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


Sandt, the Murderer of Kotzebue

By George Croly (1780–1860)

THE NIGHT was stormy; yet the clang

Of hammers through the darkness rang,

And on the rampart’s vapory swamp

High swung one faint and fitful lamp,

And came upon the gusty swell

The challenge of the sentinel,

As if some deed were doing there

Unfit for man to see or hear.

Morn broke on twilight, dim and slow;

By Mannheim’s gates were signs of woe,—

A scaffold hung with black, a chair,

A sable bench, a sabre bare,

Told that before the setting sun

Some wretch’s chain should be undone.

The gates roll back, and from the wall

Come chargers’ tramp and trumpet-call;

And, in the horsemen’s midst, the dawn

Gleams on a face lone, wild, and wan.

The dazzled eye, the lip of blue,

Tell that to them the light is new;

Tell of the chain, the heavy air,

That damps the felon’s sleepless lair.

The hand,—that pale, thin hand, which now

So feebly wanders o’er the brow,

By that was murder done; the stain

That left the hand has dyed the brain.

The troops have reached the fatal stair,

The headsman stands beside the chair;

The pale, uncovered multitude

Are hushed as death; now—blood for blood!

High Heaven! what burning thoughts must roll

Through man beside that fearful goal?

Conscience has started from her sleep;

Now, man of sin! thy harvest reap.

He sees a traitor’s step intrude

Upon an old man’s solitude;

He sees the dagger in his heart,

The writhe ere soul and body part,

The gasp, the dying gush of gore:

The murderer dares to think no more,

Curses the moment’s frantic zeal,

And hurries to the headsman’s steel.

Yet, when beneath the rising sun

His native mountains lovely shone,

He raised one eastward, eager glare,

Wildly inhaled the living air,

On sun and sky his eyeball cast,

Like one who on them looked his last;

Gave to the world one dreary sigh,

Then summoned his sad strength to die.

The sword flashed round, the red blood sprang,

To heaven arose the trumpet-clang,—

And of the murderer all that lay

Upon that floor was blood and clay.