Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Covenant-song before Battle

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.


Covenant-song before Battle

By Karl Theodor Körner (1791–1813)

On the Morning of the Fight near Dannenberg

Translated by C. T. Brooks

AWFUL omens, dark and ruddy,

Usher in this morn of wrath,

And the sun looks cold and bloody

Out upon our bloody path.

Startling news a world will waken

Ere a few more hours are past,

And e’en now the lots are shaken,

And the iron die is cast.

Brothers, the night-shades are flying!—take warning.

Now, by the fresh, holy light of the morning,

Swear, hand in hand, to be true to the last.

In the gloom of nights behind us

Insult, ignominy frown,—

Foreign slaves, with chains to bind us,

And our German oak bowed down.

Shamed has been the speech our mothers

Taught us, and our God blasphemed;

We have pawned our honor;—brothers,

German brothers, be it redeemed!

Brothers, the hour is come! Side by side stand now!

Turn Heaven’s wrath from your loved native land now!

Let the Palladium—the lost—be redeemed!

In the smile of hope before us

Lies a golden future time;

Open, sunny skies bend o’er us;

There, in Freedom’s blissful clime,

German art and music greet us,

Woman’s grace and love’s delight,

All old forms of greatness meet us,

Beauty’s charms again invite.

But bloody-red must that morning be breaking:

Brothers, our life’s last warm drop we are staking:

Our hope blooms only in martyrdom’s night!

Yet, God help, we will not falter;

As one man we ’ll meet the foe,

Lay our heart on Freedom’s altar,

And to death, unshrinking, go.

Fatherland, for thee we dare it;

At thy word we do and die,

That our loved ones may inherit

This day’s blood-bought liberty.

Free German oaks, let your branches be sweeping

Long o’er the graves where our ashes are sleeping!—

Fatherland, hear our oath! bear it on high!

One last look, ere yet we sever

Ties that long have bound us fast;

Be the poisonous south forever,

With its charms, behind us cast.

Yet stay not the tear that ’s springing,

Comrades, in each manly eye:

To the winds a last kiss flinging,

Give them up to God on high.

To all the warm lips that for us shall be pleading,

To all the fond hearts that shall lie crushed and bleeding,

God of all might and all mercy, be nigh!

Forth! To battle now, unshrinking!

Upward, heavenward, hearts and eyes!

Every earthly sun is sinking,

And the unfading splendors rise.

German brothers, quail not,—never!

Let each nerve a hero tell!

Faithful hearts part not forever;

For a little space, farewell!

Hark! They advance! How the deep thunder crashes!

Brothers, charge home through the hailstones and flashes!

We meet again in heaven! Farewell!