No Comment — December 21, 2007, 7:00 am

Klopstock’s No Wars of Aggression!

david-napoleon

Kein Eroberungskrieg! So scholl das heilige Wort einst,
Das ihr uns gabt, verehret, als nie verehret ein Volk ward;
Und (so deucht’ es uns) Stimmen Unsterblicher wiederholten:
Künftig nicht mehr Eroberungskrieg.

Und jetzt führet ihr ihn, den allverderbenden, seyd gar
Große Krieger, ersteigt mit schlagendem Herzen, mit heißem
Durste nach Ruhm, im Orkan der Leidenschaft, des Kampfspiels
Schimmernde Höh, die . . . Abgrund ist.

Lernet den Schauplatz kennen, auf dem ihr groß seyd: Auf ihm brüllt
Beifall der Löwe euch zu, heult euch vom Triumph der Wolf vor,
Schreit mit der feinen neronischen Stimm euch von nievergeßnem
Ewigen Namen der Geier vor.

Wenn ihr auch ganz das Gebäu des Staats umstürzetet, mußte
Dennoch die nievernommene, die menschliche, edle Verheissung
Unerschüttert stehn in der Mitte der großen Trümmer,
Stehn wie der Fels im Ozean!

No wars of aggression! So rang once the sacred word
Given to us, honored as never a people was honored;
And (so it seemed to us) the voices of the immortals repeated:
Let there be no more wars of aggression!

And yet now you conduct one, a war that brings destruction everywhere; indeed you are
Great warriors, scaling with pounding hearts, with hot
Thirst for fame, in a storm of passion, the shimmering heights of
This war game, which… is a precipice.

Get to know that stage upon which you are great:
The lion roars at you there, the wolf howls in triumph before you,
The vulture screams to you with its fine Neronian voice
About unforgettable, eternal fame.

True you may topple the organs of the state,
But will that humane, that most noble promise not stand
Unshaken in the middle of the vast ruins,
Like a rock rising up from the ocean!

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Das Versprechen (1795) in: Werke, vol. 2 (Oden), pp. 185-86 (Göschen ed. 1798)(S.H. transl.)

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