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



By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

April, 1844

Translated by A. L. Wister

YES, Germany is Hamlet! Lo!

Upon her ramparts every night

There stalks in silence, grim and slow,

Her buried Freedom’s steel-clad sprite,

Beckoning the warders watching there,

And to the shrinking doubter saying:

“They ’ve dropt fell poison in mine ear,

Draw thou the sword! no more delaying!”

He listens, and his blood runs cold;

The horrid truth, at length laid bare,

Drives him to be the avenger bold,—

But will he ever really dare?

He ponders, dreams, but at his need

No counsel comes, firm purpose granting,

Still for the prompt, courageous deed

The prompt, courageous soul is wanting.

It comes from loitering overmuch,

Lounging, and reading,—tired to death;

Sloth holds him in its iron clutch,

He ’s grown too “fat and scant of breath.”

His learning gives him little aid,

His boldest act is only thinking;

Too long in Wittenberg he stayed

Attending lectures,—maybe, drinking.

And so his resolution fails,

Madness he feigns, thus gaining time,

Soliloquizes too, and rails,

And curses “time” and “spite” in rhyme.

A pantomime must help him, too,

And when he does fight, somewhat later,

Why, then, Polonius Kotzebue

Receives the stab, and not the traitor.

So he endures, thus dreamily,

With secret self-contempt, his pain:

He lets them send him o’er the sea,

And, sharp in speech, comes home again;

Jeers right and left,—his hints are dark,—

Talks of a “king of shreds and patches,”

But for a deed? God save the mark!

No deed from all his talk he hatches.

At last he gets the courage lacked,

He grasps the sword to keep his vow,—

But ah! ’t is in the final Act,

And only serves to lay him low.

With those his hate has overcome,

Scourging at last their black demerits,

He dies,—and then with tuck of drum

Comes Fortinbras, and all inherits.

Thank God! we ’ve not yet come to this,

The first four acts have been played through;

See, lest the parallel there is

Be in the Fifth Act borne out too.

Early and late we hope, and pray:

O hero, come,—no more delaying,—

Gird up your loins, act while you may,

The spectre’s solemn call obeying.

O, seize the moment, strike to-day,

There still is time,—fulfil your part

Ere with his poisoned rapier’s play

A French Laertes find your heart.

Let not a Northern army clutch

Your rightful heritage beforehand.

Beware! And yet I doubt me much

If next the foe will come from Norland.

Resolve, and put fresh courage on!

Enter the lists, make good your boast!

Think on the oath that you have sworn;

Avenge, avenge your father’s ghost!

Why thus forever dilly-dally?

Yet—dare I scold?—a poor old dreamer,—

I ’m, after all, “a piece of thee,”

Thou ever-loitering, lingering schemer!