Friedrich Schiller: “The Battle”

austrian-prussian-cuirassiers-1200Austrian and Prussian cuirassiers at the

Battle of Lobositz

Seven Years War, 1st October, 1756


The Battle

Heavy and solemn,
A cloudy column,
Through the green plain they marching came!
Measure less spread, like a table dread,
For the wild grim dice of the iron game.
The looks are bent on the shaking ground,
And the heart beats loud with a knelling sound;
Swift by the breasts that must bear the brunt,
Gallops the major along the front–
And fettered they stand at the stark command,
And the warriors, silent, halt!
Proud in the blush of morning glowing,
What on the hill-top shines in flowing,
“See you the foeman’s banners waving?”
“We see the foeman’s banners waving!”
“God be with ye–children and wife!”
Hark to the music–the trump and the fife,
How they ring through the ranks which they rouse to the strife!
Thrilling they sound with their glorious tone,
Thrilling they go through the marrow and bone!
Brothers, God grant when this life is o’er,
In the life to come that we meet once more!
See the smoke how the lightning is cleaving asunder!
Hark the guns, peal on peal, how they boom in their thunder!
From host to host, with kindling sound,
The shouting signal circles round,
Ay, shout it forth to life or death–
Freer already breathes the breath!
The war is waging, slaughter raging,
And heavy through the reeking pall,
The iron death-dice fall!
Nearer they close–foes upon foes
“Ready!”–From square to square it goes,
Down on the knee they sank,
And fire comes sharp from the foremost rank.
Many a man to the earth it sent,
Many a gap by the balls is rent–

O’er the corpse before springs the hinder man,
That the line may not fail to the fearless van,
To the right, to the left, and around and around,
Death whirls in its dance on the bloody ground.
God’s sunlight is quenched in the fiery fight,
Over the hosts falls a brooding night!
Brothers, God grant when this life is o’er
In the life to come that we meet once more!
The dead men lie bathed in the weltering blood
And the living are blent in the slippery flood,
And the feet, as they reeling and sliding go,
Stumble still on the corpses that sleep below.
“What, Francis!” “Give Charlotte my last farewell.”
As the dying man murmurs, the thunders swell–
“I’ll give–Oh God! are their guns so near?
Ho! comrades!–yon volley!–look sharp to the rear!–
I’ll give thy Charlotte thy last farewell,
Sleep soft! where death thickest descendeth in rain,
The friend thou forsakest thy side shall regain!”
Hitherward–thitherward reels the fight,
Dark and more darkly day glooms into night–
Brothers, God grant when this life is o’er
In the life to come that we meet once more!
Hark to the hoofs that galloping go!
The adjutant flying,–
The horsemen press hard on the panting foe,
Their thunder booms in dying–
The terror has seized on the dastards all,
And their colors fall!
Closed is the brunt of the glorious fight
And the day, like a conqueror, bursts on the night,
Trumpet and fife swelling choral along,
The triumph already sweeps marching in song.
Farewell, fallen brothers, though this life be o’er,
There’s another, in which we shall meet you once more!