Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz: “The Midnight Review”

Excerpt, “Specimens of the Choicest Lyrical Productions of the Most Celebrated German Poets, from Klopstock to the Present Time,” translated in English verse by Mary Anne Burt. London: 1855.
Joseph Christian, Baron von Zedlitz, was born the 28th of February, 1789 at the castle of Joahannisberg, near Jauernick, in the western part of Silesia. After having pursued his preliminary studies at the College of Breslaw, he entered a Hussar regiment. In 1809, he became lieutenant, and two months later he obtained the rank of first lieutenant, and as ordinance officer of Prince Hohenzollern, he took part in the battle of Ratisbone, Aspern, and Wagram, but shortly afterwards, for family reasons, he quitted the military service.
Since the year 1810 the Baron von Zedlitz has held the office of Chamberlain to H. M. the Emperor of Austria: he was, during a long time, private secretary to Prince Metternich. Since 1845, he has been Charge d’affaires to the Duke of Nassau, and, towards the end of the year 1851 he exercised, at the court of Austria, the same functions for the Duke of Brunswick.
Schiller has remarked: “Der Mensch waechst mit seiner Zwecken.” (“Man grows with his Designs.”) We may also with justice say: a man becomes great, or insignificant, according to the circle in which he lives. These words may be applied to the Poet Zedlitz. His poetry is as brilliant as that sphere in which he has moved; there is a measure, even in his sentiments, which are invariably expressed in a language, equally harmonious and pleasing…MAB, 1855.


 The Midnight Review

Lo! – by solemn midnight gloom,

The Drummer, from sleep, awakes,

And, arising from the tomb,

With his drum the rounds he makes.

On the drum, with his fleshless arm,

He announces the Review,

The Drummer sounds an alarm,

Rap! Rap! – he beats the tattoo.

What reverberating tone

From the drum, around is spread!

Battalions, from church-yards lone,

Are awakened from the dead!

From the northern church-yards drear,

Where, in snow and ice, they lie,

From tombs, in the sourthern sphere,

‘Neath a warm Italian sky.

Warriors that sleep by the Nile,

And those ‘neath Arabian sand,

Arising, stand rank and file,

And they grasp their sword in hand.

Ere twelve at night is past,

From his tomb the Trumpeter glides,

How piercing and shrill the blast,

As to and fro, he rides!

See! – on chargers, proud and gay,

The cavalry-troops appear;

The squadrons, in war’s array,

Bear ensanguined sword, and spear.

The ghastly skulls, bleached snow-white,

“Neath their brilliant helmets, glare,

‘Neath the pale and hazy moonlight,

They brandish their weapons there!

Twelve striketh:prophetic sound!

The Commander quits his grave;

He slowly rides o’er the ground,

With his Staff – sons of the brave.

What a small, strange hat he weareth!

His venture bespeaks not pride;

The august Commander beareth

A two-edg’d sword, by his side!

The moon’s pale, nebulous rays

Illume the extensive plain;

The Commander-in-chief surveys

The assembled, martial train.

The regiments march, rank and file,

Present arms, stand in review,

And, by the music’s sound, awhile,

He rides ‘mid his followers true.

Marshals and generals near

Their Commander flock around;

And he whispereth in the ear

Of one, a mysterious sound.

“France!” – the soul-thrilling Password,

From cohort to cohort flies,-

“Saint Helena!” – vibrating is heard,

“St. Helena!” – Echo replies.

When the hour of midnight tolls

On the wide Elysian plain,

That Review, mighty Caesar holds

With his valiant, martial train!


Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz

Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz