Sidor som bilder

man (sometimes even in French), and published in various places at once; some were distributed to individuals, some sent by post, some even thrown about in the streets and public places, scattered like sparks of fire in the hope that here and there one might kindle in a patriotic heart and help to spread the mighty flame.

Such was Arndt's work, congenial, energetic, and influential, till the great time came; till, indeed, that Victory, which so long had sat upon the helmet of Napoleon, led him to the wilderness of ruined Moscow, and fled away for ever, leaving his lost battalions to stiffen in the unconquerable snow. Arndt himself gives an absolutely appalling description of the dread realities of misery he witnessed, as, following the steps of that helpless retreat, he and the other patriotic spirits who had laboured for their country in exile hastened back to help its approaching restoration. Amidst all the suffering and hardship, which even makes our hearts to ache in reading of after nearly sixty years, can we wonder at the exultation these returning exiles must have felt? Can we help, however we must feel for those whom the disasters of Napoleon overwhelmed so awfully, feeling a sympathy in gladness for those faithful ones to whom such great disasters gave a hope and consolation, restoring them to home and honour in a liberated fatherland ? But all was not over with the failure of the Russian campaign. Every day was big with fate, and many a heart that bounded with patriotic hope was destined to be still and cold for ever before the mighty work was done. If Germany had been terrible in its downfall, it was resistless in its uprising, and the first dawn of hope soon brightened to the noon of triumph. Those were times when men's hearts were ready to be stirred, and every means to stir them was at hand. It is to this period we must refer the chief of Arndt's great patriotic songs, which we will pause a little to examine.

A song is but a small thing, but it may be the electric spark which fires the most destructive agents. It excites, it transmits, it kindles those sentiments which inflame the passions of nations; and it may be said with truth hereafter that a couple of songs have contributed more than any practical cause or real political necessity to the conflict which is now afflicting the world. A national song, such as is wanted, appearing when it is wanted, expressing one national idea, whether it be the suffering, the hope, or the courage of a nation, though its metre be rugged, and its words be homely, comes from the heart, speaks to the heart, and stirs the blood of men. Such were the war-songs of Arndt-plain and simple always-rude and rough enough at times; but songs, notwithstanding, which put before men a mighty purpose in a manly way, making those who heard and sang them feel more than ever the dignity of their manhood, the value of their freedom, and the privilege of their self-sacrifice. They were, as we have said, full of hatred. But there are two senses in which to take the word. Such a feeling was essential to the deliverance of Germany in 1813; such a feeling, taken in conjunction with the other feelings manifest throughout his writings, and in his simple unaffected noble nature, show him to have been a poet according to the grand definition of the greatest poet among ourselves :*Dowered with the hate of hate, the scorn of

scorn, The love of love.' It could not be otherwise with a man who, like Arndt, was thoroughly in earnest; and unquestionably it was the echo which his glowing songs awakened in hearts of men who hated slavery, that made those songs so mighty in the appropriate moments they were uttered, so mighty in forming the mind of the free Germans of to-day, and so mighty in raising the courage and stirring the heart of the men who have sung them once more, in this awful year, by their watch-fires in Champagne and beneath the walls of Paris.

Such is no doubt the power of the patriotic song; but if we judge that by which Arndt is best known by ordinary poetic standards, we cannot critically praise it, unless we confound two things, and make poetic merit to consist in the mere expression of an idea. What is the German's Fatherland ?' became and remained a great song, not for its poetry, but for its patriotism. The song, with its burden Our Fatherland must greater be,' is very well suited for a nation whose

purpose was plunder, whose pretext was rectification of frontiers, and whose policy was annexation; and in such case we might call it a sort of geographical catechism done into irregular metre. But for German experience and German feeling, it had another purpose. It expressed a policy not of annexation, but of union; not of conquest, but of confraternity. It has given a motto easy of remembrance, interpreted in short and simple phrase an instinct of which each thinking German is conscious to himself; he feels that the old patriotic bard was right about his Fatherland, that

So weit die deutsche Zunge klingt
Und Gott im Himmel Lieder singt,

Das soll es sein!'
This famous song or hymn--for, with its large scope, its con-

[ocr errors]

fident faith, and its deep reverence, it may well be called a hymn-we abstain from giving in the original, since nearly all the readers whom our subject interests must, in some sort, be acquainted with it; and we abstain from translating it, unwilling to add another to the long list of failures in that difficult task. It is not translateable; like Luther's famous hymns, the subtle spirit evaporates when we attempt to transfuse its essence. Just in proportion as a national song is terse, direct, and vigorous, the difficulties of its translation are multiplied. The best translations very often are happy paraphrases ; but short sentences and direct statements will not admit of paraphrase. The bard of battle girds his loins to sing as he strikes; and his song, like himself, is succinct; neither its metre nor its method can be transferred to a foreign tongue. The man must know Germans, feel for Germans, see Germans, judge their thoughts, hear their speech, learn their yearnings, before he can comprehend at all the strange power of that Fatherland song; and the more fully he comprehends this, the more hopeless he feels is the effort to translate it.

But we must not leave our reader without some specimen of Arndt's poetic power. His national songs were struck out like hot sparks, as we have said in his words, upon the glow‘ing anvil of the time;' and so we find most of the momentous battles, and most of the distinguished heroes of the Liberation War celebrated in his fiery song. We give here as an instance a call to combat of the date 1812, entitled The Ancient and • Modern Germans,'* of which we subjoin a translation:

• Our fathers of old were renowned

As valorous lions in war,
Gigantic they seemed to the weaklings,

Their swordstrokes cleft deep and swept far;
Their spears sped through horse and through rider,

Like lightning through breastplate and helm;
God only could make them to tremble,

And virtue was wisdom with them.
· Of Rome the bloodthirsty battalions

Tormented the world they enslaved,
Degraded by wine and by women,

By gold and indulgence depraved;
They boasted that earth was created

For Rome and for Romans alone,
And bore them as tyrants, regarding

The fortune of war as their own.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors]

• Till at last the free Germans arising,

Marched down from the Danube and Rhine, Rushed on with their broad flying banners,

And broke through the proud battle-line; To combats they went as to dances,

Those champions so valiant and good, And crimsoned their far-reaching lances

And terrible broadswords with blood. They were fighting for freedom, for honour,

For God, for their rights, for their land; They swept down their worthless oppressors,

As whirlwinds sweep forward the sand; They shattered the bond that had fettered

Their suffering peoples in twain, Wiped out their past sins and disgraces,

And built up their nation again. · Such as these were the Germans of old

Such as these were, Oh! German, art thou ? Canst thou bear to be scourged like a cur ?

Canst thou cringe, like a cur, to the blow?
Canst thou shrink, like a pitiful coward,

From meeting the death of the brave;
But to eat, 'neath the eye of thy drivers,

The mean daily bread of the slave ?
• Canst thou serve with the Frank so deceitful,

Enslaved by a monster so foul;
When thy bear-leader stirs thee for dancing,

Canst thou dance, and not utter a growl ?
Shall his ring through thy nostril be passed,

On thy lips shall his niuzzle be laid,
Till he make thee a hare from a lion,

Till he change the war-horse to a jade ?
“No longer! To arms ! Clutch thy weapon !

The delivering steel seize amain !
Arise, though thy vengeance be bloody,

Quick, conquer thy freedom again!
Uncover thy far-flying banner,

Let thy sword flash its glittering fires,
And show thee, at last, a free German,

And worthy the fame of thy sires !
• No longer! shout ! shout! and enkindle

The fame of just vengeance afar;
And shake the proud soul of thy tyrant

With the terrible trumpet of war.
On mountain and bill sound the clarion,

Ring out the loud bells from each spire,
And pursue

him with buffets of battle, And the crash of the loud cannon-fire !


[ocr errors]

• So drive off our drivers detested,

Follow up that proud chase of delight,
And harass their plundering legions,

With terror by day and by night;
And ne'er sheathe the sword in its scabbard

Till over the beautiful Rhine,
We unite in full freedom and gladness

The bonds of the German Verein.' We have selected this as a specimen of the force and fire which made an inspiration of so many a battle-song of Arndt’s. We seem as we read it, foreign as we are to the race it was addressed to, to feel our spirit stirred. What must have been the power of such songs on those who knew and felt a real slavery and were panting for release ?

To those for whom these songs were written, their language was not merely patriotic, it was devout.

With all his energy of hatred against his country's oppressors, Arndt's heart in this great matter trusted in God, and he expressed the feeling that the cause of his country was a holy and sanctified cause, more strongly still in a ‘Catechism,' with the following extraordinary title:

Catechism for Germany's soldiers and defenders, wherein is • set forth how a warrior should be a Christian man, and go to * battle having God upon his side.

"“ Fear not, O land! be glad, and rejoice ; for the Lord will do great things.”—Joel ii. 21.

This remarkable production of about fifty octavo pages was first printed in the summer of 1812 at St. Petersburg, again in 1813 at Königsberg, and reproduced by thousands in many other places during the War of Liberation. In twenty short chapters, touching in the most brief and incisive manner, and in Scriptural phrase, on such subjects as the origin of evil, dissension and war, justifiable and unjustifiable war, the Great Tyrant (Napoleon of course), trust in God, unity, soldiers' honour, freedom and fatherland, self-restraint in war, selfsacrifice, and so forth, he supplies the simplest answers to the many questions, the directest resolutions of the many doubts, which might meet a man in taking up arms for his country. We subjoin a specimen or two of the style of this production :

"He who conquereth an oppressor is a holy man, and he who checketh pride doeth the work of God.

Such is the war that is pleasing in the sight of the Lord; and God in heaven counteth the drops of the blood that is shed therein.

He that falleth with the foremost in that combat, and adorneth the path of victory, that man's descendants are blessed for generations, and VOL. CXXXII. NO, CCLXX.


« FöregåendeFortsätt »