Saturday, July 31, 2010

Götz von Berlichingen

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Excerpts from Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen (1773):
KARL: Jaxthausen is a village and castle on the Jaxt. It has belonged for two hundred years to the lords of Berlichingen by hereditary right and by the right of possession.

GÖTZ: Are you not as free, as nobly born as any man in Germany, independent, subject only to the Emperor, and you cringe before vassals?...Do you underestimate the value of being a free knight who is subject only to God, his Emperor, and himself!

GÖTZ: Order and peace! I believe it! That's what every bird of prey wants: to devour its quarry in comfort.

GÖTZ: If your conscience is clear, you are free.

GÖTZ: I am a thorn in your flesh, small as I am, and Sickingen and Selbitz no less so, because we are determined to die before we owe anyone but God for the air we breathe and before we pay loyalty and service to anyone but the Emperor.

GÖTZ: Last night I thought I gave you my right iron hand, and you held me so tight that it came out of the brassarts as if it had been broken off.

FRANZ: When she looks at anyone it's as though one were standing in spring sunlight.

GEORG: Don't worry! It won't put me off if ever so many are crawling around me: to me they're like rats and mice.

GEORG: A horseman that thinks ahead of time won't take any very broad jumps.

GEORG: He was startled; I saw the confession of his crime on his face. He scarcely had the heart to look at me -- me, a mere squire.
SELBITZ: That was because his conscience was lower than your rank.

THE EMPEROR: God in Heaven! God in Heaven! What is this? One of them has only one hand, the other only one leg. If they ever had two hands and two legs what would you do then?

SICKINGEN: It is an honor for both of you to be betrayed by him.

GÖTZ: Sickingen, you will fall into the pit with me. I was hoping you would get me out of it.

GÖTZ: One wolf is too many for a whole flock of sheep.

GÖTZ: Elizabeth, you will stay with me!
ELIZABETH: Till death!
GÖTZ: Whom God loves, to him may He give a wife like that!

THE COUNCILOR: We are under no obligation of good faith with a brigand.
GÖTZ: If you were not wearing the Emperor's likeness, which I venerate in its meanest counterfeit, you would eat that word "brigand" and choke on it! I am engaged in an honorable feud. You could thank God and parade yourself large before the world if you had ever in your life done a deed as noble as that for which I now sit here captive.

GÖTZ: I still have, thank God, one hand left and I did well to use it.

GÖTZ: Is that your intention? Whoever isn't a Hungarian ox better not come too close to me! He'll get such a box on the ears from this right iron hand of mine as will cure him once and for all of headache, toothache, and all the other aches of this world.

WEISLINGEN: Last night I met Götz in the forest. He drew his sword and challenged me. I reached for mine and my hand failed me. Then he thrust it into his sheath, looked and me contemptuously, and followed me. He is a prisoner, and I tremble before him

GÖTZ: Heavenly air...Freedom! Freedom!

MARIA: Noble man! Noble man! Woe to the age that rejected you!
LERSE: Woe to the posterity that fails to appreciate you!

Click to enlarge

(Images are of Götz von Berlichingen's actual iron hand, along with a prototype to the left, which are housed in the castle museum of the Götzenburg in Jagsthausen; photographed by the author during his latest pilgrimage to Germany, in August, 2009.)

''Myself am Hell''

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From Milton, Paradise Lost (1674):
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav'n. (IV.73-78)

(Illustration is John Martin, Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion, 1812.)

Friday, July 30, 2010



Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crownéd kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the World contained;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguished with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenchéd hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past World; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnashed their teeth and howled: the wild birds shrieked,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food:
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again:—a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no Love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was Death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famished men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famished by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heaped a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects—saw, and shrieked, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The World was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropped
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The Moon, their mistress, had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perished; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.


Thursday, July 29, 2010



Friedrich Rückert

Old Friedrich Barbarossa,
The emperor renowned,
Inhabits now, enchanted,
A castle underground.

Not dead is he, but resting,
He still lives there today,
And in this hidden castle
He sits and sleeps away.

He took the empire’s glory
Down with him in its prime,
And will return in splendor
With it, in his own time.

The chair on which he slumbers
Of ivory is made,
The table is of marble
On which his head is laid.

His flowing beard, not flaxen,
But red with fiery glow,
Has grown right through the table
And to the stone below.

He nods and stirs in dreaming
And winks a sleepy eye,
And now and then he beckons
A servant, standing by.

He speaks to him in slumber:
"Find out, O dwarf, if still
You see the ravens flying
Above the castle hill.

And if the ancient ravens
Above the castle soar,
I still must sleep, enchanted,
A hundred years or more."


(Illustration is Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), The Sleep of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa.)

Romanticism vs. Modernism in opera

This clip from a mid-1990s British documentary about the Royal Opera House exemplifies the conflict between traditional, reverential opera productions and the modernist approach.

It begins with a group of opera traditionalists protesting the house's staging of a horrid modern opera, Gawain, that is marked by its dissonant style. Next we get a glimpse of a postmodern production of Mozart's The Magic Flute (which proves to be an artistic and commercial failure).

Then, in the highlight of the clip, we see a glorious, traditional production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, conducted by Bernard Haitink, which is a bona fide triumph, and wildly popular.

The video concludes with a look at the opera house's plans to stage a ridiculous, revisionist version, bordering on self-parody, of Wagner's Ring.

Note in particular the music director's concluding comment that opera is a "battlefield between the musical and dramatic elements." But must it be so? Or rather, isn't the concept of harmony between the musical and dramatic elements (such as we see in the Die Meistersinger clip) aesthetically preferable, and more artistically fulfilling?

''Awake, arise, or be forever fall'n"

From Milton, Paradise Lost (1674):
                                  Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the Flowr of Heav'n, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can sieze
Eternal spirits; or have ye chos'n this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied vertue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the Vales of Heav'n?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conquerour? who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rowling in the flood
With scatter'd arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heav'n Gates discern
Th' advantage, and descending tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise, or be for ever fall'n. (I.315-330)

(Illustration is John Martin, Satan Arousing the Fallen Angels, 1824.)

"I belong to a different age"

From Franz Endler, Karajan: An Autobiography (1989):
"Many of my critics write, and will go on writing, that I conduct too lavishly. That may be so. During my day people have been somewhat extravagant in terms of art and music. I believed this was the right attitude to adopt, and so I've supported it. It has something to do with respect towards art, and if this respect is old-fashioned, so be it, I've no intention of dissociating myself from it. When I was young, we approached music with a sense of awe and celebrated each such approach as a special event. I can see, of course, that times have changed, that people don't want to know about respect any longer, and that it is not in keeping with the times to celebrate a concert. People are going to great lengths to make themselves ugly, to wear ugly clothes, and to feel precious little enthusiasm for beauty. I've been observing this for years . . . I know there's nothing that can be done at present to change all this. But no one can expect me to seek a polite or understanding explanation for this, still less that I should agree with it and conform. I belong to a different age. And what I want to preserve for myself and posterity also belongs to a different age."

Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) was the greatest conductor the world has ever known. His recordings comprise the definitive account of the classical repertoire. In his opera stagings he rejected modern left-wing political fashions, instead realizing the works in tune with the composers' own wishes. Nothing less than a musical Übermensch, he was a true Romantic in an anti-Romantic age, and the last great interpreter of the German tradition.

Karajan Tribute Site

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n"

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From Milton, Paradise Lost (1674):
                                          Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n. (I.258-263)

(Illustration is John Martin, Pandemonium, 1824-27.)

''The Wandering Jew''


Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart

Ahasuerus the Jew crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel. Near two thousand years have elapsed since he was first goaded by never-ending restlessness to rove the globe from pole to pole. When our Lord was wearied with the burthen of His ponderous cross, and wanted to rest before the door of Ahasuerus, the unfeeling wretch drove Him away with brutality. The Saviour of mankind staggered, sinking under the heavy load, but uttered no complaint. An angel of death appeared before Ahasuerus, and exclaimed indignantly, "Barbarian! thou has denied rest to the Son of man: be it denied thee also, until He comes to judge the world."

A black demon, let loose from hell upon Ahasuerus, goads him now from country to country; he is denied the consolation which death affords, and precluded from the rest of the peaceful grave.

Ahasuerus crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel — he shook the dust from his beard — and taking up one of the skulls heaped there, hurled it down the eminence: it rebounded from the earth in shivered atoms. "This was my father!" roared Ahasuerus. Seven more skulls rolled down from rock to rock; while the infuriate Jew, following them with ghastly looks, exclaimed — "And these were my wives!" He still continued to hurl down skull after skull, roaring in dreadful accents — "And these, and these, and these were my children! They could die; but I! reprobate wretch! alas! I cannot die! Dreadful beyond conception is the judgment that hangs over me. Jerusalem fell — I crushed the sucking babe, and precipitated myself into the destructive flames. I cursed the Romans — but, alas! alas! the restless curse held me by the hair, — and I could not die!

"Rome the giantess fell — I placed myself before the falling statue — she fell and did not crush me. Nations sprang up and disappeared before me; — but I remained and did not die. From cloud-encircled cliffs did I precipitate myself into the ocean; but the foaming billows cast me upon the shore, and the burning arrow of existence pierced my cold heart again. I leaped into Etna's flaming abyss, and roared with the giants for ten long months, polluting with my groans the Mount's sulphureous mouth — ah! ten long months. The volcano fermented, and in a fiery stream of lava cast me up. I lay torn by the torture-snakes of hell amid the glowing cinders, and yet continued to exist. — A forest was on fire: I darted on wings of fury and despair into the crackling wood. Fire dropped upon me from the trees, but the flames only singed my limbs; alas! it could not consume them. — I now mixed with the butchers of mankind, and plunged in the tempest of the raging battle. I roared defiance to the infuriate Gaul, defiance to the victorious German; but arrows and spears rebounded in shivers from my body. The Saracen's flaming sword broke upon my skull: balls in vain hissed upon me: the lightnings of battle glared harmless around my loins: in vain did the elephant trample upon me, in vain the iron hoof of the wrathful steed! The mine, big with destructive power, burst upon me, and hurled me high in the air — I fell on heaps of smoking limbs, but was only singed. The giant's steel club rebounded from my body; the executioner's hand could not strangle me, the tiger's tooth could not pierce me, nor would the hungry lion in the circus devour me. I cohabited with poisonous snakes, and pinched the red crest of the dragon. — The serpent stung, but could not destroy me. The dragon tormented, but dared not devour me. — I now provoked the fury of tyrants: I said to Nero, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' I said to Christiern, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' I said to Muley Ismail, 'Thou art a bloodhound!' — The tyrants invented cruel torments, but did not kill me — Ha! not to be able to die — not to be able to die — not to be permitted to rest after the toils of life — to be doomed to be imprisoned for ever in the clay-formed dungeon — to be for ever clogged with this worthless body, its load of diseases and infirmities — to be condemned to [be]hold for milleniums that yawning monster Sameness, and Time, that hungry hyaena, ever bearing children, and ever devouring again her offspring! — Ha! not to be permitted to die! Awful Avenger in Heaven, hast Thou in Thine armoury of wrath a punishment more dreadful? then let it thunder upon me, command a hurricane to sweep me down to the foot of Carmel, that I there may lie extended; may pant, and writhe, and die!"


-trans. Peter Will
-German title, Der ewige Jude.

(Illustration is Carl Gustav Carus, Pilgrim in a Rocky Valley, 1820.)

''The mind is its own place''

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From Milton, Paradise Lost (1674):
                                Farewell happy fields
Where joy forever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor: one who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same...? (I.249-256)

(Illustration is John Martin, Pandemonium, 1841.)

On Romantic Music

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From Walzel, German Romanticism (1932):
Romantic music -- again one takes one's lead from Beethoven -- concerns itself with the heroic, the larger-than-life, the uncontrolled, the unrestricted -- even the potentially destructive. These values are then presented to the world as self-justifying entities, expressions of uncompromising personal vision. Once the composer's "message" has been made public, it is for the world at large to rise to it: the artist is not the servant of society but its leader.

-trans. A.E. Lussky.

(Illustration is Thomas Cole's The Destruction of Empire, 1836.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

''The Wild Huntsman''

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Gottfried August Bürger

Loud, loud the baron winds his horn;
      And, see, a lordly train
On horse, on foot, with defening din,
      Comes scouring o'er the plain.

O'er heath, o'er field, the yelping pack
      Dash swift, from couples freed;
O'er heath, o'er field, close on their track,
      Loud neighs the fiery steed.

And now the Sabbath's holy dawn
      Beam'd high with purple ray,
And bright each hallowed temple's dome
      Reflected back the day.

Now deep and clear the pealing bells
      Struck on the list'ning ear,
And heaven-ward rose from many a voice
      The hymn of praise and prayer.

Swift, swift along the crossway, still
      They speed with eager cry:
See! right and left, two horsemen strange
      Their rapid coursers ply.

Who were the horsemen right and left?
      That may I guess full well:
Who were the horsemen right and left?
      That may I never tell.

The right, of fair and beauteous mien,
      A milk-white steed bestrode;
Mild as the vernal skies, his face
      With heavenly radiance glow'd.

The left spurr'd fast his fiery barb,
      Red as the furnace flame;
Sullen he loured, and from his eyes
      The death-like lightning came.

"Right welcome to our noble sport;"
      The baron greets them fair;
"For well I wot ye hold it good
      To banish moping care.

"No pleasure equal to the chase,
      Or earth, or heaven can yield;"
He spoke,--he waved his cap in air,
      And foremost rushed afield.

"Turn thee!" the milder horseman cries;
      "Turn thee from horns and hounds!
Hear'st not the bells, hear'st not the quire,
      Mingle their sacred sounds?

"They drown the clamor of the chase;
      Oh! hunt not then to-day,
Nor let a fiend's advice destroy
      Thy better angel's sway."

"Hunt on, hunt on," his comrade cries,
      "Nor heed yon dotard's spell;
What is the bawling quire to us?
      Or what the jangling bell?

"Well may the chase delight thee more;
      And well may'st learn from me,
How brave, how princely is our sport,
      From bigot terrors free."

"Well said! well said! in thee I own
      A hero's kindled fire;
These pious foolries move not us,
      We reck nor priest, nor quire.

"And thou, believe me, saintlike dolt,
      Thy bigot rage is vain;
From prayers and beadrolls, what delight
      Can sportsmen hope to gain?"

Still hurry, hurry, on they speed
      O'er valley, hill and plain;
And ever at the baron's side
      Attend the horsemen twain.

See, panting, see, a milk-white hart
      Up-springs from yonder thorn:
"Now swiftly ply both horse and foot;
      Now louder wind the horn!"

See, falls a huntsman! see, his limbs
      The pangs of death distort!
"Lay there and rot: no caitiff's death
      Shall mar our princely sport."

Light bounds with deftest speed the hart,
      Wide o'er the country borne;
Now closer prest a refuge seeks
      Where waves the ripening corn.

See, the poor owner of the field
      Approach with tearful eyes;
"O pity, pity, good my lords!"
      Alas! in vain he cries.

"O spare what little store the poor
      By bitter sweat can earn!"
Now soft the milder horseman warns
      The baron to return.

Not so persuades his stern compeer,
      Best pleas'd with darkest deeds;
Tis his to sway the baron's heart,
      Reckless what mercy pleads.

"Away!" the imperious noble cries;
      "Away, and leave us free!
Off! or by all the powers of hell,
      Thou too shalt hunted be!

"Here, fellows! let this villain prove
      My threats were not in vain:
Loud lash around his piteous face
      The whips of all my train."

Tis said, tis done: swift o'er the fence
      The baron foremost springs;
Swift follow hound, and horse, and man,
      And loud the welkin rings.

Loud rings the welkin with their shouts,
      While man, and horse, and hound,
Ruthless tread down each ripening ear,
      Wide o'er the smoking ground.

O'er heath and field, o'er hill and dale,
      Scared by the approaching cries,
Still close pursued, yet still unreach'd,
      Their destin'd victim flies.

Now mid the lowing herds that graze
      Along yon verdant plain,
He hopes, concealed from every eye,
      A safe retreat to gain.

In vain, for now the savage train
      Press ravening on his heels:
See, prostrate at the baron's feet
      The affrighted herdsman kneels.

Fear for the safety of his charge
      Inspires his faltering tongue;
"O spare," he cries, "these harmless beasts,
      Nor work an orphan's wrong.

"Think, here thy fury would destroy
      A friendless widow's all!"
He spoke:--the gentle stranger strove
      To enforce soft pity's call.

Not so persuades his sullen frere,
      But pleas'd with darkest deeds;
Tis his to sway the baron's heart,
      Reckless what mercy pleads.

"Away, audacious hound!" he cries;
      "Twould do my heart's-blood good,
Might I but see thee transform'd to beasts
      Thee and thy beggar brood.

"Then, to the very gates of heaven,
      Who dare to say me nay!
With joy I'd hunt the losel fry;
      Come fellows, no delay!"

See, far and wide the murderous throng
      Deal many a deadly wound;
Mid slaughter'd numbers, see, the hart
      Sinks bleeding on the ground.

Yet still he summons all his strength
      For one poor effort more,
Staggering he flies; his silver sides
      Drop mingled sweat and gore.

And now he seeks a last retreat
      Deep in the darkling dell,
Where stands, amidst embowering oaks,
      A hermit's holy cell.

E'en here the madly eager train
      Rush swift with impious rage,
When, lo! persuasion on his tongue,
      Steps forth the reverend sage.

"O cease thy chase! nor thus invade
      Religion's free abode;
For know, the tortur'd creature's groans
      E'en now have reach'd his god.

"They cry at heaven's high mercy seat,
      For vengeance on thy head;
O turn, repentant turn, ere yet
      The avenging bolt is sped."

Once more religion's cause in vain
      The gentle stranger pleads;
Once more, alas! his sullen frere
      A willing victim leads.

"Dash on!" the harden'd sinner cries;
      "Shalt thou distrub our sport?
No! boldly would I urge the chase
      In heaven's own inmost court.

"What reck I then thy pious rage?
      No mortal man I fear:
Not god in all his terrors arm'd
      Should stay my fix'd career."

He cracks his whip, he winds his horn,
      He calls his vassal-crew;
Lo! horse and hound, and sage and cell,
      All vanish from his view.

All, all, are gone!--no single rack
      His eager eye can trace;
And silence, still as death, has hush'd
      The clamors of the chase.

In vain he spurs his courser's sides,
      Nor back nor forward borne;
He winds his horn, he calls aloud,
      But hears no sound return.

And now inclos'd in deepest night,
      Dark as the silent grave,
He hears the sullen tempest roar,
      As roars the distant wave.

Loud and louder still the storm
      Howls through the troubled air;
Ten thousand thunders from on high
      The voice of judgment bear.

"Accursed before god and man,
      Unmoved by threat or prayer;
Creator, nor created, aught
      Thy frantic rage would spare.

"Think not in vain creation's lord
      Has heard his creature's groan;
E'en now the torch of vengeance flames
      High by his awful throne.

"Now, hear thy doom! to aftertimes
      A dread example given,
For ever urge thy wild career,
      By fiendish hell-hounds driven."

The voice had ceased; the sulphurous flash
      Shot swift from either pole;
Sore shook the grove; cold horror seized
      The trembling miscreant's soul.

Again the rising tempest roars,
      Again the lightnings play;
And every limb, and every nerve
      Is frozen with dismay.

He sees a giant's swarthy arm
      Start from the yawning ground;
He feels a demon grasp his head,
      And rudely wrench it round.

In torrents now from every side,
      Pours fast a fiery flood;
On each o'erwhelming wave upborne,
      Loud howls the hellish brood.

Sullen and grisly gleams the light,
      Now red, now green, now blue;
Whilst o'er the gulf the fiendish train
      Their destined prey pursue.

In vain he shrieks with wild despair,
      In vain he strives to fly;
Still at this back the hell-born crew
      Their cursed business ply.

By day, full many a fathom deep
      Below earth's smiling face;
By night, high through the troubled air,
      They speed their endless chase.

In vain to turn his eyes aside
      He strives with wild affright;
So never may those maddening scenes
      Escape his tortured sight.

Still must he see those dogs of hell
      Close hovering on his track;
Still must he see the avenging scourge
      Uplighted at his back.

Now this is the wild baron's hunt;
      And many a village youth,
And many a sportsman (dare they speak)
      Could vouch the awful truth.

For oft benighted midst the wilds
      The fiendish troop they hear,
Now shrieking shrill, now cursing loud,
      Come thundering through the air.

No hand shall stay those dogs of hell
      Or quench that sea of fire,
Till god's own dreadful day of doom
      Shall bid the world expire!

-trans. as "The Wild Hunter" by Rambler's Magazine (1809).
-German title: Der wilde Jäger.

(Illustration is Arbo, The Wild Hunt, 1872.)

''Art is a conservative power''

From Thomas Mann, Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man (1918):
Art will never be moral in the political sense, never virtuous; progress will never be able to depend upon it. It has a basically undependable, treacherous tendency; its joy in scandalous antireason, its tendency to beauty-creating "barbarism," cannot be rooted out, yes, even if one calls this tendency hysterical, anti-intellectual, and immoral to the point of being a danger to the world: it is an immortal fact, and if one wanted to, or could, extirpate it from the world, one would certainly have freed the world from a grave danger, but at the same time one would almost certainly have freed it of art as well -- and only a few want that. An irrational power, but a great power; and the attachment of people to it proves that people neither can nor want to make do with rationality, that is; with the famous three-part equation of democratic wisdom, "reason = virtue = happiness."

Let one read, in this connection, the sinfully enthusiastic description that Baudelaire gives of the Tannhäuser march! "Who could," he cries, "in listening to these chords, which are so rich and proud, to this elegantly cadenced, magnificent rhythm, these royal fanfares, imagine anything else than a magical pomp, a parade of heroic men in shining costumes, all of great stature, all of strong will and naive belief, just as magnificent in their joys as terrible in their battles?"

And who, let us add, could fail to recognize that it is, in the sense of political virtue, the most questionable ideas that art awakens here?

Yesterday I heard Tschaikowsky's Symphonie Pathétique, this thoroughly dangerous work in its sweetness and savagery, which one neither hears nor understands without experiencing the irreconcilable antithesis of art and the spirit of literary virtue. I am thinking of the third movement with its malicious march music, which, if we had a censor in the service of democratic enlightenment, would absolutely have to be forbidden. So long as such things may not only be composed, but also performed; so long as this trumpet blare and cymbal clash is allowed among cultured people; so long, allow me to say, will there be wars on earth.

Art is a conservative power, the strongest of all; it preserves spiritual possibilities that without it -- perhaps -- would die out. So long as poets are possible -- and they will always be so -- whose wish and lament is to lie down in the deepest woods to forget "these stupid times,"
Of princely deeds and works
Of ancient honour and pomp,
And what may strengthen the soul,
Dreaming away the long night--
so long as their forward-directed longing will call forth the time when the Lord will put an end to things and tear from the deceitful one their unjust power:
Then Aurora will dawn
High up over the forest,
Then there will be something to sing and defeat
Then, loyal ones, awake--
--so long, I say, will the rule of that three-part equation, will democracy on earth, not be secure.

Let every utopia of progress, let the sanctification of the earth by reason -- every dream of social eudæmonism be fulfilled, the pacified, esperanto world become reality: air buses breeze over a "human race" that is clothed in white, pious with reason, statelessly-unified, monolingual, in the ultimate mastery of technology, with electric television: art will still live, and it will form an element of uncertainty and preserve the possibility, the conceivability, of relapse. It will speak of passion and unreason; it will present, cultivate and celebrate passion and unreason, hold primordial thoughts and instincts in honour, keep them awake or reawaken them with great force, the thought and instinct of war, for example. One will not be able to forbid it, because that would go against freedom.

Or will "the human race" live under absolutism, under the tyranny of reason, of virtue and of happiness?" Then it is all the more probable that art will go completely into the opposition -- and that everything that finds itself opposed to this ultimate tyranny will hold passionately to it. Art will seize the leadership of that party that seeks to overthrow the rule of virtue -- and it is a ravishing leader. In short, then: war, heroism of a reactionary type, all the mischief of unreason, will be thinkable and therefore possible so long as art exists, and its life will last and end only with that of the "human race."

-trans. W.D. Morris

''The Lion's Ride''

Click to enlarge


Ferdinand Freiligrath

King of deserts reigns the lion; will he through his realm go riding,
Down to the lagoon he paces, in the tall sedge there lies hiding.
Where gazelles and camelopards drink, he crouches by the shore;
Ominous, above the monster, moans the quivering sycamore.

When, at dusk, the ruddy hearth-fires in the Hottentot kraals are glowing,
And the motley, changeful signals on the Table Mountain growing
Dim and distant -- when the Caffre sweeps along the lone karroo--
When in the bush the antelope slumbers, and beside the stream the gnu--

Lo! majestically stalking, yonder comes the tall giraffe,
Hot with thirst, the gloomy waters of the dull lagoon to quaff;
O'er the naked waste behold her, with parched tongue, all panting hasten--
Now she sucks the cool draught, kneeling, from the stagnant, slimy basin.

Hark, a rustling in the sedges! with a roar, the lion springs
On her back now. What a race-horse! Say, in proudest stalls of kings,
Saw one ever richer housings than the courser’s motley hide,
On whose back the tawny monarch of the beasts tonight will ride?

Fixed his teeth are in the muscles of the nape, with greedy strain;
Round the giant courser's withers waves the rider's yellow mane.
With a hollow cry of anguish, leaps and flies the tortured steed;
See her, how with skin of leopard she combines the camel's speed!

See, with lightly beating footsteps, how she scours the moonlit plains!
From their sockets start the eyeballs; from the torn and bleeding veins,
Fast the thick, black drops come trickling, o’er the brown and dappled neck,
And the flying beast's heart-beatings audible the stillness make.

Like the cloud, that, guiding Israel through the land of Yemen, shone,
Like a spirit of the desert, like a phantom, pale and wan,
O'er the desert's sandy ocean, like a waterspout at sea,
Whirls a yellow, cloudy column, tracking them where'er they flee.

On their track the vulture follows, flapping, croaking, through the air,
And the terrible hyena, plunderer of tombs, is there;
Follows them the stealthy panther -- Cape-town's folds have known him well;
Them their monarch's dreadful pathway, blood and sweat full plainly tell.

On his living throne, they, quaking, see their ruler sitting there,
With sharp claw the painted cushion of his seat they see him tear.
Restless the giraffe must bear him on, till strength and life-blood fail her;
Mastered by such daring rider, rearing, plunging, naught avail her.

To the desert's verge she staggers -- sinks -- one groan -- and all is o'er.
Now the steed shall feast the rider, dead, and smeared with dust and gore.
Far across, o'er Madagascar, faintly now the morning breaks;
Thus the king of beasts his journey nightly through his empire makes.


-trans. C.T. Brooks
-German title: Löwenritt.

Hermann (Arminius)

This half-hour episode of the TLC series Archaeology, titled "Caesar's Nightmare: Battle in the Forest," describes recent archaeological finds at the site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 A.D.), in which heroic Germanic tribesmen led by their chief, Hermann (Arminius), annihilated three legions of the Roman Army.

It also features glimpses of the magnificent Hermannsdenkmal (1875) by Ernst von Bandel, near Detmold, which, along with the Völkerschlachtdenkmal and the Kyffhäuserdenkmal, is one of the greatest remaining German Romantic national monuments.

2009 marked the 2,000th anniversary of this battle.

The video is split into three parts. Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

''Men and Knaves''

Click to enlarge


Theodor Körner

The storm is out; the land is roused;
Where is the coward who sits well-housed?
Fie, on thee, boy, disguised in curls,
Behind the stove, 'mong gluttons and girls!
      A graceless, worthless wight thou must be;
      No German maid desires thee,
      No German song inspires thee,
      No German Rhine-wine fires thee.
            Forth in the van,
            Man by man,
      Swing the battle-sword who can!

When we stand watching, the livelong night,
Through piping storms, till morning light,
Thou to thy downy bed canst creep,
And there in dreams of rapture sleep.


When, hoarse and shrill, the trumpet's blast,
Like the thunder of God, makes our hearts beat fast,
Thou in the theatre lov'st to appear,
Where trills and quavers tickle the ear.


When the glare of noonday scorches the brain,
When our parched lips seek water in vain,
Thou canst make the champagne corks fly,
At the groaning tables of luxury.


When we, as we rush to the strangling fight,
Send home to our true loves a long "Good night,"
Thou canst hie thee where love is sold,
And buy thy pleasure with paltry gold.


When lance and bullet come whistling by,
And death in a thousand shapes draws nigh,
Thou canst sit at thy cards, and kill
King, queen, and knave, with thy spadille.


If on the red field our bell should toll,
Then welcome be death to the patriot's soul.
Thy pampered flesh shall quake at its doom,
And crawl in silk to a hopeless tomb.
      A pitiful exit thine shall be;
      No German maid shall weep for thee,
      No German song shall they sing for thee,
      No German goblets shall ring for thee.
            Forth in the van,
            Man for man,
      Swing the battle-sword who can!


-trans. C.T. Brooks
-German title: Männer und Buben.

(Image is Caspar David Friedrich, Graves of Ancient Heroes, 1812, inscribed "To the Youth Fallen for the Fatherland.")

Dragon-Slaying Festival in Furth im Wald

This German-language video provides a brief introduction to the plot of the annual Drachenstich Festspiel (Dragon-Slaying Festival) in the Bavarian town of Furth im Wald -- the oldest folk festival in Germany, and likely the oldest in all of Europe, dating back to before 1590.

Drachenstich: Official Site

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beethoven in His Own Words

Ludwig van Beethoven in his own words:
"Thus Fate knocks at the door."
[on the opening bars of the Fifth Symphony]

"He is a base man who does not know how to die; I knew it as a boy of fifteen."

"Emotion suits women only; music ought to strike fire from the soul of a man."

"There have been thousands of princes and will be thousands more; there is only one Beethoven."

"Force, which is a unit, will always prevail against the majority which is divided."

"Pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do the art of music; I should yet conquer Napoleon!"

"I care nothing about your whole system of ethics. Power is the morality of men who stand out from the mass, and it is also mine."

"How humiliated I have felt if somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or if somebody heard a shepherd sing and again I heard nothing -- Such experiences almost made me despair, and I was on the point of putting an end to my life -- The only thing that held me back was my art. For indeed it seemed to me impossible to leave this world before I had produced all the works that I felt the urge to compose; and thus I have dragged on this miserable existence . . . "

"You should be stamped out! Belaboured with fists! Harpooned! Shot with a pistol!"

"So be it, then. For you, poor Beethoven, there is no outward happiness. You must create everything within yourself -- only in the world of the imagination will you find friends."

"Did not Dædalus, shut up in the labyrinth, invent the wings which carried him out into the open air? Oh, I shall find them, too, these wings!"

"I am resolved to rise superior to every obstacle. With whom need I be afraid of measuring my strength? . . . I will take Fate by the throat. It shall not overcome me. Oh, how beautiful it is to be alive -- would that I could live a thousand times!"

"I am the Bacchus who presses out the glorious wine for mankind. Whoever truly understands my music is freed thereby from the miseries that others carry about in them."

In the words of others:
"I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, and torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage." (Friedrich Nietzsche)

"How does the matter stand if it is your feeble observation alone that the deep inner continuity of Beethoven's every composition eludes? If it is your fault alone that you do not understand the master's language as the initiated understand it, that the portals of the innermost sanctuary remain closed to you?" (E.T.A. Hoffmann)

"Whoever does not feel the unity of the impulse here, whoever considers it a riddle that . . . Bismarck, the statesman of blood and iron, caused Beethoven's sonatas to be played to him in the decisive moments of his life, understands nothing at all of the nature of the Teuton." (Houston Stewart Chamberlain)

"I believe in God and Beethoven." (Richard Wagner)

(Image shows the Beethoven Monument in Vienna, photographed by the author during his first trip to Europe, in 1993.)

Wagner's Leitmotifs

This video, from a PBS Great Performances broadcast in 1995, provides an accessible and entertaining explanation of Wagnerian leitmotifs, with a specific discussion of "Siegfried's Funeral March" and "Brunnhilde's Immolation" from Götterdämmerung, the final opera in Wagner's four-part "Ring Cycle," Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Nietzsche: ''My conception of freedom''

From Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (1889):
My conception of freedom. -- The value of a thing sometimes does not lie in that which one attains by it, but in what one pays for it -- what it costs us. I shall give an example. Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions. Their effects are known well enough: they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic -- every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization.

These same institutions produce quite different effects while they are still being fought for; then they really promote freedom in a powerful way. On closer inspection it is war that produces these effects, the war for liberal institutions, which, as a war, permits illiberal instincts to continue. And war educates for freedom. For what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one's cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example, over those of "pleasure." The human being who has become free -- and how much more the spirit who has become free -- spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free man is a warrior.

How is freedom measured in individuals and peoples? According to the resistance which must be overcome, according to the exertion required, to remain on top. The highest type of free men should be sought where the highest resistance is constantly overcome: five steps from tyranny, close to the threshold of the danger of servitude. [...] This is true politically too; one need only go through history. The peoples who had some value, attained some value, never attained it under liberal institutions: it was great danger that made something of them that merits respect. Danger alone acquaints us with our own resources, our virtues, our armor and weapons, our spirit, and forces us to be strong. First principle: one must need to be strong -- otherwise one will never become strong.

-trans. Kaufmann/Hollingdale

(Illustration is John Henry Fuseli, Odysseus before Scylla and Charybdis, 1794-96.)

Kyffhäuser Monument (Kyffhäuser-Denkmal)

This 15-minute German-language documentary was filmed on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Kyffhäuserdenkmal, or Kyffhäuser Monument (1896), designed by the great architect Bruno Schmitz. The monument commemorates Kaiser Wilhelm I and the founding of the Second German Reich (or empire).

The video is in two parts. Part one describes the building of the monument and gives some background on its location, which was the site of one of the castles of Kaiser Friedrich I ("Barbarossa") of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. Part two gives an in-depth look at the sections of the monument, and the history of the Kyffhäuserdenkmal after its construction.

Unfortunately, the narration is rather disparaging, as is typical of post-WWII guilt-ridden German attitudes towards their noble past. However, the video is still worthwhile for the wonderful footage that it shows of this glorious monument.

Part one:

Part two:

Kyffhäuserdenkmal: Official Site

''The German's Fatherland''

Click to enlarge


Erntz Moritz Arndt

Where is the German Fatherland?
Is't Swabia? is't Prussia's strand?
Is't where the Rhine's green vineyards bloom?
Or where the Baltic sea-gulls roam?
      More grand and free,
The German Fatherland must be,
The German Fatherland must be.

Where is the German Fatherland?
Bavaria, or Styrian land?
'Tis surely Austria's fertile shores,
Rich in the pride of many wars.
      Oh no, more grand,
The limits of the Fatherland,
The limits of the Fatherland.

Where is the German Fatherland?
Pom'rania, Westphalian land?
Is't where the dreary coast-sands lie?
Or where the Danube dashes by?
      Yet still more grand,
The limits of the Fatherland,
The limits of the Fatherland.

Then name to me the mighty land,
Which is the German's Fatherland;
Yet Tyrol may the answer tell,
Its land and people pleased me well.
      Thou hast not spanned
The limits of the Fatherland,
The limits of the Fatherland.

Where is the German Fatherland?
Oh, name to me the mighty land.
Where'er is known the German word,
Where German hymns to God are heard.
      This it shall be,
      This it shall be.
Oh! German, it belongs to thee,
      To none but thee!

All Germany shall be the land;
Watch o'er it, Heav'n, with saving hand,
And give us strength and courage too,
That we may love it well and true.
      This it shall be,
      This it shall be.
      Oh! German, it belongs to thee!
      This it shall be,
All Germany the land shall be.


-trans. C.T. Brooks
-German title: Des deutschen Vaterland.

(Photograph shows the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Leipzig, by Bruno Schmitz; erected in 1913 to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon, and the liberation of Germany, by the forces of Prussia and her allies at the Battle of the Nations in 1813.)

Reichsburg Cochem

This short 1999 promotional film showcases the Reichsburg -- the Imperial Castle of the town of Cochem.

Situated along the Mosel River, this Neo-Gothic masterpiece is a 19th-century rebuild of a sublime medieval structure, and is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany.

The video is divided into two parts. Part one:

Part two:

Reichsburg Cochem: Official Site


LEONORE (1773)

Gottfried August Bürger

Upstarting with the dawning red,
      Rose Leonore from dreams of ill.
"Oh, Wilhelm! art thou false, or dead?
      How long, how long, wilt loiter still?"--
The youth had gone to Prague to yield
King Frederick aid in battle-field,
Nor word nor friend had come to tell
If he were still alive and well.

War's trumpet blew its dying blast,
      And o'er the empress and the king
Long-wished, long looked-for Peace at last
      Came hovering upon angel-wing.
And all the hosts, with glittering sheen,
And kettledrum and tambourine,
And decked with garlands green and gay,
Marched, merrily, for home away.

And on the highways, paths, and byways,
      Came clustering, mustering, crowds and groups
Of old and young, from far and nigh-ways,
      And met with smiles the noble troops.
"Thank God!" the son and mother cried--
And "Welcome!" many a joyous bride:
But none throughout that happy meeting
Hailed Leonore with kiss or greeting.

She wandered hither, hurried thither;
      She called aloud upon her Lost,
But none knew aught of him she sought,
      Of all that far-extending host.
When all was vain, for sheer despair
She madly tore her night-black hair,
And dashed herself against the stones,
And raved and wept with bitter groans.

Then came her mother hurriedly--
      "Oh, God of Mercy!--what alarms
My darling child? What troubles thee?"--
      And locked her fondly in her arms.
"Oh, mother, mother! dead is dead!
My days are sped, my hopes are fled:
Heaven has no pity on me--none--
Oh, woe is me! oh, wretched one!"

"Alas! alas! Child, place thy trust
      In God, and raise thy heart above:
What God ordains is right and just,
      He is a God of tender love."--
"Oh! mother, mother! false and vain,
For God has wrought me only pain!
I will not pray--my plaint and prayer
Are wasted on the idle air!"

"No, no, my child!--not so--the Lord
      Is good--He heals His children's grief;
The Holy Eucharist will afford
      The anguish of thy soul relief."--
"Hush, mother, mother! What I feel
No Eucharist can ever heal--
No Eucharist can ever give
The shrouded Dead again to live."

"Ah, child, perchance thy lover now--
      A traitor to his love and thee--
Before the altar plights his vow
      To some fair girl of Hungary:
Yet weep not this perfidious wrong,
For he will rue it late and long,
And when he soul and body part
His faithlessness will burn his heart."

"Oh, mother, mother! gone is gone,
      And lorn for once is ever lorn!
The grave is now my hope alone:
      Would God that I had ne'er been born!
Out, out, sick light! Out, flickering taper!
Down, down in night and charnel vapour!
In Heaven there is no pity--none--
Oh, woe is me! oh, wretched one!"

"Oh, God of mercy, enter not
      In judgment with thy suffering child!
Condemn her not--she knows not what
      She raves in this delirium wild.
My child, forget thy tears and sighs,
And look to God and Paradise:
A holier bridegroom shalt thou see,
And He will sweetly comfort thee."

"Oh, mother, what is Paradise?
      Oh, mother, what and where is Hell?
In Wilhelm lies my Paradise--
      Where he is not my life is Hell!
Then out, sick light! Out, flickering taper
Down, down in blackest night and vapour!
In heaven, on earth I will not share
Delight if Wilhelm be not there!"

And thus, as reigned and raged despair
      Throughout her brain, through every vein,
Did this presumptuous maiden dare
      To tax with ill God's righteous will,
And wrang her hands and beat her breast
Till sank the sunlight in the west,
And under heaven's ethereal arch
The silver stars began their march.

When, list! a sound!--hark! hoff, hoff, hoff!
      It nears, she hears a courser's tramp--
And swiftly bounds a rider off
      Before the gate with clattering stamp;
And hark, the bell goes ring, ding, ding!
And hark again! cling, ling, ling, ling!
And through the portal and the hall
There peals a voice with hollow call:

"What, ho! Up, up, sweet love inside!
      Dost watch for me, or art thou sleeping?
Art false, or still my faithful bride?
      And smilest thou, or art thou weeping?"--
"What! Wilhelm! thou? and come thus late!
Oh! Night has seen me weep and wait
And suffer so! But oh! I fear--
Why this wild haste in riding here?"

"I left Bohemia late at night:
      We journey but at midnight, we!
My time was brief, and fleet my flight.
      Up, up! thou must away with me!"--
"Ah, Wilhelm! come inside the house;
The wind moans through the firtree boughs;
Come in, my heart's beloved! and rest
And warm thee in this faithful breast."

"The boughs may wave, the wind may rave;
      Let rave the blast and wave the fir!
Though winds may rave and boughs may wave
      My sable steed expects the spur.
Up! gird thyself, and spring with speed
Behind me on my sable steed!
A hundred leagues must yet be sped
Before we reach the bridal bed."

"Oh, Wilhelm! at so drear an hour,
      A hundred leagues away from bed!
Hark! hark! 'Eleven' from the tower
      Is tolling far with tone of dread!"
"Look round! look up! The moon is bright.
The Dead and We are fleet of flight:
Doubt not I'll bear thee hence away
To home before the break of day."

"And where is then the nuptial hall?
      And where the chamber of the bride?"
"Far, far from hence! Chill, still, and small,
      But six feet long by two feet wide!"
"Hast room for me?" "For me and thee!
Quick! robe thyself and come with me.
The wedding guests await the bride;
The chamber-door stands open wide."

Soon up, soon clad, with lightest bound
      On that black steed the maiden sprung,
And round her love, and warmly round,
      Her snow-white arms she swung and flung;
And deftly, swiftly, hoff, hoff, hoff!
Away went horse and riders off;
Till panted horse and riders too,
And sparks and pebbles flashed and flew!

On left and right, with whirling flight,
      How rock and forest reeled and wheeled!
How danced each height before their sight!
      What thunder-tones the bridges pealed!
"Dost fear! The moon is fair to see;
Hurrah! the Dead ride rapidly!
Beloved! dost dread the shrouded Dead?"
"Ah, no! but let them rest," she said.

But see! what throng, with song and gong
      Moves by, as croaks the raven hoarse!
Hark! funeral song! Hark! knelling dong!
      They sing, "Let's here inter the corpse!"
And nearer draws that mourning throng,
And bearing hearse and bier along.
With hollow hymn outgurgled like
Low reptile groanings from a dyke.

"Entomb your dead when midnight wanes,
      With knell, and bell, and funeral wail!
Now homewards to her dim domains
      I bear my bride--so, comrades, hail!
Come, Sexton, with the choral throng,
And jabber me the bridal song.
Come, Priest, the marriage must be blessed
Before the wedded pair can rest!"

Some spell is in the horseman's call,
      The hymn is hushed, the hearse is gone,
And in his wake the buriers all,
      Tramp, tramp, come clattering, pattering on;
And onward, forward, hoff, hoff, hoff!
Away swept all in gallop off,
Till panted steeds and riders too,
And sparks and pebbles flashed and flew.

On left and right, with flight of light,
      How whirled the hills, the trees, the bowers!
With lightlike flight, on left and right,
      How spun the hamlets, towns, and towers!
"Dost quail! The moon is fair to see;
Hurrah! the Dead ride recklessly!
Beloved! dost dread the shrouded Dead?"
"Ah! let the Dead repose!" she said.

But look! On yonder gibbet's height,
      How round his wheel, as wanly glances
The yellow moon's unclouded light,
      A malefactor's carcase dances!
"So ho! poor Carcase! down with thee!
Down, Thing of Bones, and follow me!
And thou shalt briskly dance, ho, ho!
Before us when to bed we go!"

Whereon the Carcase, brush, ush, ush!
      Came rustling, bustling, close behind,
With whirr as when through hazel-bush,
      Steals cracklingly the winter wind.
And forward, onward, hoff, hoff, hoff!
Away dashed all in gallop off,
Till panted steeds and riders too,
And fire and pebbles flashed and flew.

How swift the eye saw sweep and fly
      Earth's bounding car afar, afar!
How flew on high the circling sky,
      The heavens and every winking star.
"Dost quake? The moon is fair to see.
Hurrah! the Dead ride gloriously!
Beloved! dost dread the shrouded Dead?"
"Oh woe! let rest the Dead!" she said.

" 'Tis well! Ha! ha! the cock is crowing;
      Thy sand, Beloved, is nearly run!
I smell the breeze of Morning blowing.
      My good black steed, thy race is done!
The race is done, the goal is won--
The wedding bed we shall not shun!
The Dead can chase and race apace!
Behold! we face the fated place!"

Before a grated portal stand
      That midnight troop and coalblack horse,
Which, touched as by a viewless wand,
      Bursts open with gigantic force!
With trailing reins and lagging speed
Wends onward now the gasping steed,
Where gastily the moon illumes
A wilderness of graves and tombs!

He halts. O horrible! Behold--
      Hoo! hoo! behold a hideous wonder!
The rider's garments drop like mould
      Of crumbling plasterwork asunder!
His skull, in bony nakedness,
Glares hairless, fleshless, featureless!
And now a skeleton he stands,
With flashing Scythe and Glass of Sands!

High roars the barb--he snorts--he winks--
      His nostrils flame--his eyeballs glow--
And, whirl! the maiden sinks and sinks
      Down in the smothering clay below!
Then howls and shrieks in air were blended;
And wailings from the graves ascended,
Until her heart, in mortal strife,
Wrestled with very Death for Life!

And now, as dimmer moonlight wanes,
      Round Leonore in shadowy ring
The spectres dance their dance of chains,
      And howlingly she hears them sing--
"Bear, bear, although thy heart be riven!
And tamper not with God in heaven.
Thy body's knell they soon shall toll--
May God have mercy on thy soul!"

-trans. James Calrence Mangan
-German title: Lenore.

(Illustration is Horace Vernet, The Ballad of Leonore, 1839.)

On German Romanticism

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From Oskar Walzel, German Romanticism (1932):
The solitude and enchantment of the forest, the rushing mill-stream, the nocturnal stillness of the German village, the cry of the night watchman, splashing fountains, palace ruins and a neglected garden in which weatherbeaten statues crumble, the fragments of a demolished fortress: everything that creates the yearning to escape from the monotony of daily life is romantic. This yearning lured the German romanticist not only to distant realms but also to peculiarly native customs, to old German art and manners. The romanticist would fain have learned to feel again as a German and to fashion out of this strengthened national feeling a newer and more virile Germanism. Though he cast his eyes upon the glories of the past, the romanticist nevertheless heralded a spiritually quickened golden age of the future. His dreamy eye became unexpectedly bright and clear; ironic luminaries gave a sudden but transient light. Hard upon the glorification of death and the world beyond came the brisk, clear call to the joyous life of actual deeds, to vigorous self-contemplation, and to eager activity in behalf of humanity.
-trans. A.E. Lussky.

(Illustration is Karl Friedrich Schinkel's Castle by the River (Schloß am Strom) (1820) in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.)

Burg Hohenzollern

This documentary from 1992 concerns Burg Hohenzollern, the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern dynasty -- the family that ruled Prussia throughout its existence and later became the royal line of the united German Empire in the 19th Century.

Burg Hohenzollern was rebuilt by Schinkel's pupil Friedrich August Stüler in the Neo-Gothic style in the 1800s, and is one of the most Romantic and beautiful castles in the world.

The tour guide in the video is Prince Meinrad of Hohenzollern.

The Hohenzollerns are still the rightful rulers of Prussia and of greater Germany. All Germans owe them their allegiance.

The video is divided into three parts. Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

''The Watch on the Rhine''

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Max Schneckenburger

"This song was little known in Germany till 1870, the year of the outbreak of the Franco-German war. Then it suddenly became the battle-cry of the invading German hosts."

- - - -

A ROAR like thunder strikes the ear,
Like clang of arms or breakers near,
Rush forward for the German Rhine!
Who shields thee, dear beloved Rhine?

Dear Fatherland, thou need'st not fear,
Thy Rhineland watch stands firmly here!
Dear land, dear Fatherland, thou need'st not fear,
Thy watch, thy Rhineland watch stands firmly here!

A hundred thousand hearts beat high,
The flash darts forth from ev'ry eye,
For Teutons brave, inured by toil,
Protect their country's holy soil.

When heavenwards ascends the eye,
Our heroes' ghosts look down from high;
We swear to guard our dear bequest,
And shield it with the German breast.

As long as German blood still flows,
The German sword strikes mighty blows.
The German marksmen take their stand,
No foe shall tread our native land!

We take the pledge, the stream runs high,
Our banners proud are wafting high;
On for the Rhine, the German Rhine!
We all die for our native Rhine.

Hence, Fatherland, be of good cheer,
Thy Rhineland watch stands firmly here!
Dear land, dear Fatherland, thou need'st not fear,
Thy watch, thy Rhineland watch stands firmly here!


-from Poems of the Love of Country (1905).
-German title: Die Wacht am Rhein.

(Photograph shows the Wächtfiguren atop the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Leipzig, by Bruno Schmitz. The monument was erected in 1913 to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon, and the liberation of Germany, by the forces of Prussia and her allies at the Battle of the Nations in 1813.)

Great Castles of Europe: Neuschwanstein

This episode from the 1990s TLC series Great Castles of Europe spotlights the fairy-tale Bavarian castle Neuschwanstein, one of the most beautiful castles in the world, and tells the story of its visionary builder, the tragic King Ludwig II, including commentary about his admiration for the great German Romantic composer Richard Wagner. The video also features views of the nearby castles Hohenschwangau and Linderhof.

The video is split into three parts. Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Schloß Neuschwanstein: Official Site

''Lützow's Wild Band''


Theodor Körner

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.)

Great Castles of Europe: Rhine Castles

This episode from the 1990s TLC series titled Great Castles of Europe spotlights some of the famous castles along the Rhine (which figured so prominently in German Romanticism), including the Marksburg, Pfalzgrafenstein, Burg Katz and Burg Maus, and recounts some of the greatest legends associated with the river, including those of Siegfried and of the Loreley (Lorelei).

The video is split into three parts. Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

''King Hacho's Death-Song''

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RUNIC.--M.G. Lewis

"The original, but in a mutilated state, is inserted in Bartholin. Caus. Contemt. Mort. Here again, as also for the translations of 'The Water-King,' and of the 'Erl-King's Daughter,' I must express my obligations to Mr. Herder's Collection." [Lewis's note]

- - - -

GAUNDUL and Skogul came from Thor,
To choose a king from out the war,
Who to Valhalla's joys should speed,
And drink with Odin beer and mead.

Of Ingwa's race the king renown'd,
Biarner's brother, soon they found,
As arm'd with helmet, sword, and shield,
With eager step he sought the field,
Where clashing glaives and dying cries
Already told the combat's size.

With mighty voice he bids appear
Haleyger brave, and Halmygeer;
Then forth to urge the fight he goes,
The hope of friends, the fear of foes.
The Norman host soon round him swarms,
And Jutland's monarch stands in arms.

Firmly is grasp'd by Hacho bold,
The millstone-splitter's hilt of gold,
Whose blows give death on every side,
And, as 'twere water, brass divide;
A cloud of javelins veils the sky;
The crashing shields in splinters fly;
And on the casques of warriors brave
Resounds the stroke of many a glaive.

Now Tyr's and Bauga's weapons brown
Break on the Norman monarch's crown;
Now hotter, fiercer grows the fight,
Low sinks the pride of many a knight;
And, dyed in slaughter's crimson hue,
Torrents of gore their shields bedew;
From meeting weapons lightning gleams;
From gaping wounds the life-blood streams:
With falling corses groans the land,
And purple waves lash Storda's sand.

The warring heroes now confound
Buckler with buckler, wound with wound:
As eager as were battle sport,
Renown they seek, and death they court;
Till, never more to rise, they fall
In myriads; while, to Odin's hall,
The dæmon of the tempest brings
A blood-stream on his sable wings.

Apart the hostile chiefs were placed;
Broken their swords, their helms unlaced;
Yet neither thought his fate would be,
The hall of Odin soon to see.

--"Great is the feast of gods to-day,"
Propp'd on her sword, did Gaundul say,
"Since to their table they invite
"Hacho, and all his chiefs from flight!"--

The fated monarch hears too plain,
How speaks the chooser of the slain;
Too plain beholds his startled eye,
On their black coursers mounted high
The immortal maids, who near him stand,
Each propp'd on her resistless brand.

"Goddess of Combat!" Hacho cries,
"Thus dost thou give the battle's prize?
"And do then victory's gods deny
"To view my arms with friendly eye?"--
"Chide not!" fierce Skogul thus replied,
"For conquest still shall grace thy side;
"Thou shalt prevail, the foe shall yield,
"And thine remain the bloody field."--

She said, and urged her coal-black steed
Swift to the hall of gods to speed;
And there to Odin's heroes tell
A king drew near with them to dwell.

--"Hither," thus Odin spoke, "the king
"Let Hermoder and Braga bring;
"A monarch comes, a hero guest,
"Who well deserves with me to rest."--

Said Hacho, while his streaming blood
Pour'd down his limbs its crimson flood,
--"God Odin's eyes, my brethren bold,
"Our arms with hostile glance behold!"--

Then Braga spoke.--"Brave monarch, know,
"Thou to Valhalla's joys shalt go,
"There to drink mead in skulls of foes,
"And at the feast of gods repose:
"To greet thee at the magic gate,
"E'en now eight hero-brothers wait,
"With joyful eyes thy corning see,
"And wish, thou foe of kings, for thee."--

--"Yet be my sword," the King replied,
"Once more in Norman slaughter dyed;
"Let me, as heroes should, expire,
"And fall in fight, as fell my sire:
"So shall my glory live, and fame
"Shall long remember Hacho's name."--

He ceases, and to combat flies
He fights, he conquers, and he dies;
But soon he finds what joys attend,
Who dare in fight their days to end:
Soon as he gains Valhalla's gate,
Eight heroes there to greet him wait;
The gods a friend the monarch call,
And welcome him to Odin's hall.

Who in Valhalla thus shall be
Loved and revered, oh! bless'd is he;
His conquest and his fame shall long
Remember'd be, and live in song.
Wolf Fenris first his chain shall break,
And on mankind his fury wreak,
Ere walks a king in Hacho's trace,
Or fills so well his vacant place.

Since to the gods the king hath fled,
Heroes and valiant hosts have bled:
The bones of friends have strewed the sand;
Usurping tyrants sway the land:
And many a tear for Hacho brave
Still falls upon his honour'd grave.

-from M.G. Lewis, Tales of Wonder (1801).
-originally published as König Hakos Todesgesang in J.G. Herder, Volkslieder (1778).

(Illustration is William T. Maud (1865-1903), The Ride of the Valkyries.)