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


Körner and His Sister

By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

  • Charles Theodore Körner, the celebrated young German poet and soldier, was killed in a skirmish with a detachment of French troops on the 20th of August, 1813, a few hours after the composition of his popular piece, “The Sword Song.” He was buried at the village of Wöbbelin in Mecklenburg, under a beautiful oak, in a recess of which he had frequently deposited verses composed by him while campaigning in its vicinity.

  • GREEN wave the oak forever o’er thy rest,

    Thou that beneath its crowning foliage sleepest,

    And, in the stillness of thy country’s breast,

    Thy place of memory as an altar keepest;

    Brightly thy spirit o’er her hills was poured,

    Thou of the lyre and sword!

    Rest, bard! rest, soldier! By the father’s hand

    Here shall the child of after years be led,

    With his wreath-offering silently to stand

    In the hushed presence of the glorious dead,—

    Soldier and bard! for thou thy path hast trod

    With Freedom and with God.

    The oak waved proudly o’er thy burial rite,

    On thy crowned bier to slumber warriors bore thee,

    And with true hearts thy brethren of the fight

    Wept as they veiled their drooping banners o’er thee;

    And the deep guns with rolling peal gave token

    That lyre and sword were broken.

    Thou hast a hero’s tomb: a lowlier bed

    Is hers, the gentle girl beside thee lying,—

    The gentle girl that bowed her fair young head

    When thou wert gone, in silent sorrow dying,

    Brother, true friend! the tender and the brave!

    She pined to share thy grave.

    Fame was thy gift from others; but for her,

    To whom the wide world held that only spot,

    She loved thee!—lovely in your lives ye were,

    And in your early deaths divided not.

    Thou hast thine oak, thy trophy,—what hath she?

    Her own blessed place by thee!

    It was thy spirit, brother! which had made

    The bright earth glorious to her youthful eye,

    Since first in childhood midst the vines ye played,

    And sent glad singing through the free blue sky.

    Ye were but two,—and when that spirit passed,

    Woe to the one, the last!

    Woe, yet not long! She lingered but to trace

    Thine image from the image in her breast,—

    Once, once again to see that buried face

    But smile upon her ere she went to rest.

    Too sad a smile! its living light was o’er,—

    It answered hers no more.

    The earth grew silent when thy voice departed,

    The home too lonely whence thy step had fled;

    What then was left for her, the faithful-hearted?

    Death, death, to still the yearning for the dead!

    Softly she perished: be the flower deplored

    Here with the lyre and sword!

    Have ye not met ere now?—so let those trust

    That meet for moments but to part for years;

    That weep, watch, pray, to hold back dust from dust,—

    That love, where love is but a fount of tears.

    Brother! sweet sister! peace around ye dwell!

    Lyre, sword, and flower, farewell!