Category Archives: Prussian War Poetry


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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The Ballad of Prague (1757)

Excerpt, “The Book of German Songs from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.” Translated and Edited by H. W. Dulcken. 1856.

Military songs by anonymous authors are common throughout the wars of Frederick the Great.

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The Battle of Prague in Bohemia, 6th May, 1757

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Death of Field-Marshal Schwerin at the Battle of Prague

 

Ernst Schulze: “Schwarze Jäger“

Excerpt, “Poets and Poetry of Germany, Biographical and Critical Notices.” Madame Davesies de Pontes. Vol. II. London: 1858.

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The Black Hunters

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What is gleaming so gaily on bush and on brae,

What is shining in green-wood so bright,

Who comes forth from the wood in such gallant array,

Who are rushing from mountain and height?

’Tis the Jäger! On, on in a torrent we flow,

And rush to the combat and pounce on the foe

To battle, to vict’ry—to triumph we go!

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We come from the Hartz and its forests so old,

Full, they tell us, of glittering store;

But what do we care or for silver or gold?

Give us freedom! We ask for no more!

To others we leave it—more nobly we feel;

We don our bright armour, our cuirass of steel;

For us upon earth the sword only has worth,

And we care for nought save our fatherland’s weal!

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To drink and to love and be loved has its charms;

In the shade it is pleasant to dream;

But nobler to rush ’mid the battles alarms,

When the sword and the bayonet gleam.

Love’s torch is not brighter than glory’s proud hue,

And where thousands are sleeping why we may sleep too.

As heroes we’ll fall! ’neath the sword or the ball,

And pour forth our hearts-blood so gallant and true.

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Full oft in the darkness, in forest and glen,

Or high on the storm-beaten rock,

We have linger’d to track the fierce wolf to den

Nor dreaded the hurricane’s shock.

And now the bright sunshine is steaming above us;

We go to defend all we love! All who love us!

Be it battle or chase—in the enemy’s face—

To us it is one; for no peril can move us!

 

 

Willibald Alexis: “Fredericus Rex”

Excerpt, “The Book of German Songs from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.” Translated and Edited by H. W. Dulcken. 1856.

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FREDERICUS REX

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FREDERICUS REX, our king and lord,

To all of his soldiers “To arms!” gave the word;

“Two hundred battalions, a thousand squadrons here!”

And he gave sixty cartridges to each grenadier.

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“You rascally fellows,” his majesty began,

“Look that each of you stands for me in battle like a man

They’re grudging Silesia and Glatz to me,

And the hundred millions in my treasury.

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“The Empress with the French an alliance has signed,

And raised the Roman kingdom against me, I find;

The Russians my territories do invade,

Up, and show ’em of what stuff we Prussians are made.

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“My generals, Schwerin, and Field-marshal Von Keit,

And Major-general Ziethen, are all ready quite.

By the thunders and lightnings of battle, I vow,

They don’t know Fritz and his soldiers now.

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“Now farewell, Louisa; Louisa, dry your eyes;

Not straight to its mark ev’ry bullet flies;

For if all the bullets should kill all the men,

From whence should we kings get our soldiers then?

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“The musket bullet makes a little round hole,

A much larger wound both the cannon ball dole;

The bullets are all of iron and lead,

Yet many a bullet misses many a head.

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“Our guns they are heavy and well supplied,

Not one of the Prussians to the foe hath hied;

The Swedes they have cursed bad money, I trow;

If the Austrians have better, who can know?

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“The French king pays his soldiers at his ease,

We get it, stock and stiver, every week, if we please;

By the thunders and the lightnings of battle, I say,

Who gets like the Prussian so promptly his pay?”

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Fredericus, my king, whom the laurel doth grace,

Hadst thou but now and then let us plunder some place,

Fredericus, my hero, I verily say,

We’d drive for thee the devil from the world away.

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George Herwegh: “The Song of the Hussar”

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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The Song of the Hussars

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With courage swells my heart and breast,

I wield my steel on high,

And were a plume my helmet’s crest,

A general were I.

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The trumpet’s thrilling blasts begin,

At early dawn to greet,

The drummer beats his ass’s skin,

The asses we will beat.

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The musket flashes at our side,

Death flashes in our hand;

Now here, now there, we swiftly ride,

’Tis for our fatherland.

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What though perhaps many a lovely child,

Should weep in endless woe,

Hussars rush like the tempest wild,

And dash among the foe.

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There in the guard-house what a life,

So merry and so free!

So gaily in the bloody strife,

The moments swiftly flee!

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The heavens ope, a casket like,

With jewels rare therein;

Hussars its gates with sabres strike,

A voice replies, “Come in!”

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Carl Weitbrecht: Prayer in the German Defensive War 1870

Excerpt, Translations from the German, by Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879. Prayer in the German Defensive War2

A.L.A. Smith: “The Queen of Prussia’s Ride”

Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte.” Editor William J. Hillis. New York: 1896.

Whatever his inclination may have been, Napoleon was not to be permitted to rest. Pitt, his greatest enemy, it is true, was dead, and Fox, his friend, had come into power in the English Cabinet, but this state of affairs was not to last. Fox dying, England succeeded in forming a new coalition between Russia, Prussia, and herself, and war was again declared against France.

Jena, Eylau, and Friedland, were the answer Napoleon gave to this challenge, and bitterly did Prussia, especially, pay for her rash attempt to free herself from the toils of the French conqueror. But the seed was being sown which was to bring forth victory and revenge for Prussia and all Germany. Defeat and humiliation were bringing to the surface those brave, unflinching spirits that nothing could conquer.

Had Frederick William been endowed with the same positive mind and courageous heart which Louisa, the Queen, possessed, the dawn of victory might have come sooner to that unhappy country. It took such soldiers as “Old Father Blucher” and such indomitable courage as Louisa possessed to cope with the magic power of Napoleon.

It is told that at the battle of Jena, when the Prussian army was routed, the Queen, mounted upon a superb charger, remained on the field attended only by three or four of her escort. A band of French hussars seeing her, rushed forward at full gallop, and with drawn swords dispersed the little group and pursued her all the way to Weimar.

Had not the horse her Majesty rode possessed the fleetness of a stag, the fair Queen would certainly have been captured.

The incident, be it history or not, gave occasion for the following poem.

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The Queen of Prussia’s Ride

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Fair Queen, away! To thy charger speak,

A band of hussars thy capture seek;

Oh, haste! Escape! They are riding this way,

Speak, speak to thy charger without delay;

They’re nigh.

Behold! They come at a break-neck pace,

A smile triumphant illumes each face,

Queen of the Prussians, now for a race,

To Weimar for safety … fly!

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She turned, and her steed with a furious dash,

Over the field like the lightning’s flash –

Fled.

Away, like an arrow from steel cross-bow,

Over hill and dale in the sun’s fierce flow,

The Queen and her enemies thundering go,

On toward Weimar they sped.

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The royal courser is swift and brave,

And his royal rider he tries to save,

But, no!

“Vive l’Empereur!” rings sharp and clear;

She turns and is startled to see them so near,

Then softly speaks in her charger’s ear,

And away he bounds like a roe.

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He speeds as though on the wings of the wind,

The Queen’s pursuers are left behind,

No more

She fears, though each trooper grasps his reins,

Stands up in his stirrups, strikes spurs and strains;

For ride as they may, her steed still gains,

And Weimar is just before.

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Safe! The clatter now fainter grows,

She sees in the distance her labouring foes,

The gates of the fortress stand open wide

To welcome the German nation’s bride

So dear.

With gallop and dash, into Weimar she goes,

And the gates at once on her enemies close.

Give thanks, give thanks! She is safe with those

Who hail her with cheer on cheer!

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Jena

Battle of Jena

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Ferdinand Freiligrath: “Hurrah, Germanica!”

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HURRAH, GERMANIA!

 (July 25, 1870)

Hurrah! thou lady proud and fair,
Hurrah! Germania mine!
What fire is in thine eye, as there
Thou bendest o'er the Rhine!
How in July's full blaze dost thou
Flash forth thy sword, and go,
With heart elate and knitted brow,
To strike the invader low!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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No thought hadst thou, so calm and light,
Of war or battle plain,
But on thy broad fields, waving bright,
Didst mow the golden grain,
With clashing sickles, wreaths of corn,
Thy sheaves didst garner in,
When, hark! across the Rhine War's horn
Breaks through the merry din!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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Down sickle then and wreath of wheat
Amidst the corn were cast,
And, starting fiercely to thy feet,
Thy heart beat loud and fast;
Then with a shout I heard thee call:
"Well, since you will, you may!
Up, up, my children, one and all,
On to the Rhine! Away!"
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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From port to port the summons flew,
Rang o'er our German wave;
The Oder on her harness drew,
The Elbe girt on her glaive;
Neckar and Weser swell the tide,
Main flashes to the sun,
Old feuds, old hates are dash'd aside,
All German men are one!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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Suabian and Prussian, hand in hand,
North, South, one host, one vow!
"What is the German's Fatherland?"
Who asks that question now?
One soul, one arm, one close-knit frame,
One will are we today;
Hurrah, Germania! thou proud dame,
Oh, glorious time, hurrah!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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Germania now, let come what may,
Will stand unshook through all;
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This is our country's festal day;
Now woe betide thee, Gaul!
Woe worth the hour a robber thrust
Thy sword into thy hand!
A curse upon him that we must
Unsheathe our German brand!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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For home and hearth, for wife and child,
For all loved things that we
Are bound to keep all undefiled
From foreign ruffianry!
For German right, for German speech,
For German household ways,
For German homesteads, all and each,
Strike home through battle's blaze!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!
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Up, Germans, up, with God! The die
Clicks loud--we wait the throw!
Oh, who may think without a sigh
What blood is doom'd to flow?
Yet, look thou up, with fearless heart!
Thou must, thou shalt prevail!
Great, glorious, free as ne'er thou wert,
All hail, Germania, hail!
Hurrah! Victoria!
Hurrah! Germania!