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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
In a Winter Night
By Detlev von Liliencron (1844–1909)
 
Translation of Ludwig Lewisohn

THOUSANDS have left their own firelight
In this stormy, snow-covered winter night.
And the throng is close-packed in masses fast
To salute their emperor at the last.
 
On the castle sudden a quivering fire,        5
And from the cathedral the bells in choir
Resound with equal and terrible grace
In an awestruck rhythm, in a dreadful base.
And where the dense throng apart has drifted
Beyond their heads behold, uplifted        10
A scarlet bier, ah, heavy it swings
And is followed by a train of kings.
As the dark clouds hasten over all,
The wind grasps, fluttering, the sombre pall,
But through the quivering airs on high        15
I see an hundred eagles fly
With majestical beat of wing, as they flew
In a day of victory’s retinue.
Smoke falls from the iron basins dim
Whence the forkèd flames quiver over the rim.        20
The earth it trembles: dully you feel
On the asphalt pavement the hoofs of steel.
The torches glow reflected once more
In the helmets bright of the Gardes du Corps,
And sink once again and are quenched in the snow—        25
Pass by me, pass by, O thou terrible woe!
And from the cathedral an organ sound
And palm-groves greet the winter around,
And Spring-like and green the walls of chalk,
Laurel covers the catafalque,        30
For gardens that once our mailed tread bent
To-day their roses and wreaths have sent.
 
“Let me through! Oh, open a lane for my sake!
Let me through, let me through, or a path I’ll break!
Once more on my knees I must lie before him        35
With brow on his purple bier to adore him!
At Gravelotte! The night was falling:
The king! my comrades sprang up calling,
And holding his reins around him we hovered,
With kisses his stirrup and hands we covered.        40
The streaming sunset, red and low,
Framed his helmet in radiant glow,
His eye grew moist and his soul gave way—
With him, with him did I see that day!”
 
 
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