Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Gueux Night-watch

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Holland: Rotterdam

The Gueux Night-watch

By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

  • Translated by F. R. Chorley
  • The title of Gueux (beggars) was given to the allied noblemen and other insurgents of the Netherlands in 1655, when Philip II. sent his nine inquisitors there to enforce the decrees of the Council of Trent. The nobles refused to appear before them, and in solemn procession made known their resolution to Margaret of Parma, then at the head of the government. Seeing her embarrassed, the Earl of Barlaimont whispered to her, that she need have no fear of such a tas de gueux,—such a pack of beggars. This being overheard by the confederates, they assumed as a title of honor the name given them in contempt.

  • AT the tapster’s by the river,

    Just out of Rotterdam,

    In buff and feathered beaver,

    They ’re hard at flask and dram;

    The troop are bound for Flushing,

    And start ere day shall break;

    With singing and with lushing

    ’T is best to keep awake.

    The Maes will bear; unruffled

    Snow shines on creek and shore:

    Well in his mantle muffled,

    The sentry guards the door.

    To stand the sleety breeze in,

    No trooper loves, perdy;

    “The devil take this freezing,

    Your ‘upsee-frieze’ for me!”

    To warm the watch, they now are

    Loud chorusing inside;

    “Brave William the Nassauer

    Am I, a German tried.

    As Prince of Orange, truly

    My birthright free I gain;

    And still have honored duly

    The while the King of Spain.”

    Against the window stooping,

    He peeps within the house;

    There ’s song, and toast, and whooping;

    There ’s talking of the cause

    For which they ’re armed and herded,

    And sworn to die at need:

    The sturdy warriors bearded

    Harangue and feud and plead.

    Around the room paraded

    The bulky barrels shine;

    By buxom wenches aided,

    The hostess serves the wine.

    For cap, a garnish warlike

    Of gilded foil is worn:

    ’T is thus the Holland fair like

    Their temples to adorn.

    From board to board the labor

    The busy household plies;

    The troopers sit, the sabre

    Between their booted thighs.

    And if the plume with powder

    Embrowned their beavers wear,

    They cock them but the prouder

    Above their yellow hair.

    And gay they swing the beaver;

    The wine springs foaming high;

    “The Gueux, the Gueux forever!”

    Full thirty voices cry.

    And when the flask grows dry-lipped,

    And emptied is the cup,

    With rim adroitly filliped

    They turn the glasses up.

    That makes a famous ringing!

    Each glass becomes a bell

    To toll amidst their singing

    The King’s and Alva’s knell.

    Thereat each trooper seizes

    Unconsciously his sword,

    And still the song increases,

    Till thus afar ’t is heard:

    “Up! up, ye seventeen provinces!

    Up, nations, to your feet!

    Our first of worthy princes

    With hearty welcome greet.

    Let each, like gallant freemen,

    Beside his banner stand,

    And help to start the demon,

    Black Alva, from the land.

    “He brings you no oppression;

    He comes to right your wrong,

    And help you to possession

    Of what you ’ve lost too long.

    Each king of Spain’s adherent

    Give succor to his choice;

    For Orange, his lieutenant,

    For William, raise your voice!

    “Enlist! His drums and trumpets

    Proclaim no treacheries!”

    “They stick to the board like limpets!”

    The sergeant grumbling cries.

    “To horse! ’t is time we ’re making

    At once for Count Lumé;

    And were the dawn not breaking,

    The snow would light our way!”

    They cease to bang the tables;

    “Hark! calls the sentinel?”

    Their chargers from the stables

    Led out, they spring to selle,

    Fast through the frosty morning

    Trot o’er the ringing ground;

    From Rotte’s sluices turning

    For Scheldt the troop is bound.