Ferdinand Freiligrath: “Hungary: New Year’s Eve 1848”

Excerpt, Poems from the German of Ferdinand Freiligrath, Edited by his Daughter. 1871.




New Year’s Eve 1848


Across the heath is streaming

The bivouac’s nightly fire;

The crooked scythe is gleaming

In the hands of the Magyar;

Herd and homestead leaving,

To the saddlebow he’s cleaving,

Or bends o’er the fascine;

And, ’neath his iron riding,

Thy stormy song is chiding,

Danube! Thou Heather-queen!


She shouts within her borders,

She swells with rage and pride;

“God speed! Ye brown marauders,

Hot Hungary’s human tide!

Ye hunters and ye herders,

Ye dauntless cymbal-girders!

Wild fifers ye! Who dare,

The last for right uniting,

Tho’ tattered with long fighting,

The flag of freedom bear!



“Betrayed in every quarter,

Betrayed and then maligned,

Ye saved above the slaughter

The standard of mankind;

High o’er your chargers bounding,

Blood-ice its folds surrounding,

Ye shake the flag of fate.

Thus—thus ye spread it o’er me,

Thus—thus with victory’s glory

The year inaugurate.


“Look here, each western nation!

One people still can feel

Rebellion’s bold salvation

In its gauntlet-grasp of steel!

In dim far eastern regions—

Outpost of freedom’s legions—

The tides of battle swell,

Whose waves, their reflux taking,

And every fetter breaking,

Shall make you free as well!




“Hear ye the buglar’s clangor?

Hear ye the courser’s neigh?

See ye the red waves’ anger?

’Tid Raab’s great battle-day!

Charge! Charge! My riders fearless!

Charge! Charge! Kossuth my peerless!”

So sounds the Danube’s song;

So rolls she, hoarsely chiding,

Through her deep-set channels gliding,

To dull Stamboul along.