Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Germany
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII.  1876–79.
Leipsic (Leipzig)
Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)
Translated by William Young

July, 1831

WHAT! are ye flying, conquerors of the world?
  Hath Fortune blundered before Leipsic’s walls?
What, flying! whilst the bridge blown up and hurled
  In ruins back, to the hoarse torrent falls!
Men, horses, arms, all wildly mingled, there        5
  Are plunged; the Elster rolls encumbered by:
But deaf it rolls to vow or tear or prayer:
  “Frenchman, give but a hand, and I am saved!” the cry.
“Naught but a hand? a plague on him who craves!
  Press on, press on! for whom should we delay?”        10
’T is for a hero sinking in the waves;
  ’T is Poniatowski, wounded thrice to-day.
Who cares? Fear bids them haste with savage speed;
  To stern, cold hearts for aid doth he apply:
The waters part him from his faithful steed:        15
  “Frenchman, give but a hand, and I am saved!” his cry.
He dies—not yet—he struggles—swims—once more
  The charger’s mane his clutching fingers feel.
“What! to die drowned! whilst there upon the shore
  I hear the cannon, and I see the steel!        20
Help, comrades, help! you boasted I was brave!
  I loved you—this my blood should testify.
Ah! ’t is for France some drops I still would save!
  Frenchman, give but a hand, and I am saved!” his cry.
There is no succor! and his failing hand        25
  Lets go its guide: “Poland, adieu, adieu!”
But lo! a dream descends at Heaven’s command,
  With brilliant image dawning on his view.
“Ha! the White Eagle to the combat wakes;
  All soaked with Russian blood I see it fly:        30
Loud on mine ear a hymn of glory breaks:
  Frenchman, give but a hand, and I am saved!” his cry.
There is no succor! he is dead,—the foe
  Along the reedy shore their camp have made.
That day is distant; but a voice of woe        35
  Still calls beneath the waters’ deepest shade.
And now (great God! give man a willing ear)
  That mournful voice is lifted to the sky!
Wherefore from heaven re-echoed to us here,
  “Frenchman, give but a hand, and I am saved!” the cry.        40
’T is Poland, ’t is her faithful sons’ lament:
  How oft our battles she hath helped to gain!
She drowns herself in her own heart’s blood, spent
  With lavish flow, her honor to maintain.
As then the Chief, whose mangled corse was found        45
  In Elster’s waves,—he for our land did die,—
Now calls a nation, o’er a gulf profound,
  “Frenchmen, give but a hand, and we are saved!” the cry.

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