerpt, “Poems from the German of Ferdinand Freiligrath.” Edited by his daughter. Kate Freiligrath. Leipzig: 1871.

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Friedrich von Bodenstedt: “Men, Mirza Schaffy say strange things…”

Excerpt, “Borrowed Plumes.”  Translations from German Poets.” James Gribble.  1888.

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Friedrich Rückert: “The Substance of Life”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.

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Robert Prutz: “Night’s Stillness”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.

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Lord Byron: “The Star of The Legion of Honour”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Collection of Poems and Songs. Many from Obscure and Anonymous Sources, Selected and Arranged with Introductory Notes and Connective Narrative.” William J. Hillis. 1896.

The only peace agreed to between France and England during the Napoleonic wars was that known as the “Peace of Amiens,” which lasted from March, 1802, until May, 1803. During the existence of that peace the whole world, as it were, rushed to Paris, to catch a glimpse of the man who had wrought such mighty changes in so short a time. The obscure Corsican had become the greatest man of the times. Emperor of France, in all but name, his Court began to take on all the trappings and ceremonies of royalty. Holding the reins of power absolutely within the grasp of his own hands, he tolerated no interference, either by his colleagues or by the people.

In peace, as in war, he rested not, but laboured incessantly for the advancement of his country, whose needs he seemed to comprehend fully. Society was reorganised for the better; judicial reforms were perfected, and the Code pushed forward towards completion; the educational system of the nation was thoroughly revised and improved; the relations between church and state were settled by the signing of the Concordat in the spring of 1802: the finances were brought up to a flourishing condition; magnificent roads and bridges were built; everything, in fact, that could enhance the greatness and glory of France was thought of and carried out by this tireless mind.

It was at this time the Legion of Honour was established.

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Premiere ‘Légion d’honneur’ by Charles Étienne Pierre Motte

A depiction of Napoleon making some of the first awards of the Legion of Honour, at a camp near Boulogne on 16 August 1804

How many a gallant soldier rushed to his death in hopes of winning a place in that legion, and how many a dying hero was made happy by being presented with its badge before he answered the last roll-call. When the “Star” no longer led the Legion on to victory, Byron gave us the following lines.

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Johann Georg Jacobi: “After An Old Song”

Johann Georg Jacobi, born at Düsseldorf September 2. 1796, died at Freiburg, January 4. 1814.

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

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Pasha — My Assistant!

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George Herwegh: “The Midnight Walk”

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

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