Monday, July 26, 2010
LÜTZOW'S WILD BAND
What gleams through the woods in the morning sun?
Hear it nearer and nearer draw!
It winds in and out in columns dun,
And the trumpet-notes on the roused winds run,
And they startle the soul with awe.
Should you of the comrades black demand--
That is Lützow's wild and untamed band.
What passes swift through the darksome glade,
And roves o'er the mountains all?
It crouches in nightly ambuscade;
The hurrah breaks round the foe dismayed,
And the Frankish sergeants fall.
Should you of the rangers black demand--
That is Lützow's wild and audacious band.
Where the vineyards flourish, there roars the Rhine;
There the tyrant thought him secure;
Then by thunder-crash and lightning-shine
In the waters plunges the fighting line;
Of the hostile bank makes sure.
Should you of the swimmers black demand--
That is Lützow's wild and foolhardy band.
There down in the valley what clamorous fight!
What clangor of bloody swords!
Fierce-hearted horsemen wage the fight,
And the spark of freedom's at last alight,
Flaming red the heavens towards.
Should you of the horsemen black demand--
That is Lützow's wild and intrepid band.
Who with death-rattle there bid the day farewell
'Mid the moans of prostrate foes?
Of the hand of death the drawn features tell,
Yet the dauntless hearts triumphant swell,
For his Fatherland's safe each knows!
Should you of the black-clad fallen demand--
That is Lützow's wild and invincible band.
The wild, fierce band and the Teuton band,
For all tyrants' blood athirst!--
So you who would mourn us, be not unmanned;
For the morning dawns, and we freed our land,
Though to free it we won death first!
Then tell, at your grandsons' rapt demand:
That was Lützow's wild and unconquered band!
-trans. Montagu Donner
-German title: Lützows wilde Jagd.
(Image is Caspar David Friedrich, The Chasseur in the Forest, 1814, showing a French soldier lost in the depths of the towering German pine forest, while a crow sits waiting to feast on his dead flesh after he expires.)