Ferdinand Freiligrath: “The Dead to the Living – July, 1848”


Alfred Rethel: Death on the Barricade


July, 1848

The bullet in the marble breast, the gash upon the brow,

You raised us on the bloody planks with wild and wrathful vow!

High in the air you lifted us, that every writhe of pain

Might be an endless curse to “him” at whose word we were slain;


That he might see us in the gloom, or in the daylight’s shine,

Whether he turns his Bible’s leaf, or quaffs his foaming wine;

That the dread memory on his soul should evermore be burned,

A wasting and destroying flame within its gloom inurned;


That every mouth with pain convulsed, and every gory wound,

Be round him in the terror-hour, when his last bell shall sound;

That every sob above us heard smite shuddering on his ear;

That each pale hand be clenched to strike, despite his dying fear–

Whether his sinking head still wear its mockery of a crown,

Or he should lay it, bound, dethroned, on bloody scaffold down!


Thus, with the bullet in the breast, the gash upon the brow,

You laid us at the altar’s foot, with deep and solemn vow!

“Come down!” ye cried–he trembling came–even to our bloody bed;

“Uncover!” and ’twas tamely done!–(like a mean puppet led,


Sank he whose life had been a farce, with fear unwonted shaken).

Meanwhile his army fled the field, which, dying, we had taken!

Loudly in “Jesus, thou my trust!” the anthem’d voices peal;

Why did the victor-crowds forget the sterner trust of steel?


That morning followed on the night when we together fell,

And when ye made our burial, there was triumph in the knell!

Though crushed behind the barricades, and scarred in every limb,

The pride of conscious Victory lay on our foreheads grim!


We thought: the price is dearly paid, but the treasures must be true,

And rested calmly in the graves we swore to fill for you!

Alas! for you–we were deceived! Four moons have scarcely run,

Since cowardly you’ve forfeited what we so bravely won!

Squandered and cast to every wind the gain our death had brought!

Aye, all, we know–each word and deed our spirit-ears have caught!

Like waves came thundering every sound of wrong the country through:

The foolish war with Denmark! Poland betrayed anew!


The vengeance of Vendean men in many a province stern!

The calling back of banished troops! The Prince’s base return!

Wherever barricades were built, the lock on press and tongue!

On the free right of all debate, the daily-practised wrong!

The groaning clang of prison-doors in North and South afar!


For all who plead the People’s right, Oppression’s ancient bar!

The bond with Russia’s Cossacks! The slander fierce and loud,

Alas! that has become your share, instead of laurels proud–

Ye who have borne the hardest brunt, that Freedom might advance,

Victorious in defeat and death–June-warriors of France!


Yes, wrong and treason everywhere, the Elbe and Rhine beside,

And beat, oh German men! your hearts, with calm and sluggish tide?

No war within your apron’s folds? Out with it, fierce and bold!

The second, final war with all who Freedom would withhold!

Shout: “The Republic!” till it drowns the chiming minster bells,

Whose sound this swindle of your rights by crafty Austria tells!


In vain! ‘Tis time your faltering hands should disentomb us yet,

And lift us on the planks, begirt with many a bayonet;

Not to the palace-court, as then, that he may near us stand–


No; to the tent, the market-place, and through the wakening land!

Out through the broad land bear us–the dead Insurgents sent,

To join, upon our ghastly biers, the German Parliament.

Oh solemn sight! there we should lie, the grave-earth on each brow,

And faces sunken in decay–the proper Regents now!


There we should lie and say to you: “Ere we could waste away,

Your Freedom-gift, ye archons brave, is rotting in decay!

The Corn is housed which burst the sod, when the March sun on us shone,

But before all other harvests was Freedom’s March-seed mown!


Chance poppies, which the sickle spared, among the stubbles stand;

Oh, would that Wrath, the crimson Wrath, thus blossomed in the land!”

And yet, it does remain; it springs behind the reaper’s track;

Too much had been already gained, too much been stolen back;

Too much of scorn, too much of shame, heaped daily on your head–

Wrath and Revenge must still be left, believe it, from the Dead!


It does remain, and it awakes–it shall and must awake!

The Revolution, half complete, yet wholly forth will break.

It waits the hour to rise in power, like an up-rolling storm,

With lifted arms and streaming hair–a wild and mighty form!


It grasps the rusted gun once more, and swings the battered blade,

While the red banners flap the air from every barricade!

Those banners lead the German Guards–the armies of the Free–

Till Princes fly their blazing thrones and hasten towards the sea!


The boding eagles leave the land–the lion’s claws are shorn–

The sovereign People, roused and bold, await the Future’s morn!

Now, till the wakening hour shall strike, we keep our scorn and wrath

For you, ye Living! who have dared to falter on your path!


Up, and prepare–keep watch in arms! Oh, make the German sod,

Above our stiffened forms, all free, and blest by Freedom’s God;

That this one bitter thought no more disturb us in our graves:

“They once were free–they fell–and now, forever they are Slaves!”