Robert E. Prutz: “Algiers”
Excerpt, “Specimens of the Choicest Lyrical Productions of the Most Celebrated German Poets, from Klopstock to the Present Time.” With Biographical and Literary Notes translated in English Verse by Mary Anne Burt. 1856.
Algiers is vanquished! — On Kasaubah’s wall
The Gallic pennon floats — red, blue, and white;
The drum is silent; evening shadows fall,
To notes belligerent, succeeds calm night.
The scattered fragments of a bastion lie
Where graceful palm-trees wave their branches high.
A Soldier of the foreign legion
Is there; his cheek is ruddy, blue his eye,
A Moor is nigh; the deserts’ swarthy son,
A Youth, advancing towards maturity,
The German Soldier’s prize, amid the spoil,
Captured ‘mid war, on Afric’s yellow soil.
The balmy air, to converse, doth invite;
Around the Gallic camp, bright watch-fires glow,
How brilliant is the stars’ unclouded light!
No zephyr breathes — sounds, from a distance, flow:
Against the rocks, waves undulating play.
While converse doth beguile night’s hours away.
One from the North, and one the desert’s child;
On each young brow, rancour and grief, leave trace,
Each hears, surprised, his comrade’s history wild. —
The Moor thus speaks: — “I’m of Bedouin race,
My father was a Chief, of glorious name,
His equal never lived, in deeds of fame!
“My house the desert; o’er me, as a tent,
Heaven spreads her canopy; my sole delight
Is my beloved steed. I’m early sent
The art of war to learn, where heroes fight;
When, through the plains, I chase the swift gazelle.
As horseman, all confess that I excel.
“Youth’s flower is blighted! — What, to me, remains?
Destroyed, or lost, is all that I possessed.
And, o’er these hands, entwine a captive’s chains!” —
Conflicting thoughts overwhelm the German’s breast,
While speaking of his cherished fatherland.
And native city, on a distant strand.
Where rise stone mansions, stage, succeeding stage,
And where his honoured sire, in knowledge sound.
Commands the veneration of the age:
He speaketh of the school’s contracted bound,
Where Wisdom’s lore, and mirth, the time divide:
He talks of Winter’s joys at eventide.
He tells students wild, with spirit free;
Now clash their glasses — now their falschions rise:
He speaks of caps they guard, mysteriously, —
Of duels, agents of police, and spies.
A fatal wound is given, ‘midst deadly strife! —
Now roves a Wanderer, o’er the stage of life!
Who tells the sequel of his destiny?
What varied scenes await the Fugitive!
Those scenes, on time’s e’er-circling pinion, fly.
Yet, deeply-traced, on memory’s page will live!
How tactiturn the desert’s Son doth stand,
He seems to dream; — his eye fixed on the sand! —
The Moor’s bright glance is turn’d toward
Heaven’s pure light:
“Fatima! — Fatima! — The gazelle see’st thou,
With agile footstep, glide o’er Atlas’ height?
Her eye is brilliant as the moon’s mild glow,
That smiles, unclouded, from Heaven’s blue domain.
And clear as crystal rivulet, on the plain!
“How dark her tresses! — Darker than nights ray,
And, like the beauteous anemony,
Is that warm glow which, o’er her cheek, doth play;
Her breath is perfumed, as the coffee-tree.
That Yemen’s sunny, fostering rays embrown:
Fatima! —Fatima! — thou’rt the maidens’ crown!”
Distant is Ali; — Fatima sheds tears;
“Ali, midst foreign foes, doth captive lie!” —
The German starts: — before his eye appears
His own Belov’d, with cheek, of pallid die;
Behind the wood he views that verdant spot,
O’er which, at eve, he wandered to her cot!
He sees the honey-suckle-covered bowers
In which, ‘neath star-lit skies, they used to meet,
And joyously beguile the summer hours.
The Soldier cries: “Stranger! — depart! — be fleet!
Behold! I rend the Captive’s fetters now;
Forth! — morn’s chill air is glancing on my brow.”
“Son of the Desert linger not; — thou’rt free!” —
“Thanks!” cries the Moor, while kneeling at his feet.—
The German leads him, in security.
‘Mid sentinels; — gives him his charger fleet,
And bids him hasten homeward. — Swift as wind
He rides, while clouds of dust ascend behind. —
The German gazes, till he disappears,
Then turns, with eye, bedimmed with gushing tears.