Open Book Publishers logo Open Access logo
  • button
  • button
  • button
GO TO...
book cover


Translation © 2017 Flora Kimmich, CC BY 4.0

Seventeenth-century image of a mounted Croat, armed with a pike,össische_Abbildung_eines_Kroatischen_Reiters.JPG. Image in the public domain.


Spoken at the reopening of the Weimar Playhouse, October 1798

The play of smiling and of weeping masks

To which you’ve often lent a willing eye

And ear, devoted raptly your attention

Unites us once again within this Hall.

And see! It has made itself young again. Art,

With ornament, has made it a bright temple,

And a harmonious spirit speaks to us

In all these noble columns’ orderly ranks

And turns our senses and our feelings festive.

And yet this still remains our old playhouse,10

The cradle of so many young men’s gifts,

A field of exercise for growing talents.

We are the Old Guard; long before your time

We formed ourselves here, fervent, full of longing.

A noble master once stood in this place,

Where his creative genius lifted you,

Enchanted, to the clear heights of his art.

Oh, may the worth of this renewed space draw

Into our midst the worthiest of talents

And bless us with the brilliant realization20

Of hopes that we’ve long carried in our hearts.

A grand example rouses emulation

And raises judgment to a higher standard.

Thus may this circle, may this new stage stand

As witnesses of talent brought to perfection.

Where would it rather want to try its powers,

Refresh, renew acclaim of long ago

Than here before this chosen circle that,

Susceptible to every magic Art makes,

With feelings lightly prompted into motion30

Seeks after Mind in its most fleeting form.

For, quick and traceless, mimic art, a wonder,

Escapes, goes past, evades the senses, while

The image made by hammer and by chisel,

The song made by the poet live for millennia.

The magic made here dies out with the artist;

The fleet creation of the moment fades away

The way that resonance dies in the ear,

Its fame preserved by no work that will last.

For Art is hard and praise of it will pass,40

Posterity weaves no garlands for the Mime.

And so he must be chary with the present,

Must fill the moment that is his entirely,

Assure himself of his contemporaries’ favor,

And in the feelings of the Best and Worthiest

Erect a living monument to himself.

Thus he anticipates his name’s eternity,

For one who’s done enough to satisfy

The Best of his own time has lived for all time.

The era that the art of Thalia opens50

Upon this stage today emboldens also

The poet, leaving accustomed things behind,

To lift you from the narrow circles of

Quotidian life onto a higher scene

Of spectacle not unlike the exalted

Moment, the time in which we live now, striving.

For only a grand object has the power

To move man in his deepest human depths;

In narrow circles thinking also narrows,

And mankind grows, expands with larger purpose.60

Here at the grave end of our century, where

Even reality has turned to poetry,

Where we see mighty natures struggle and

Perceive a weighty goal before us, and

Where the great objects of humanity,

Where rule and freedom are contested mutually,

There, too, may Art upon a shadow stage

Attempt a higher flight, indeed she must,

If she’s not to be shamed by Life’s great stage.

In tatters we see lying these days an70

Old solid form once given Europe’s kingdoms

By peace one hundred fifty years ago,

The precious fruit of thirty years of war.

Now let the poet’s fantasy once more

Bring this dark time before your inner eye,

That you may look more happily upon the

Present and to the future’s hope-filled distance.

Into the midst of that war now the poet

Places you. Sixteen years of laying waste,

Of robbing, snatching, misery have flown by.80

Over the earth dark masses swarm and seethe;

No hope of peace glows even from a distance;

The realm’s a no-man’s-land of arms and weapons;

The cities are a desert, Magdeburg

Is rubble, trade and manufacture dead;

The citizen is nothing, the soldier everything;

Unpunished, insolence despises mores;

Raw hordes encamp themselves, gone wild in endless

Fighting, about us on the ruined earth.

Against this gloomy ground an undertaking90

Of bold exuberance and a dauntless, rash,

And daring character stand out in contrast.

You know him: the man who made brave armies,

The idol of his men, scourge of the countryside,

The Kaiser’s best man and his nemesis,

The child of Fortune, her adventurous son, who,

Exalted by the favor of the times,

Ascended quickly to the highest honor

And, unappeased, still striving onward, upward,

Fell victim to his ravenous ambition.100

Observed by partisan love and hate, his profile

Remains uncertain in the gaze of History.

For your eyes now and for your hearts let Art

Make him more human here and bring him closer.

For Art, which binds and limits, leads all things,

Also the most extreme ones, back to Nature.

It sees the man embattled in the press

Of life and rolls the better half of his guilt

Over onto the luckless constellations.

He’s not the one who comes before you on110

This stage today. But in the countless armies

That his command leads mightily, his spirit

Inspires, his shadow image will come out

To meet you. The shy Muse then will dare to

Present him to you as a living figure,

Because it is his power that misleads

His heart; his Camp casts light upon his crime.

Therefore forgive the poet if it’s not

Directly and at once that he would lead you

To reach the goal of this great action, if he120

Dare only to develop that grand object

Before you in a series of tableaux.

Thus may the play we give today win your ear

And heart for unaccustomed sounds and voices,

May it transport you back to that far time,

Back onto that far theater of war that

Our hero will soon fill with deeds.

And if

The Muse today, unhampered goddess of

Both dance and song, should modestly lay claim

To her old German right to play with rhyme, 130

Spare her your blame and rather give her thanks

That she would play the gloomy world of Truth

Over onto the sparkling world of Art,

That she herself undoes forthrightly the

Illusion that she has created, does

Not substitute its Seeming for that Truth.

Our lives are earnest and our art serene.


SERGEANT, TRUMPETER from Terzky’s regiment of Carabiniers




DRAGOONS from Buttler’s regiment

ARQUEBUSIERS from the Tiefenbach regiment

CUIRASSIERS from a Walloon regiment

CUIRASSIERS from a Lombard regiment













Before the city of Pilsen in Bohemia

Scene One

A Canteen Keeper’s Tent with a booth selling small wares standing before it. Soldiers wearing all colors and insignia throng the scene; all the tables are full. Croats and Uhlans cook over a charcoal fire; the Canteen Keeper pours wine; Camp Children roll dice on a drumhead; singing in the Tent.

A Peasant and his Son.

PEASANT BOY. Father, this will come to a rough end,

Let’s stay clear of these tough men.

That’s no company for you;

They could harm us through and through.

PEASANT. Pooh! They won’t eat us up for lunch,

Though they are a rowdy bunch.

Look there! New troops to join the line,

Fresh from the Saale and the Main,

Bringing booty, the rarest treasure;

It’s ours if we take good measures.10

A captain whom another knifed

Left me with these lucky dice.

I aim to try them out today,

See if their old magic’s still in play.

Just pretend you’re poor and dumb,

They’ll be your best pals and chums.

They like to be flattered, to hear praise flow—

It’s easy come and easy go.

When they rob us by the roomful,

We claw it back from them by the spoonful;20

And while they’re gross with their big swords,

We’ll be fine with tricks and words.

(Singing and laughter from the Tent.)

What a racket! Faith abide!

It all comes out of the peasant’s hide.

For eight months now that greedy swarm

Lies in our bed and in our barn;

For miles around, on every place,

Of flesh or fowl they’ve left no trace,

So that for hunger and wretchedness

We have to gnaw on our own fists.30

I swear to God it was no worse

With Saxon fingers in our purse.1

And they say they’re the Kaiser’s best!

PEASANT BOY. Oh, here’s a bunch who’ve left the rest

But don’t look like there’s much to take.

PEASANT. They’re locals, that’s Bohemia’s make,

Belong to Terschka’s2 Carabiniers

And have long been quartered here.

They’re the worst of the whole pack,

Stick out their elbows, arch their back,40

And make as if they are too fine

To share with us a glass of wine.

But I see three Sharpshooters there

On the left around the fire.

Tiroleans is what they seem to me.

Emmerich, come! Let’s go and see

Those jolly fellows, as good as any,

And in their pockets, a pretty penny.

(They go toward the tents.)

Scene Two

As above. Sergeant. Trumpeter. Uhlan.

TRUMPETER. Who’s that peasant? Out, you thieving sneak!

PEASANT. My lords, a little bite to eat!50

We’ve had nothing warm these last two days.

TRUMPETER. Oh, they must always feed their face.

UHLAN (with a glass). Let me! I’ll take him off your hands.

(He leads the Peasant toward the Tent; the others come forward.)

SERGEANT (to the Trumpeter).

Do you think it’s just by chance

We’re paid a double wage today?

Just so we can live this way?

TRUMPETER. Today the Duchess comes to us

With the Princess—3

SERGEANT. That’s just fuss.

It’s the troops from foreign lands

Who’ve met here at Pilsen in fighting bands—60

It’s to lure them, don’t you think,

With something good to eat and drink,

So that they’re quickly satisfied

And our alliance ratified.

TRUMPETER. For sure, they’re cooking something up!

SERGEANT. The generals and commandants—

TRUMPETER. A show of brass you cannot top!

SERGEANT. Who swarm through camp like busy ants—

TRUMPETER. Have not come here to answer roll.

SERGEANT. The back-and-forth, the whirligig—70


SERGEANT. And from Vienna, that big-wig,4

Who drifts through camp, out on a stroll,

Him with that little chain of gold,

Is here for something, I make bold—

TRUMPETER. Another bloodhound, and no fluke,

To sniff out our loyal Duke.

SERGEANT. They don’t trust us, plain to see,

And fear Friedland’s plans-to-be;

He has climbed too high for them,

They’re sent here to saw off his limb.80

TRUMPETER. We’ll stand by him, we two and more.

SERGEANT. Our regiment, with the other four

That Terschka leads, by marriage his brother,5

Are resolute and like none other;

We hold to him, to him we’re suited,

The one by whom we were recruited.

All his captains he installs,

And they are his as in a thrall.

Scene Three

A Croat with a necklace, trailed by a Sharpshooter. As above.

SHARPSHOOTER. You, Croat! That necklace you stole—

I’ll trade you for it; you can’t use’t.90

I’ll trade this pair of terzeruole.6

CROAT. Nix, nix. You cheat me, you Sharpshoot.

SHARPSHOOTER. I’ll throw my blue cap in, to boot—

From roulette, the one that I just won.

You see? The grandest in the world!

CROAT (letting the sunlight play on the necklace).

You see? She’s garnet and she’s pearl.

You see? She sparkles in the sun!

SHARPSHOOTER (taking the necklace).

You’ll get my water bottle, too;

(examining the necklace)

It’s just for the sparkle—this to-do.

TRUMPETER. Look how that Croat’s getting took!100

Halfies, Sharpshoot, and I’ll keep quiet.

CROAT (putting the cap on).

I like your cap. I like the look.

SHARPSHOOTER (signaling the Trumpeter).

We trade now! (To the others.) You see me buy it!

Scene Four

As above. Master-Gunner.

MASTER-GUNNER (approaching the Sergeant).

How is it, Brother Carabinier?

How long do we stay and warm our hands,

Now the foe’s in the field in every land?

SERGEANT. What’s your hurry, Gunning Master?

The muddy roads are still a disaster.

MASTER-GUNNER. No hurry. Me? I’m content to be here;

But an express has come in, to our cost,110

To tell us Regensburg’s been lost.

TRUMPETER. Aha! That means we’re soon in the saddle.

SERGEANT. Oh, sure! To take up that Bavarian’s battle?7

Who hates and harries our General so?

For him our swords will never rattle.

MASTER-GUNNER. Is that so? What-all you don’t know!

Scene Five

As above. Two Horsemen. Then a Canteen Keeper. Camp Children.

Schoolmaster. Waitress.

FIRST HORSEMAN.8 Now isn’t that a sight to see!

The very best of company!

TRUMPETER. What kind of Greencoats can they be?

Look sleek and proud and pleased to me.120

SERGEANT. Holk’s Horse. Those silver trappings there

Did not get bought at the Leipzig Fair.9

CANTEEN KEEPER (bringing wine).

Gentlemen, welcome!

FIRST HORSEMAN. Why, I’m blown to bits!

If it isn’t our Gustel from Blasewitz!10

CANTEEN KEEPER. Indeed it is! And this Misseu

Is long tall Peter from Itzehoe?

Who went through many a golden fox11

Of his father’s—why, he emptied his socks—

At Glückstadt at the equinox—

FIRST HORSEMAN. Now I’ve traded my pen for the cartridge box.130

CANTEEN KEEPER. Well, well! If we two aren’t old friends!

FIRST HORSEMAN. And meet again in Bohemian lands.

CANTEEN KEEPER. One day this place, tomorrow another,

The way the bristly broom of war

Sweeps us one way, then the other,

I’ve gotten around, both near and far.

FIRST HORSEMAN. I can believe it—that and more.

CANTEEN KEEPER. All the way to Timisoar

I pulled that cart and all it held

When we were chasing that Mansfeld.12140

Held out with Friedland before Stralsunde—13

It was there my business went under—

With the relief to Mantua,

Pulled out again with Feria,14

And with a Spanish regiment

I made a detour back to Ghent.

Here in Bohemia I pursue it,

Try and collect what I have lent,

See if the Prince will help me do it.

And that there is my canteen tent.150

FIRST HORSEMAN. It’s all together on one spot.

But what have you done with that Scot

Who went around with you back then?

CANTEEN KEEPER. A rascal! How he took me in!

He’s gone! Took with him all the savings

I’d scraped together from life’s leavings

And left me with that worthless moppet—

CAMP CHILD (comes bouncing up).

Mama! Are you talking about my papa?

FIRST HORSEMAN. Oh, he’s fed from the Kaiser’s purse, it’s

To renew the army, reimburse it.15160

SCHOOLMASTER (entering).

Off, you scamps! Back to the schoolroom!

FIRST HORSEMAN. For them, too, it’s the voice of doom.

WAITRESS (entering). Aunt, they’re leaving.


FIRST HORSEMAN. Well! Who is that charming little piece?

CANTEEN KEEPER. My sister’s child. Has come to stay.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Oh, she’s your pretty little niece?

(The Canteen Keeper goes off.)

FIRST HORSEMAN (stopping the Girl).

Stay a minute, charming child.

WAITRESS. But guests are waiting this long while.

(She escapes and goes off.)

FIRST HORSEMAN. That little girl—she’s an ace,

And her aunt, by the Sacrament!170

How all the gents from the regiment

Wanted to kill for her pretty face!

Oh, the people one meets and how time flies!

What I’ll yet see with my own eyes!

(To the Sergeant and the Trumpeter.)

My worthy lords, I drink to you.

Come! Let’s sit and talk a bit.

Scene Six

Horsemen. Sergeant. Trumpeter.

SERGEANT. To sit with you is only fit.

Bohemia welcomes your brave crew.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Nice here. Out there among the foe

We found our pleasures mighty few.180

TRUMPETER. Who’d know, to see you turned out so?

SERGEANT. In Meissen, Saale,16 all the same,

You don’t enjoy a spotless fame.

SECOND HORSEMAN. Quiet, you! Attack our name?

The Croat was something else again—

Left us just gleanings to bring in.

TRUMPETER. On your collar, that’s Breton lace!

And how your trousers stay in place!

Finest linen and plumed hat!

Who can take it up with that!190

That the likes of you should have such luck,

And we get nothing for all our pluck!

SERGEANT. We, who are Friedland’s own regiment!

We are owed respect and honor.

FIRST HORSEMAN. We don’t think that’s kindly meant!

We, too, carry his name in our banner.

SERGEANT. But you belong to the common creed.

FIRST HORSEMAN. And you think you’re a special breed?

The only difference is our dress,

And mine is better than the rest.200

SERGEANT. Lord Ranger, why be so unpleasant?

It’s living out there with the peasant.

Perfect manners, proper tone—

They’re learned from the General’s example alone.

FIRST HORSEMAN. And what has that example shown?

How he hawks and how he spits—

For you that’s a perfect fit.

But his smarts and his sharp wits—

They don’t fit in barracks kit.

SECOND HORSEMAN. Just ask about us from a stranger:210

You’ll hear we are Friedland’s Rangers

And to the name are no disgrace!

March past friend and foe, keep pace

Across the planted fields of corn,

Where they all know Holk’s hunting horn!

In an instant, far and near,

Like the torrent, we are there,

The way that hot flames in the night

Strike a house and put to flight.

There’s no escape and no defense,220

There’s no more order, no more sense.

Our strong arms tame the struggling maid—

War spares no one, gives no aid.

Ask around—this is no boast—

In Bayreuth, Vogtland, and a host

Of other lands that we’ve passed through

Children’s children will tell you

For centuries yet of Holk’s Horse

And how we are a mighty force.

SERGEANT. There you have it: all that clatter—230

Is that what makes the soldier matter?

His timing makes him, good sense, glance,

His thinking, understanding, stance.

FIRST HORSEMAN. It’s freedom makes him. With you who doubt it

Why do I even talk about it?

Did I leave training, bolt from school

Just to sit on that same stool,

Scribble, copy, play the clerk

In camp here, where there’s real man’s work?

I’ll live high, I’ll work and play,240

Have new adventures every day,

Not think past this very minute

And the fun and freedom in it.

That’s why I went and made the trade:

The Kaiser gets me, I get paid.

Lead me to the firing line

Or over the ripping, racing Rhine,

Where every third man’s left behind:

I’ll not give you trouble there.

But I’ll not stand it anymore250

To be thwarted anywhere.

SERGEANT. Nothing else you’re asking for?

We’d find it tucked into your doublet.17

FIRST HORSEMAN. What a nuisance, how much trouble it

Was with Gustav18—made a chapel

Of his camp. At every appel

At reveille, again at taps—

He made us pray, take off our caps.

If we would not pull a long face,

Himself, he’d put us in our place.260

SERGEANT. Oh, he was a God-fearing man.

FIRST HORSEMAN. No fun with girls, no chance to falter,

We had to lead them to the altar.

Too much for me! I cut and ran.

SERGEANT. I’d bet they’ve now removed that ban.

FIRST HORSEMAN. I went to join the League instead,

Arming against Magdeburg, they said.19

That was different altogether,

Birds they were of another feather,

Beer and dice and lots of girls,270

Jolly, easy-going brothers.

Tilly20 let us join that whirl,

But in his own life kept better weather.

As long as it was no expense,

“Live and let live” was his sense.

But after Leipzig, the reversal,21

A different play was in rehearsal:

Our luck ran out, the workings balked,

The whole machine ground to a halt.

Where we arrived and asked admittance,280

We heard, “Get out! To you, good riddance!”

We skulked along from place to place—

No one would give us any space.

So I thought I would pin my hope

On Saxon bounty, turn my coat.

SERGEANT. Oh, then you came just in time

For the Bohemian booty.22

FIRST HORSEMAN. Wouldn’t rhyme.

Strictest discipline. We could not impose

Our will on them like proper foes;

Could only guard the Kaiser’s castles,290

Show up for duty in ruffles and tassels.

How we made war was just a joke,

Fencing bravely with mirrors and smoke;

Afraid to give anyone offense anywhere,

Service, in short, with no honor to spare,

So dull I nearly went berserk

And ran back home to be a clerk.

Just then throughout the country all

Good men were answering Friedland’s call.23

SERGEANT. And how long will you stay with us?300

FIRST HORSEMAN. As long as he holds sway with us.

It’s to his star I’ll hitch my wagon;

What soldier makes a better bargain?

Here we get a real soldier’s charge

And everything is written large.

A spirit lives in every corps

That, like the wind, with rush and roar

Rips even the slowest rider along.

We’re taller here than the civilian throng,

The way the marshal’s taller than the prince.310

It’s like times used to be long since,

When the sword still had its meaning

And one thing only was demeaning:

Refusing orders—a hanging offense.

It’s not forbidden? You have leave;

And no one asks you what you believe.

One thing only counts a lot:

What is army, what is not.

I’ll show the flag: that’s my best shot.

SERGEANT. Bravo, Soldier! All that sounded320

Like the best of Friedland’s mounted.

FIRST HORSEMAN. What a commander! He’s not sitting

In Bohemia to do the Kaiser’s bidding.

It’s not for his sake he has fought

Or his victories been wrought.

Has he used his high command

To bring protection to the land?

He wants to found a soldiers’ state,

Ignite the world on a hot grate,

Make himself its potentate.24330

TRUMPETER. Sh! Such a thing—you shouldn’t say it!

FIRST HORSEMAN. I say what I think—the way it

Is allowed us: Speech is free.

SERGEANT. The General said that. His decree:

“Speech is free, speechless the deed,

Obedience blind.” This is his creed.

FIRST HORSEMAN. If he said exactly that

I do not know. But it is so.

SECOND HORSEMAN. His luck in the field always holds fast,

It never gives out, it’s a permanent boon.340

Tilly’s good angel deserted too soon,

But the spell he casts makes his luck last.

One who fights at his direction

Has special powers for protection,

For all the world knows perfectly well

That he keeps in his service, feeds at his table,

Pays the wages of a demon from Hell.25

SERGEANT. And nothing can pierce him. No one is able.

Out onto Lützen’s bloody plain26

He rode under fire falling like rain,350

Rode up and down and had no fear

And let the furious bullets tear

Through his boots and his cuirass and his hat,

And there was not a one of them that

Could scratch his skin. Nine lives! Like a cat!

FIRST HORSEMAN. What wonders I hear tell, you two!

It’s his cuirass of elk’s leather

That no bullet passes through.

SERGEANT. No, it’s a salve of witches’ heather

Cooked up with magic in foul weather360

To make a hellish, godless stew.

They say he also reads the stars,

Knows future things, both near and far.

But I know better what is right:

A little gray man goes in the night

Through locked doors to sit with him;

You hear the sentries shout it out.

And something big always visits men

When that small gray-coat goes about.

SECOND HORSEMAN. The very Devil and his wife—370

He’s friends with them,

And lets us lead a merry life.

Scene Seven

As above. A Recruit. A Citizen. Dragoons.

RECRUIT (comes out of the Tent, a tin helmet on his head,

a wine bottle in his hand).

Remember me to Father and the other men!

I’m a soldier now; you’ll never see me again.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Well, looky there! He is new!

CITIZEN. Watch out, Franz. This is not for you.

RECRUIT (sings). Pipe and drums

And flag unfurled.

Friends and chums,

We wander the world.380

Prancing horses,

Fearsome forces,

A sword at our side,

We march far and wide.

We’ve left the herd,

We’re free as a bird

That comes in spring

To forage and sing.

Hurrah! I follow Friedland’s banner!

SECOND HORSEMAN. Welcome, boy. We like your manner!390

(They all greet him.)

CITIZEN. Leave him be! He’s bred gentle and meet.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Well, we weren’t exactly picked up on the street!

CITIZEN. He also comes from people of means;

Just look at his apron—what fine seams!

TRUMPETER. The Kaiser’s coat is the one that gleams.

CITIZEN. There’s a little cap mill he stands to inherit.

FIRST HORSEMAN And lose all his freedom! What’s the merit?

CITIZEN. His grandmother will leave him a little store.

FIRST HORSEMAN. To trade in dry goods evermore?

CITIZEN. His godmother’s wine bar, free of rent,400

And a cellar stocked with hogsheads of wine.

TRUMPETER. Pouring wine? Is that his line?

SECOND HORSEMAN. Hey, Brother! Want to share my tent?

CITIZEN. He leaves a bride standing at the church door.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Iron-hearted, on that score.

CITIZEN. The scandal of it! Grandmother will die!

SECOND HORSEMAN. So he gets the wine shop; why should he cry?

SERGEANT (with clerical gravity, lays his hand on the tin helmet).

This is prudent, a good plan.

Thou hast put on a new man.

This helmet and this bandolier410

Bring thee into a brand new sphere.

A new spirit’s entered in.

SECOND HORSEMAN. Spirits of brandy, schnapps, and gin.

SERGEANT. You embark on Fortune’s ship

To sail the world from tail to tip;

On your voyage you’ll learn the ropes,

Find daring justifies your hopes.

The pious burgher, that poor fag,

Goes round and round like the dyer’s nag;

A soldier’s chance is infinite,420

And this endless war won’t limit it.

Look at me! At a sergeant’s grade

I carry a staff like the Kaiser’s stave.

The rule of the world and every lick

Of order comes from such a stick;

The scepter that the Kaiser holds

Is just a stick in fancy clothes.

Once at corporal’s rank, you’re on your way

To get real power and rule the day.

On all this you can set your sights.430

FIRST HORSEMAN. As long as he can read and write.

SERGEANT. Let me give you an example

So that you will have a sample.

The chief of Friedland’s Dragoon ranks

Is Buttler.27 We were almost brothers

As Rhineland privates, among others;

He’s major general now as thanks

For long service and great fame,

While I made less stir in my name.

Why, Friedland himself, who has command440

Of all the armies in the land,

Holds endless powers in his hand,

Was once a simple nobleman.

He trusted to his warrior’s creed

And built an empire on his deeds,

Stands after the Kaiser as first man.28

And who knows what yet to expect

From a man whose limits have never been set!

FIRST HORSEMAN. Oh, he started small and is now great stuff,

For at Altdorf in his student days,450

If I may repeat what everyone says,

He played a little rough and tough.

They say it’s his scout he tried to slay.

The city fathers sent him to jail

When he tried and failed to raise the bail.

This new jail was to take the name

Of its first prisoner, to his eternal ill-fame.

How does he solve it? He wisely lets

His poodle go first, and to silent laughter,

As he intended, the jailhouse gets460

The poodle’s name forever after.

Now there’s a man after my own heart:

Sprang every trap set for him right from the start.29

(The Girl has come to wait the table. The Second Horseman has been flirting with her.)

DRAGOON (intervening). Comrade, you just let that be!

SECOND HORSEMAN. You think you have a say with me?

DRAGOON. You just listen! She’s my girl.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Would you believe it? This great churl

Thinks only he can have a girl!

SECOND HORSEMAN. He thinks he’s a special case;

But this sweetheart’s pretty face470

Is for us all, like bright sunshine. (He kisses her.)

DRAGOON (pulling the Girl away). I tell you once more: She is mine.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Musicians! That’s a change of pace!

SECOND HORSEMAN. You looking for trouble? You’ll find it with me!

SERGEANT. Gentlemen, silence! A kiss is for free.

Scene Eight

A Miners’ Band30 enters and plays a reel, first slowly, then faster and faster. The First Horseman dances with the Waitress, the Canteen Keeper with the Recruit; the Girl escapes, the Horseman pursues her; they collide with the Capuchin as he enters.31

CAPUCHIN. Tra la la! And brum, brum, brum!

What is that for a wicked tune!

Is this here an army of Christians?

Or a tribe of Turks and Antibaptistians?

Do you make a mockery of the Day of Rest480

Just to put God to the test?

You think he couldn’t put a sudden end to

This wild music and flaming tinder?

To gluttony, sloth, and idle splendor?

Quid hic statis otiosi?

Think you can stand there and fold your hands?

Warriors swarm through the Danube lands,

The enemy in Bavaria fills his craw,

Takes defenseless Regensburg with his claw—

And the army in Bohemia lies about,490

Fills its belly and polishes its snout,

Cares for the bottle more than the battle,

Whets wits and words and not its swords,

With girls is neither stern nor firm,

Eats up ox, not Oxenstirn.32

Christendom mourns in sackcloth and ashes

While flirting soldiers flash their sashes.

The world is now a vale of tears,

And skies are full of signs and wonders

And churning clouds to match our fears,500

In which God’s righteous anger thunders.

He sends out comets that streak the dark

And tell of disasters yet to come,

Of burning barns and the rolling drum

And floods of blood against the sacred Ark.

Our erstwhile Holy Roman Empire

Is now a lowly yeoman’s shire;

The Rhine that once ran clear with rain

Is thick with blood, a stream of pain;

In every cloister women roister;510

In what were once our monasteries

The wounded find apothecaries,

And our erstwhile Sacred Church

Has now become an acrid smirch.

Hear what you’ve done to bring this on!

This is how we pay the price

Of your loose life and crime and vice;

Like a magnet close at hand

Sin draws sharp steel into the land;

Bad things follow on bad deeds520

As bad crops come from rotten seeds.

It’s a happy man who hears and heeds.

Ubi erit victoriae spes,

Si offenditur Deus? What hope have you

Of victory if you’ve set your face

Against your God, the One and True?

The woman found her silver pieces,

And Saul found his father’s asses,

Joseph in Egypt knew his brothers’ faces;33

But one who among soldiers looks for the530

Fear of God or sense of order

Will find little in his sights,

As many candles as he lights.

To the Preacher in the Wilderness34

Soldiers came in some distress,

Repented and were then baptized.

They inquired and were advised:

Quid faciemus nos? What shall we do,

Now that we’re baptized, to stay true?

Et ait illis. And he replies:540

Neminem concuciatis,

Keep from all forms of violence,

Neque calumniam faciatis,

And every form of insolence.

Contenti estote: be content

Stipendiis vestris: with your rents

And all else that you’ve been sent.

Thou shalt not take the sacred name

Of the Lord thy God in vain

Is a command. Was there ever more swearing550

Than here in camp in a cleric’s hearing?

And if for every thunderation

And proclamation of damnation

That you say here the bells were rung,

They’d fall from the belfries where they’re hung.

And if for every blasphemous prayer

From your unwashed mouths they pulled a hair,

Your scurvy scalps would be picked bare,

Were your thatch as thick as Absalom’s.35 Ware!

Joshua was an army leader560

And David a giant’s brave defeater,

And who has ever heard or read

That they used words like the ones you’ve said?

The mouth’s no wider nor the tongue more bent

To say “God help me!” than “Potz Sakrament!”

But one whose vessel holds more than its share

Will run over at the mouth and curse and swear.

Another command says, “Thou shalt not steal”;

You take those words for what they say

And spirit everything openly away.570

From your long fingers and vulture’s claws,

Your bottomless greed, like black jackdaws’,

Money is not safe in the chest

And the calf in the cow is not safely at rest,

You steal the egg and the hen and the nest.

Yet how is it possible to reprove

The servant when the trouble all comes from above?

The members’ ways will be like their chief’s,

And no one knows anything about his beliefs.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Look, you preacher! You can give us grief,580

But our Commander’s not in your brief.

CAPUCHIN. Ne custodias gregem meam!36

This man’s an Ahab and Jerobeam,37

Leads his men from the righteous way

To false gods and even further astray.


We’ll not hear twice the things you say.

CAPUCHIN. A saber-rattler, loud and bold;

Said that he’d take every stronghold,

Would wrest Stralsund from Swede or Dane,

And if fastened to Heaven by a chain;590

Then shot away his powder in vain.

TRUMPETER. Is there no one here can stop this ranter?

CAPUCHIN. A King Saul and a necromancer,38

A Holofernes and fire-eater,39

Denies his Lord, a second Peter,40

And shakes and shudders if the cock crew.

BOTH HORSEMEN. Preacher, we’ll have done with you!

CAPUCHIN. A crafty Herod, that sly fox—41

TRUMPETER and BOTH HORSEMEN (closing in on him).

Silence, preacher, or you’re dead of the pox!

CROATS (intervening). Steady, Parson. Don’t be afraid.600

Have your say till all is said.

CAPUCHIN (shouting louder and louder).

A Nebuchadnezzar, a Belshazzar,42

A Hittite and a Canaanite.43

He has himself called Wallenstein

And is in truth for all a stone,

A stone in the throat, a stumbling stone;

As long as the Kaiser shields Friedland’s breed

Friedland’s land will not be freed.

(He retreats as he shouts these words; the Croats cover his retreat against the other Soldiers.)

Scene Nine

As above, without the Capuchin.

FIRST HORSEMAN (to the Sergeant).

What does he mean about the cock crow

That shakes our Commander so?610

It was an insult? It was a mockery?

SERGEANT. Oh, no. His ears are as brittle as crockery.

He was always a strange child,

Never could be reconciled

Even to a kitten’s mewling sorrow,

And the cry of the cock fills him with horror.

FIRST HORSEMAN. The lion, too, can’t bear that sound.44

SERGEANT. Must be still as a churchyard all around:

It’s a standing order, grave and fraught,

So he can work and think deep thoughts.620

VOICES (uproar in the Tent).

Seize him! Rascal! Drub away!


OTHER VOICES. Quiet! Stop it! Stay!

FIRST HORSEMAN. Listen! Someone’s getting beat!

SECOND HORSEMAN. Let’s have a look! (They run into the Tent.)

CANTEEN KEEPER (coming out). Sneak thieves! Cheats!

TRUMPETER. Hostess, what’s this all about?

CANTEEN KEEPER. Scamp! Scoundrel! Tramp! Clod! Lout!

In my tent! To have this occur

Ruins me with every officer.

SERGEANT. What’s up, Hostess?

CANTEEN KEEPER. Can’t you guess?

They’ve caught a peasant—what a mess—630

Rolling loaded dice, and not for fun.

TRUMPETER. Look! They’re bringing him here with his half-grown son.

Scene Ten

Soldiers hauling the Peasant along.

FIRST HORSEMAN. String him up!


SERGEANT. Without a warrant there’ll be a wrangle.

CANTEEN KEEPER. In an hour or so we’ll see him dangle.

SERGEANT. It’ll go quickly. No probation.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER (to the Second).

This is out of desperation.

They come here hungry, begging a meal,

And we’re surprised to see them steal?

TRUMPETER. Who’re you, coming to his defense?640

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. Not so fast! No offense,

But the world can see that the peasant, too,

Is an ordinary man, like me and you.

FIRST HORSEMAN (to the Trumpeter).

No more quarreling! They’re Tiefenbachers,45

Sons of tailors and glove makers;

Lay in garrison at Brieg;

Puts them in a different league.

Scene Eleven

As above. Cuirassiers.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. What’s going on with the peasant there?

FIRST SHARPSHOOTER. Cheated at dice. Took three times his share.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Not news. Was it all that bad?650

FIRST SHARPSHOOTER. What do you think? He took all I had.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. But you’re somebody, are Friedland’s man.

Can you stoop so low and be so blind

As to roll your dice with the peasant’s kind?

Let him run, if run he can.

(The Peasant escapes; the others gather to form a group.)

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. Well, that was quickly, cleanly done.

With a peasant that is something won.

Where’s that one from? Not from here?

CANTEEN KEEPER. He’s a Walloon. Gets respect and fear;

One of the Pappenheim Cuirassiers.660

FIRST DRAGOON (joining them).

Young Piccolomini leads them now, I hear.46

The troops themselves made him their chief

After Pappenheim lost his life

On Lützen’s plains. A big event.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. How did they ever get consent?

FIRST DRAGOON. That unit has a special dash,

Forms the front line at every clash.

Has its own justice, keeps apart,

Holds a special place in Friedland’s heart.

FIRST CUIRASSIER (to the Second).

What a story! Where’s it come from?670

SECOND CUIRASSIER. From back in quarters. The Colonel said it.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. All that many? They’ll never get it.

FIRST HORSEMAN. What’s this talk? And why the fuss?

SECOND HORSEMAN. Does it have something to do with us?

FIRST CUIRASSIER. You’re not going to be exactly pleased.

(The Soldiers gather around.)

It’s off to the Netherlands! We’ve been leased.

Cuirassiers, Rangers, mounted Sharpshoots—

Eight thousand men to pull on riding boots.

CANTEEN KEEPER. Already again we’re supposed to wander?

Why, I just got back from Flanders.680

SECOND CUIRASSIER (to the Dragoons).

They’ve put you Buttlerites under the same baton.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. And especially us Wallons.

CANTEEN KEEPER. But those are all our best squadrons.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. All to escort the man from Milan.

FIRST HORSEMAN. The Spanish Infante!47 Is that what’s said?

SECOND HORSEMAN. That black churchman all in red!

FIRST CUIRASSIER. We’re to leave Friedland, whom we love,

On whom we hang as on a lanyard,

Be put in the field by that black Spaniard,

Mean and stingy and tight as a glove?690

Not a chance. We’ll take to our heels.

TRUMPETER. They’ve missed their chance. We’ve made our deal

With the Kaiser, and not that varlet

Parading across Europe all in scarlet.

SECOND HORSEMAN. It was the word and credit of Wallenstein’s

That made of us his mounted lines;

Without the love we have for our Friedland

We’d never have belonged to Ferdinand.

FIRST DRAGOON. Didn’t Friedland form and feed us?

He’s the only one to lead us.700

SERGEANT. That sounds brave and that sounds tough,

But talk like that is not enough.

I can read this order like a map

And see that it is all a trap.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Quiet! Hear our ranking man!

SERGEANT. Auntie Gustel, kiss your hand,

A glass of Melnecker, if you can;

I’ll tell you then where I take my stand.

CANTEEN KEEPER (pouring a glass).

Gladly, Sergeant. But what a fright!

Some evil’s hid here out of sight.710

SERGEANT. Gentlemen, you know it’s just fine

To think of what is next in line;

But our Commander’s higher goal

Is to give attention to the whole.

We call ourselves Friedland’s troops;

The citizen takes us under his roof,

Provides for us, cooks us warm soups;

The peasant gives what’s on the hoof,

His nag, his ox, to pull our train,

About which he complains in vain.720

If a private leading seven men

Enters a village at his pleasure,

He can install a government over them

And rule and school them at his leisure.

They don’t like us in the least,

Would rather see the Devil or some other beast

Than our yellow rider’s jackets.

Why do they not simply sack us,

Since there are more of them than us

And our muskets no better than the blunderbuss?730

Why can we laugh behind their back?

Because we are a fearsome pack!

FIRST HORSEMAN. That, just that, is the strength of our hand.

Friedland, too, must have known it;

What he said to them has shown it,

As he raised a great army from the length of the land:48

They hoped to see twelve thousand agreed;

He said, “Twelve thousand I can’t feed;

Sixty thousand is my number;

Those, I know, won’t die of hunger.”740

And that brought us to Wallenstein.

SERGEANT. Look at this right hand of mine.

Of its five fingers, if one should choose

To chop off the little one, would I lose

No more than that? And at what cost?

Why, the whole hand’s as good as lost!

I’m left with a stump or even worse.

Just so, this famous eight thousand horse

That they are now trying to force

Into Flanders are the little finger to finish750

The army’s hand. A small detail?

They go, and the army’s just one-fifth diminished?

Nonsense! Lose them and the whole would fail.

We lose fear and respect and respectful awe;

The peasant’s cock of the walk, all comb and craw;

The little scribes in Vienna preside

Over our billets and mess on every side;

They take this and that and on and on,

Until we find our Commander gone.

They’ve no love for him in any case,760

And all we have will go to waste.

Who then will see that our wage is paid

And the terms of our contract fairly made?

Who has the force and the command,

The quick mind and the firm hand

To bring together and make match

An army composed of a thousand and one patch?

For example, Dragoon, tell,

What’s the land from which you hail?

FIRST DRAGOON. From Ireland ’twas that I set my sail.770

SERGEANT (to the two Cuirassiers).

You, I know, come here from Ghent,

And you’re a Latin, by your accent.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Where I come from? Ask the beadle.

I was stolen from the cradle.

SERGEANT. And you are not local either?

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. Come from Buchau on Lake Feder.

SERGEANT. And you, my friend?


SERGEANT (to the Second Horseman).

Where is it that you come from, Ranger?

SECOND HORSEMAN. Behind Wismar, that’s my parents’ home.

SERGEANT (indicating the Trumpeter).

We’re both from Eger.49 He’s no stranger.780

Just look at us! Who’d now say

That we’ve all been blown together

From north and south in every weather?

Cut from one cloth, they’d say today.

We front the enemy, not like mercenaries hired

For one day’s labor, but like iron fired

To form one mass; we mesh tighter still

Than the gears that drive a running mill.

Who has hammered us from all these shards

Into a machine so firm and hard790

That it can’t be pulled apart?

It’s Wallenstein and none other.

FIRST HORSEMAN. I see that now for the first time, Brother.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. We’re grateful, Sergeant. Have our thanks.

They want to do in the warrior ranks

And always keep the soldier down,

Be the only ones who count for the Crown.

They’ve agreed on this; it’s all a plot.

CANTEEN KEEPER. A plot? That means, alackaday,

My gentlemen can no longer pay.800

SERGEANT. Quite right. It leaves us all bankrupt.

Many captains and generals played the host,

Raised their units at their own cost,

Wanted to see their wealth displayed

And now find they’ve overpaid.

They’ll be penniless, along with us all,

If our commander and leader falls.

CANTEEN KEEPER. Blessed Savior! I’m quite cooked!

Half the army’s in my book.

Count Isolani, that high roller,810

Owes me a good two hundred taler.50

FIRST CUIRASSIER. What to do about this, Brothers?

We have a good defense at hand:

We will safely band together

And all defend each single man.

They can send orders, rave and rant;

We meanwhile shall firmly plant

Our feet. Not march and not relent,

Protect our honor, withhold consent.

SECOND HORSEMAN. We’ll not be led on a merry chase.820

They come? We tell them to their face.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. Gentlemen, let me be your adviser;

Remember, these orders come from the Kaiser.

TRUMPETER. A lot we care about your Kaiser!

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. Careful! Or I’ll make you wiser.

TRUMPETER. What I said is still exact.

FIRST HORSEMAN. But I’ve often heard it said

That Friedland here is our sole head.

SERGEANT. Right! He set the condition, made the pact:

For absolute power, without surcease,830

To wage war and conclude peace;

Money and assets he can seize,

Can damn and pardon as he please,

Create his own officer corps;

Has it from the Kaiser, that and more.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. The Duke’s smart and powerful, that is true,

But just like us he answers to

The Kaiser and the Kaiser’s men.

SERGEANT. Not like us. Think again!

He’s an immediate Imperial prince,51840

Just as good in every sense

As the Bavarian. Not otherwise!

I saw at Brandeis with my own eyes:52

How the Kaiser himself agreed

He could keep his hat on his princely head.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. With Mecklenburg he got that rank

For a loan: as pawn and thanks.53

FIRST HORSEMAN (to the Sergeant).

Before the Kaiser he could have no care

To remove his hat? That is rare.

SERGEANT (reaching into his pocket).

You don’t have to take my word.850

Persuade yourself it’s not absurd—

(Showing a coin.)

Whose profile is it?


A Wallensteiner, plain as day.

SERGEANT. Is that not good security?

Is he not prince in every way?

Can he not mint, like Ferdinand?

Have his own vassals, his own land?

Let himself be called Your Grace,

And keep an army in his high place?

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. All that is true. But the one860

Who pays our wages is the Kaiser.

TRUMPETER. I dispute you, say the one

Who pays no wages is the Kaiser.

For forty weeks have they not been saying

That any day they would be paying?

It seems to me they’re still delaying.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. We’ll safely leave that in their hands.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Peace, gentlemen! Before this quarrel ends

In blows. For we can all agree

That we must follow the Kaiser’s decree.870

But precisely because we would be his faithful

Riders, they should not be hateful

And make of us a common herd.

We’ll not be posted from place to place

By priests and toadies and all that race.

Say, does it not do him proud

That we’re men of honor, keep our word,

Stand head and shoulders above the crowd?

Aren’t we the ones who made him great,

Emperor, world ruler, and potentate,880

And by our efforts for him have won

The world’s first place in all Christendom?54

The ones who ought to bear his yoke

Are the men his table stokes

And who live by his grace and favor;

Of all that brilliance all we savor

Is pain and labor—and our pride’s sweet flavor.

SECOND HORSEMAN. The best of the tyrants in other lands

Saved their powder for worse friends,

Carried their soldiers on the palm of their hand.890

FIRST CUIRASSIER. The soldier with a sense of self

Has contempt for all that pelf.

If I put my life in play

Something else has greater sway,

Or I’ve thrown myself away,

Like a Croat, that disgrace.

BOTH HORSEMEN. Nothing can take honor’s place.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. A soldier carries a sword, not a spade,

No furrow’s dug and no seed laid;

He moves homeless over the earth,900

Can’t warm himself on his own hearth.

Goes past bright cities, sees them gleam,

Sees peaceful villages, mills, and streams

In the blue distance.

Vintage dances, harvest sheaves

Flicker past like autumn leaves.

Dear to him in all this dearth

Is only his soldier’s sense of worth.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. A worse life than any other.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. I wouldn’t trade it for another.910

I’ve wandered far and wide in the world

And found its carpet bright and burled.

I served the Spanish monarchy

And the free Venetian State,

The Kingdom of Napoli,

And nowhere were my fortunes great.

Tinker, tailor, merchant, wit—

Only my soldier’s vest would fit.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. That’s not at all the way I feel.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. A man who wants to do something real,920

Live in plenty, keep an even keel,

Must make terms with tons of bother.

If he wants to become a father,

See his children and grandchildren gather,

He must make a good living, take a wife.

Me? I’ve no love for such a life.

I want to live and die free as the wind,

Take nothing from no one, leave nothing behind,

And look past the huddled rabble

As I pass by high in the saddle.930

FIRST HORSEMAN. The only good life, when all’s said and done.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. Surely it is just good fun

To look down on the downtrodden ones.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Comrade, bad times have come over the land,

And the sword’s no longer in Justitia’s right hand.55

Even so, I’ll take the sword,

For which no one will think me lowered;

In war my charity can still be extended

And my dignity not be offended.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER. But we soldiers have stripped the fields940

And destroyed the peasant’s yields.

It’s now been almost sixteen years

Of need and torment, hunger and tears.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Listen, Brother, God above

Does not expect equal love

From all mortals all the time;

One likes clouds and another sunshine.

Where you see only pain and sorrow,

I see the dawn of a bright tomorrow.

That it comes at the cost of citizen and peasant950

I, too, find is most unpleasant,

But we all must play by the rules of the game;

Whatever happens, it’s all the same.

When the horses are charging, have their head,

And someone’s lying in the road ahead,

Even my brother or my own child,

And be he crying ever so wild,

I can’t pull him to one side;

Over his body goes my wild ride.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Aye! Every man saves his own hide.960

FIRST CUIRASSIER. And now that Fortune smiles

On the soldier, with all her wiles,

We will catch and hold her fast

By the hand, for this won’t last!

Overnight there’ll come a peace,

And this world we love will cease;

The soldiers unbridle, the peasants hitch up,

And all of a sudden our time’s stitched up.

We still have our hand on the lever,

But once we’re separated, it’s all over.970

FIRST HORSEMAN. Comrades, we’ll not let it reach

That point. We’ll stand every man for each.

FIRST ARQUEBUSIER (drawing a leather purse, to the Canteen Keeper).

Hostess, what’s it that I owe?

CANTEEN KEEPER. So little it will hardly show. (They settle.)

TRUMPETER. Just as well you’re moving on.

You have only spoiled our fun.

(The Arquebusiers go off.)

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Pity about them. They’re not bad fellows.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Think like the types that render tallow.56

SECOND HORSEMAN. Now we’re alone, let’s aim our shot

At how we’re going to break up that plot.980

TRUMPETER. I thought we would just refuse.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. No, we’ll hold back from all abuse.

Every man now to his own resort,

Where he makes a full report,

So that we all stand on one side

Of this attempt that would divide.

For my Walloons I can vouch:

Not a one who is a slouch.

SERGEANT. Terzka’s regiments, horse and foot,

Are persuaded, the whole lot.990

SECOND CUIRASSIER (joining the First).

The Lombard stands by the Walloon.

FIRST HORSEMAN. Freedom is the Ranger’s boon.

SECOND HORSEMAN. Freedom and power are with Wallenstein;

Behind him we all hold the line.

FIRST SHARPSHOOTER. And every soldier from Lorraine

Joins in with might and main.

DRAGOON. The Irishman gives luck his hand.

SECOND SHARPSHOOTER. The Tirolean serves the lord of the land.

FIRST CUIRASSIER. Therefore let every regiment

Prepare a pro memoria to say1000

That we are all resolved to stay

Together and to stand behind

Our General. No force can drive us away

From the greatest leader of his kind.

This writing one offers with reverence

To Piccolomini—the son—

For such things he has good sense,

And for Friedland he’s a special one.

Also at the Kaiser’s Court

He’s thought to be a special sort.1010

SECOND HORSEMAN. Done! All together, give me your hand!

Piccolomini’s to be our man!


Piccolomini’s to be our man!

(They are about to go.)

SERGEANT. One glass, Comrades! Drum and fife!

(Raises his glass.)

Piccolomini! Long life!

CANTEEN KEEPER (bringing a bottle).

That I’ll not notch up, my friends.

Work well done, dear gentlemen.

CUIRASSIERS. May our armor live!

BOTH HORSEMEN. And the farmer give!

DRAGOONS and SHARPSHOOTERS. Our troops not quail!1020

TRUMPETER and SERGEANT. And Friedland prevail!


Comrades, look smart there! Mount up! Mount!

It’s into the field and to freedom!

A man in the field, that’s the one who counts,

In courage there’s none to exceed him.

That’s where every father’s son

Is on his mettle, must hold his own.

(During the song the Soldiers in the background have gathered round and raise the Chorus.)


That’s where every father’s son

Is on his mettle, must hold his own.


All freedom is gone from the face of the earth,1030

And you meet only servant and master—

Villains and hypocrites of high and low birth,

The whole lot’s not worth a piaster.

The soldier who boldly looks death in the face

Is the last free man in the human race.


The soldier who boldly looks death in the face

Is the last free man in the human race.


All fear and misgiving get tossed on the grate;

He banishes weeping and sorrow

And fearlessly rides out to meet his fate,1040

If not today, then tomorrow.

And if it’s tomorrow, today we’ll drain

To the lees the joy of the days that remain.


And if it’s tomorrow, today we’ll drain

To the lees the joy of the days that remain.

(Their glasses have been refilled; they raise them and toast.)


His happy lot’s given him, comes as a gift,

No need to gain it by striving;

The laborer digs in the earth’s dark rift,

Where he hopes a treasure is hiding.

He grubs and shovels like a shackled slave1050

And finds in the end that he’s grubbed his grave.


He grubs and shovels like a shackled slave

And finds in the end that he’s grubbed his grave.


The rider and his galloping beast

Are figures made famous in fable.

The candles flicker at the wedding feast,

And a stranger appears at the table.

His suit is swift, no morning gift;

Before unbelieving eyes he storms out with his prize.


His suit is swift, no morning gift;1060

Before unbelieving eyes he storms out with his prize.


Why does the maid weep and wring her hands?

Red Rover, Red Rover, come over!

He has no home in all the king’s lands,

Was never to be a true lover.

Unbending Fate always drives him away,

Wherever he is, he cannot stay.


Unbending Fate always drives him away,

Wherever he is, he cannot stay.

FIRST HORSEMAN (takes the next man by the hand; the others follow and all who have sung build a wide semicircle).

So mount up, Comrades, all rugged and wroth;1070

The bugle calls, the pennant flashes.

Our youth is abuzz, our life is afroth;

Up! Before we’re all turned to ashes.

And if you don’t put your life at stake,

Your life’s not worth the croak of a crake.


And if you don’t put your life at stake,

Your life’s not worth the croak of a crake.

(The Curtain falls before the Chorus has ended.)

* Schiller composed this short poem as a prologue, or preliminary word, not to the Wallenstein trilogy, which was not yet finished, but to a performance of Wallenstein’s Camp. That performance, in October 1798, was the main attraction at the formal reopening of the newly renovated Weimar playhouse. The Prologue was to be—and was—recited from the stage by an actor to welcome the company, name the occasion, and introduce the play. It is a ceremonial address composed to mark a special occasion. Two hundred twenty years later, it is profitably read not first but last, when the Wallenstein story is known and in the air, as it was in Weimar at the time.