Excerpt: “Schiller’s Homage of the Arts, with it Miscellaneous Pieces from Rückert, Freiligrath, and Other German Poets.” By Charles T. Brooks. 1846.
BATTLE OF WATERLOO
They breathe no longer; let their ashes rest!
Clamor unjust and calumny
They stooped not in confute; but flung their breast
Against the legions of your enemy,
And thus avenged themselves; for you they die.
Woe to you, woe! If those inhuman eyes
Can spare no drops to mourn your country’s weal;
Shrinking before your selfish miseries;
Against the common sorrow hard as steel:
Tremble! The hand of death upon you lies:
You may be forced yourselves to feel.
But no, — what son of France has spared his tears
For her defenders, dying in their fame?
Though kings return, desired through lengthening years,
What old man’s cheek is tinged not with her shame?
What veteran, who their fortune’s treason hears,
Feels not the quickening spark of his old youthful flame?
Great Heaven! What lessons mark that one day’s page!
What ghastly figures that might crowd an age!
How shall the historic Muse record the day,
Nor, starting, cast the trembling pen away?
Hide from me, hide those soldiers overborne,
Broken with toil, with death-bolts crushed and torn,
Those quivering limbs with dust defiled,
And blood corses upon corses piled;
Veil from mine eyes that monument
Of nation against nation spent
In struggling rage that pants for breath;
Spare us the bands though sparedst, Death!
O Varus! Where the warriors thou hast led?
Restore our Legions! Give us back the dead!
I see the broken squadrons reel;
The steeds plunge wild with spurning heel;
Our eagles trod in miry gore;
The leopard standards swooping o’er;
The wounded on their slow cars dying;
The rout disordered, wavering, flying;
Tortured with struggles vain, the throng
Sway, shock, and drag their shattered mass along,
And leave behind their long array
Wrecks, corses, blood, — the foot-marks of their way.
Through whirlwind smoke and flashing flame,
O grief! What sight appalls mine eye?
The sacred band, with generous shame,
Sole’ gainst an army, pause – to die!
Struck with the rare devotion, ‘t is in vain
The foes at gaze their blades restrain,
And, proud to conquer, hem them round: the cry
Returns, “The guard surrender not! They die!”
‘T is said, that, when in dust they saw them lie,
A reverend sorrow for their brave career
Smote on the foe: they fixed the pensive eye,
And first beheld them undisturbed with fear.
See, then, these heroes, long invincible,
Whose threatening features still their conquerors brave;
Frozen in death, those eyes are terrible;
Feats of the past their deep-scarred brows engrave:
For these are they who bore Italia’s sun,
Who o’er Castilia’s mountain-barrier passed;
The North beheld them o’er the rampart run,
Which frosts of ages round her Russia cast:
All sank subdued before them, and the date
Of combats owed their guerdon to their glory,
Seldom to Franks denied, — to fall elate
On some proud day that should survive in story.
Let us no longer mourn them; for the palm
Unwithering shades their features stern and calm;
Franks! Mourn we for ourselves, — our land’s disgrace,
The proud, mean passions that divide her race.
What age so rank in treasons? To our blood
The love is alien of the common good;
Friendship, no more unbosomed, hides her tears,
And man shuns man, and each his fellow fears;
Scared from her sanctuary, Faith shuddering flies
The din of oaths, the vaunt of perjuries.
O cursed delirium! Jars deplored,
That yield our home-hearths to the stranger’s sword!
Our faithless hands but draw the gleaming blade
To wound the bosom which its point should aid.
The strangers raze our fenced walls;
The castle stoops, the city falls;
Insulting foes their truce forget;
The unsparing war-bolt thunders yet;
Flames glare our raved hamlet o’er,
And funerals darken every door;
Drained provinces their greedy prefects rue,
Beneath tie lilied or the triple hue;
And Franks, disputing for the choice of power,
Dethrone a banner, or proscribe a flower.
France! To our fierce intolerance we owe
The ills that from these sad divisions flow;
‘T is time the sacrifice were made to thee
Of our suspicious pride, our civic enmity;
Haste – quench the torches of intestine war;
Heaven points the lily as our arm’s star;
Hoist, then, the banner of the white, — some tears
May bathe the thrice-dyed flag which Austerlitz endears.
France! France! Awake, with one indignant mind!
With newborn hosts the throne’s dread precinct bind!
Disarmed, divided, conquerors o’er us stand;
Present the olive, but the sword in hand.
And thou, O people, flushed with our defeat,
To whom the mourning of our land is sweet,
Thou witness of the death-blow of our brave!
Dream not that France is vanquished to a slave;
Gall not with pride the avengers yet to come;
Heaven may remit the chastening of our doom;
A new Germanicus may yet demand
Those eagles wrested from our Varus’ hand.