Schiller: “The Rider’s Song”

Excerpt, “Ballads from the German.” Translator: Henry Inglis. 1864


“The Rider’s Song”


Mount, brothers, mount!  To the field – to the field!

To the battle of Freedom away!

Still in the battle the Man is revealed;

And his pulses still beat in the fray:

Spirit and hand in the fight are his own;

And he stands in his manhood alone.


Earth is a dungeon, and Freedom hath fled,

Here are none but the lord and the slave;

Nations of impotent cowards are led

By the crafty and not by the brave:

He who the skeleton monarch can scan

With a warrior’s glance — is a man.


For him is no fear, for him is no care;

Life’s disquiets, he casts them away;

Rides to the battle to do and to dare –

Or tomorrow he falls, or today:

Fate may decree him tomorrow’s delay;

Let him labor for Freedom today.


Blest is the lot of the warrior bold!

He is free from the husbandman’s toil,

The earthworm that creeps and drudges for gold,

With his spade in the festering soil;

In digging and delving his moments are passed,

And he digs his own graves at the last.


Godlike the man on his courser of fire!

Of the race of the Centaurs is he!

Unbidden he comes in his grim attire

To the hall of wedding revelry:

Short is his wooing and scanty his gold;

But the loved one he bears from the fold.


Why weeps the pale maiden?  Why doth she wail?

Let the rover go – the rover go;

Inconstant is he from the summer gale;

He hath no home on the earth below;

He is born by fate on the billow’s crest;

The foot of the soldier knows no rest.


Loosen your swords at the trumpeter’s peal!

For the riders who wield them – til well!

When brothers are bound by heart-strings of steel,

Earth will tremble at victory’s kneel;

No scepter is held so high or so fast,

But the rider will reach it at last.


Mount the war-horses and tighten the reins;

Bare your swords and your breasts to the foe;

Come with the life-blood of youth in your veins,

While the flood tide is yet at the flow;

But if there be aught in your courage untrue,

To freedom and life bid adieu.