Wolgast on the Peene. Hard by the Usedom ferry. In the castle of the Dukes of Pomerania. Anno 1633. Upon a black-draped bier, amid shimmer of candle-light, lies the body of Gustavus Adolphus. Frederick William, the Electoral Crown Prince, the future “Great Elector,” takes a last, long look at the dead King and speaks:
The time has come! Farewell, most noble Uncle,
Ere thou forth farest to thy Fatherland.
Sweden’s tall ship waits even now to bear
The noble relics of her nation’s glory;
Winds swell her sails, silent the steersman stands
Grasping the helm, yet still must fix his eyes
On the vacant deck, black-draped for its sole burden,
A warrior, a dead King, who journeys home
Beneath grey skies over a greyer ocean.
Rememberest thou, my father’s sister’s Consort,
How scarce two years, two fleeting years, have passed
Since first thou landed’st here, leading a mightier host
Than since great Caesar’s day frighted the world,
All high of heart, and ardent as their Lord
Stoutly to fight and further the new Faith,—
To fight and fighting fall if such their fate?
Ah, with what joy I sprang to meet thee then,
My father’s and my mother’s messenger,
To bid thee welcome! Frankfort was the place
On Oder’s strand where first I saw thy face.
Thy two eyes, blue as steel, like swords did search
The soul behind my darker gaze; thou gav’st
A word that since has kept me like a blessing,
“Lo here! Here is a lad shall shake the world!”
Once more, great King, lift those sunk lids upon me,
Thou mighty Monarch, open thine eyes once more,
Let me again feel their blue light upon me—
Thou hearest not! the pallid lips are silent.
88 (To the watchers)
Nay, yet a moment, cover not the body!
Let me look once again upon that wound
That brought him death in his victorious hour.
Who fired the bullet? Was it friend or foeman?
Some traitor, or the blind destructive fire
Of Wallenstein’s fell troopers? Tell his name,
Thou cruel rent in the tanned leather collar,
Blackened with powder smoke, evilly scorched!
Who made thee? Come, his name I’ll conjure from thee!
I swear the King’s death I’ll revenge upon him,
And Nuremberg’s thousand tortures wait to deal
A thousand deaths to him who slew the best!
Thou hast no tongue! And he, why he forgives
In death, even as Christ upon the Cross forgave
All foes! Farewell, Defender of the Faith,
The time is come! Silent before thy silence
Let me now stand. For every sound affronts
The sanctity about him. Protestant,
Thou diedst, for the true faith that Luther taught,
With blood hast sealed thy witness to the Gospel.
Germania weeps for thee, her faithful lover,
Who for her freedom didst forsake thy life.
Bear him aloft, the Champion of the Spirit,
The dead clay carry to your Swedish shores!
The dead clay! Greet thy daughter, mighty Monarch,
Tell her this heart’s dear hope, one day to hold
Her in these arms, and with her thee, my father!
Thou leav’st us, Sire—and yet ‘tis but thy dust,
The cold white ashes of a burned-out fire
That for a season lit and warmed our world.
So the great King is gathered to his fathers.
But here, secure in immortality,
Sweden’s greatest, wed to Germany in Spirit,
Remains for aye! If yet the power of Rome
Have not enslaved us, praise is due to thee,
Our second Luther, sent from northern seas,
As God raised Armin from Germania’s womb
To be our shield. Take thou my tears, O King,
The last best tribute that this land can give—
Now bear him towards his immortality!