F. Freiligrath: “The Alexandrine”

Excerpt, Poems from the German of Ferdinand Freiligrath, 1871.






Spring out, my desert horse,

from Alexandria!

My wild one — Such a steed

was never tamed by Shah

Or Emir upon Eastern plain,

Or any else who mount

into a princely seat —

Where thunders thro’ the sand,

a hoof like thine so fleet?

Where flashes such a tail or mane?


Thy angry snort is —

Hale even as it thus is writ;

Thou standest spuming dust,

and reckless of the bit.

The breezes in thy forelocks dance.

Thine eyeballs sparkle fire,

thy panting haunches smoke —

Thou art not such a horse as

that which Boileau broke,

And tutored with the wit of France!


He plods submissive on,

the leading reins his guide.

Caesura only is a ditch

on the wayside,

For this old sleek and sober horse;

Rash fire for him he knows

to be no fitting thing,

He sniffs and paws awhile,

then clears with easy spring,

And decently jogs on his course.


To thee, my fiery horse,

it is a rocky chasm

Of Sinai — the reins

are burst with eager spasm —

Rush on — there yawns

the cleft asunder!

Blood from thy fetlock starts —

a snort, a fearful spring—

Tis cleared — from out the rock,

thy hoof of iron wring

The flash of flint,

the echo’s thunder!


And downwards now again!

Dash through the glowing sand,

Rush on unheeding,

reined by my unfailing hand,

I’ll guide thee safe and gloriously;

Heed not thy sweat, for when

the stars of evening blink,

I’ll lead thee slow, and thou

shalt lave thy thirst and drink

Luxuriant from the mighty sea!