“Oh beauteous Sphinx, oh, answer
That riddle strange unloosing!
For many, many thousand years
Have I on it been musing!”
Germany’s still a little child,
But he’s nursed by the sun, though tender;
He is not suckled on soothing milk,
But on flames of burning splendor.
One grows apace on such a diet;
It fires the blood from languor.
Ye neighbors’ children, have a care
This urchin how ye anger!
He is an awkward infant giant;
The oak by the roots uptearing,
He’ll beat you till your backs are sore,
And crack your crowns for daring.
He is like Siegfried, the noble child,
That song-and-saga wonder;
Who, when his fabled sword was forged,
His anvil cleft in sunder!
To you, who will our Dragon slay,
Shall Siegfried’s strength be given.
Hurrah! how joyfully your nurse
Will laugh on you from heaven!
The Dragon’s hoard of royal gems
You’ll win, with none to share it.
Hurrah! how bright the golden crown
Will sparkle when you wear it!
* * * * *
ENFANT PERDU (1851)
In Freedom’s War, of “Thirty
Years” and more,
A lonely outpost have I held—in vain!
With no triumphant hope or prize in store,
Without a thought to see my home again.
I watched both day and night; I could
Like my well-tented comrades far behind,
Though near enough to let their snoring keep
A friend awake, if e’er to doze inclined.
And thus, when solitude my spirits shook,
Or fear—for all but fools know fear sometimes—
To rouse myself and them, I piped and took
A gay revenge in all my wanton rhymes.
Yes! there I stood, my musket always ready,
And when some sneaking rascal showed his head,
My eye was vigilant, my aim was steady,
And gave his brains an extra dose of lead.
But war and justice have far different
And worthless acts are often done right well;
The rascals’ shots were better than their cause,
And I was hit—and hit again, and fell!
That outpost is abandoned; while the one
Lies in the dust, the rest in troops depart;
Unconquered—I have done what could be done,
With sword unbroken, and with broken heart.
* * * * *
THE BATTLEFIELD OF HASTINGS (1855)
Deeply the Abbot of Waltham sighed
When he heard the news of woe:
How King Harold had come to a pitiful end,
And on Hastings field lay low.
Asgod and Ailrik, two of his monks,
On the mission drear he sped
To search for the corse on the battle-plain
Among the bloody dead.