Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Such is the conclusion of the song of the old Lithuanian bard at the festival of the knights. The hall resounds with cries of astonishment; while Konrad rises, and, dreadfully agitated, demands a lute to complete the song himself. Instead of doing so, he chants a wild Moorish ballad, relating the destruction of the Spanish army under the walls of Grenada by the plague, which was sent among them by the king of the Mussulmen. This ballad, which we lament not to have room to extract, is, in our opinion, a perfect specimen of the Spanish romance, and occurs with peculiar propriety in the mouth of Wallenrod, who had distinguished himself in earlier years in the Spanish wars. After bis song, the Grand Master exclaims

Such was their Moorish vengeance :-would ye know
The vengeance of a Lithuanian heart?

May be his oath may stand for something yet! He then falls, exhausted by the violence of his feelings: the crowd disperses, wondering at the frantic behaviour of the Grand Master, and at the sudden disappearance of the old Waidelote, whom some suspect to be Halban in disguise.

The war can no longer be delayed; Konrad puts himself at the head of the impatient army, and advances into Lithuania. Kowno and Wilna are besieged; but the autumn is past, and winter brings back the discomfited troops of the order. Konrad had fled from the first field of battle, and the Lithuanians were victorious.

In á vault at Marienbourg is assembled the secret tribunal of the order: twelve judges are convoked, and by them Konrad Wallenrod is accused of perfidy to the order which he commanded. He had been heard to converse in the Lithuanian tongue with the female penitent of the tower; he had been the cause of the present disgrace to the Teutonic arms. The twelve judges cry out, “Woe! Woe!” and their twelve swords are bared, to execute sentence on the criminal as soon as he shall be in their power.

In the mean time Konrad goes to the tower of the solitary, and calls on Aldona, his own Aldona. She answers him, and hails him by the name of Alf; for the young Lithuanian of the song of the Waidelote is no other than Konrad Wallenrod. His vow is accomplished; his vengeance is complete. The treasures of the order are wasted ; their armies destroyed; their towns burnt; their glory departed. The heart of man can desire no more. Alf recalls to his wife, in a passage of great beauty, the joys of their early love, and offers to bear her away. She answers that it is too late—the bloom of their youth is past—and they may only meet again, face to face, in Heaven. Ålf turns away in despair : he hears in the distance the fatal sentence of the tribunal, “Woe! Woe!” and knows his hour is come. He quits Aldona, and retires to a turret in the Castle of Marienbourg, where he waits for his murderers, and drinks poison when he hears them coming. He meets them, casts the insignia of his rank under his feet, and exclaims,

“ My sins !-In truth I am prepared to die;
What would ye more? My deeds !-look then around-
Look at your armies wasted--towns destroyed
Fair fields devastated. Hear ye the wind
Laden with clouds of snow ? Hear ye the howl
Of the lean dogs who feast upon your hosts,
And fight for your remains ? 'And it is 1-
I who have done this—all these hydra-heads
Swept at a blow. Oh! I am strong and proud-
For, Samson-like, I shook the column's base,
Tore down the edifice, and perish there."
He spoke and died. Didst hear from yon lone tower
That long sad groan ?-in sooth the breast that heaved it
Shall never heave again.

Such is the sketch of the poem of Konrad Wallenrod, which combines all the strength of an oriental fancy with all the truth of an epic poem. All the principal characters and events are historical, as may be seen in Kotzebue's work illustrative of the history of Prussia, to which Mickiewicz refers us in a note.

The plan of the story is perhaps somewhat too intricate, and in certain parts the action is suspended too long, more particularly by the long adieu which Alf makes to Aldona, at the moment when the reader foresees his inevitable fate, and presses on to the conclusion. As a tale, we do not uphold it as a perfect work; but the noble thoughts spread all over it, the grand language in which they are clothed, the extreme felicity of the comparisons in which Mickiewicz abounds, and which resemble the gems with which Moore is wont to adorn bis lighter pieces, altogether form a worthy claim for the author to rank among the first poets of our age.

We have lived to see the day when, by a curious coincidence, the command of the army invading Lithuania and Poland is vested in the bands of a native. We do not prophesy, and we cannot even hope that Paskewitch will be another Wallenrod; but this much we know, that the spirit of resistance, and the strength of national feeling which are awakened in those countries are owing, in no small degree, to the songs of the minnesingers and the bards, whose notes have kept alive in past ages the halfextinguished embers of patriotism, and of those who have in these latter days contributed to fan them once more into a flame ; for, to use the words of Mickiewicz, with which we shall conclude:

Songs of the people! ye who do unite,

As with an arch, the deeds of former days
With our own time-in you the nations write

Their thoughts and records; and their trophies blaze
In you. Proud songs !-untouch'd your glory stays.

If your own people outrage not your pride,
Ye are the watchmen of the warriors' praise,

Like guardian-angels on the earth ye bide ;-
Ye have an angel's voice-an angel's strength beside.

Flames may destroy the picture--robber's bear

The wealth of ages from us, but the song,
Escapes and lives-breathes in the mountain air

When men reject her, and she flies the throng;
Still mid the ruins do her notes prolong

Her story. Just as some tame nightingale
May from a burning house fly forth among

The glades, and nestle in some lonely vale,
Where to the wanderer's ear she tells her nightly tale.

The forests of my country disappear,

My weary thoughts are chill and desolate.
My lute is silent, for too oft I hear

My country's lamentations for her fate.
Can I recall the accents of the great ?

Yes ! in some hearts there lives a secret fire,
As in a crystal lamp all decorate

With painted scenes ; place in its breast some fire,
Still will its beauty shine its light may all admire.

Ah! would to God that I could pour my soul

My burning soul into my hearer's breast,
Snatch at the visions of the past, which roll

Like clouds away, and by my songs addressed
To my faint brethren, wake them from their rest-

Perchance their country's voice may reach them still-
Still touch their souls, still make them feel how blest

In glory were their fathers' lives, until
They gain their fathers' soul--their fathers' ardent vill.

A.

[ocr errors]

PRUSSIA AND HER MILITARY RESOURCES. MR. EDITOR,—There are few places on the continent where an idler may spend more agreeably a few weeks during the summer months than at Spa, or Aix-la-Chapelle.

Our party, assembled one day during the month of August at the table d'hôte of the Hôtel de Hollande at the latter place, was startled by the abrupt and rather unceremonious entrance of the aubergiste, who with a theatrical air, and intonation of voice, worthy of Talma, exclaimed, “ Messieurs, preparez-vous pour des grands événemens; l'armée Française est en marche vers la Belgique,”-handing to us at the same time a number of the Moniteur which contained the official announcement of that event. The march of the French army created the strongest sensation at Aix, and for some days continued to occupy the attention, to the exclusion of every other subject, of the crowds of idlers who yearly flock thither, in pursuit of health or dissipation ; and the all-engrossing excitement of the redoute for a moment lost its attraction. It was really amusing to hearken to the reports and conjectures in hourly circulation : first came the report of the defeat of the Belgians and the death of Leopold; next, the Dutch were said to have entered Brussels, and the French Mons; while the Prussian army, it was confidently asserted, had received orders to make an en avant movement to support the Dutch. A certain coterie that professed to be in the secrets of every cabinet in Europe, pronounced with an awful shake of their heads, that a general war was absolutely inevitable. A few days, however, served to show the falsehood of the reports, and the fallacy of the conjectures of these pseudo-politicians. An armistice was concluded; and three days after the arrival of this intelligence, my travelling companion and myself started for the Belgian territory.

At St. Treond, we fell in with the Dutch army, operating a retrograde movement on their own frontier. These troops appeared in the highest state of organization and discipline; the heavy cavalry was superb, and the horses excellent; they appeared elated with success, and some of the officers with whom we conversed, inveighed in bitter terms against the intervention of France, which had robbed them of the fruits of their victory. The military mania appeared to have been strong among the Belgians, at least if the assumption of the outward appearance of the soldier might be taken as a criterion ; for, on the line of route, we observed that even the peasantry had mustachios, and wore their foraging caps with a decided military air.

We reached Louvain on the eve of the grand review of the French troops ; and so full were all the hotels, that we found some difficulty in arranging our quarters. Almost every spot in the Low Countries has, at one time or other, been the scene of some murderous conflict. On the morning of the review, the French army was drawn up on precisely the same ground which during the revolutionary war had been the scene of some hard fighting between their countrymen and the Austrians.

It was a martial scene, one too that forcibly brought back to our minds the vivid recollections of by-gone days. The infantry weie

November, 1831.-Vol. II. NO. VII.

T

in contiguous close columns of battalions by companies; the cavalry on the left, in columns of squadrons by demi-divisions; the artillery occupied the right of the line.

King Leopold came on the ground at an early hour, accompanied by the two French princes, two remarkably fine young men, with a distinguished military air, Marshal Gerard, and a most brilliant staff. As Leopold rode down the line, he appeared pale and dejected; perhaps the slight sprinkling of English uniforms which appeared on the ground, led back his thoughts to his quiet retreat at Claremont, and saddened his brow.

The troops defiled past the king in open columns. The infantry appeared to be composed of mere boys; their marching was loose and unsteady, and their tenue, to disciplinarians, was in bad taste. The wheeling of the cavalry was good, but they were badly mounted, and the condition of their appointments would have impressed the spectator with the idea that they had just come off a hard campaign. Even the two crack regiments of the French princes, the Hussars d'Orleans and the Lancers de Nemours, had nothing of that dashing appearance which we expect to find in the cavalry of France. The 'materiel of the artillery was however superb; it contained in its ranks many distinguished officers of the Bonapartean school; its appearance altogether asserted the superiority of France in that arm. The staff I was told was well composed. There was no maneuvring, but en revanche we had abundance of enthusiasm, both French and Belgian. The French troops on the ground were decidedly inferior in discipline and organization to the Prussian army we had so recently seen; an opinion in which a young Prussian officer of hulans, who rode near me, appeared to coincide, for as the French troops marched past, I observed a smile of derision curl his mustachio'd lip.

A most deadly hatred exists, and has long existed, between the French and Prussian nations : the former affect to despise their German foes, and vauntingly assert that, single-handed, the conquest of Prussia would be for them but a mere promenade militaire. This tendency to underrate the power of Prussia, a disposition which has crept into even well-informed circles in this country, can only bave arisen from ignorance of the immense military resources of the Prussian monarchy. Prussia has at this moment on the right bank of the Rhine, 200,000 of the finest troops in the world, with a train of 250 pieces of artillery. At Dusseldorf and its neighbourhood, there is, farther, an immense army of reserve, with a formidable train of artillery; while the chain of fortresses which extend from Cleves to the frontiers of Rhenish Bavaria, are abundantly furnished with every munition of war, and have been rendered, nearly impregnable. These troops are in the highest possible state of efficiency, kept ready to move at a moment's notice, panting for an appeal to arms, and confident of success.

Instructed by her past misfortunes, and struck with the geographical configuration of her territory, which “ like a ribbon” floats over the surface of the European continent, from the frontiers of France to those of Russia--Prussia has felt that she exists but through ber army; the anxious solicitude of the government has

therefore been directed almost exclusively to this object, and the genius of Scharnhorst has produced one of the most perfect military systems the world ever saw. A brief outline of this famous system will enable the reader to form some idea of the military resources of the Prussian monarchy.

The Prussian army is raised by conscription, and is of two kinds: 1st, the line ; 2ndly, the landwehr, consisting of two bans. In the line, every male inhabitant of the country is obliged to serve five years, three of which they must be present with the regiment: after that period they are allowed to go home, and to serve the remaining two years in the landwehr; but in the event of a war breaking out, during that time, they are liable to be again called back to their corps, and to be kept with it till the expiration of the five years : they are then finally dismissed from the line, and join the landwehr, of which there are two regiments attached to every regiment of the line. To the first ban they belong till the age of thirty-five, when they are removed to the second ban ; and leaving the latter again, at the age of forty-five, they join the garrison battalions, which are not obliged to march out of their circle, and on which devolve the milder duties of the defence of fortresses. Two regiments of the line, two of cavalry, and a battery, form a brigade. In war time, when the landwehr is added to the establishment, the whole form together a division of two or three brigades, according as the first class alone, or both classes of the landwehr are called out. A division includes, consequently, two regiments of infantry of the line, two or four of landwehr, four or six regiments of cavalry, and two or three batteries. Every regiment consists of three battalions of four companies each. The two first are battalion companies; the others, fusileer or light companies : the strength of each company is 200 rank and file. For the recruiting and organization of this force, the whole Prussian territory is divided into eight grand military divisions. Four regiments of infantry belong to each province, and must be constantly recruited by a conscription of their population. From this system it results, that the whole population of the country must be essentially military; and it is the peculiar feature of Scharnhorst's system, that in time of war it renders every male inhabitant of the Prussian monarchy available to military purposes, without withdrawing them in time of peace from their ordinary occupations. The landwehr are called out twice during the year, for the space of one month, for exercise. The men having already served three years in the line, the landwehr presents an efficient force little inferior to the regular army.

Nothing can be finer than the appearance of the Prussian troops under arms; they are all handsome young men, with an erect martial carriage : they perform with the utmost rapidity the most complex maneuvres, and are steady as walls. Their uniform is martial, beautifully made, and unvaried throughout the army. The over-nice attention of the king to the personal appearance of his troops has been much ridiculed; their swelling chests, padded arms, compressed waists, and flowing curls, giving them an appearance more suitable to the drawing-room than the camp. The officers are well instructed not only in the duties of their profession, but also in the general branches of literature and science : previous to receiving their com

« AnteriorContinuar »