No Comment — December 31, 2007, 1:18 am

Opitz’s Poem of Consolation in Time of War

durer-4horse-large

Wie manche schöne Statt,
Die sonst das gantze Land durch Pracht gezieret hat,
Ist jetzund Asch unnd Staub? Die Mauren sind verheeret,
Die Kirchen hingelegt, die Häuser umbgekehret.
Wie wann ein starcker Fluß, der unvorsehens kömpt,
Die frische Saate stürtzt, die Aecker mit sich nimpt,
Die Wälder niderreißt, läufft auszer seinen Wegen,
So hat man auch den Plitz und schwefelichte Regen
Durch der Geschütze Schlund mit grimmiger Gewalt,
Daß alles Land umbher erzittert und erschallt,
Gesehen mit der Lufft hin in die Stätte fliegen;
Deß Rauches Wolcken sind den Wolcken gleich gestiegen,
Der Feuerflocken See hat alles überdeckt
Und auch den wilden Feind im Lager selbst erschreckt.
Das harte Pflaster hat geglüet und gehitzet,
Die Thürne selbst gewanckt, das Ertz darauff geschwitzet;
Viel Menschen, die der Schaar der Kugeln sind entrannt,
Sind mitten in die Glut gerathen und verbrannt,
Sind durch den Dampff erstickt, verfallen durch die Wände;
Was übrig blieben ist, ist kommen in die Hände
Der ärgsten Wüterey, so, seyt die Welt erbaut
Von Gott gestanden ist, die Sonne hat geschaut.
Der Alten graues Haar, der jungen Leute Weynen,
Das Klagen, Ach und Weh der Groszen und der Kleinen,
Das Schreyen in gemein von Reich und Arm geführt
Hat diese Bestien im minsten nicht gerührt.
Hier halff kein Adel nicht, hier ward kein Stand geachtet,
Sie musten alle fort, sie wurden hingeschlachtet,
Wie wann ein grimmer Wolff, der in den Schaffstall reißt,
Ohn allen Unterscheyd die Lämmer nider beißt.
Der Mann hat müssen sehn sein Ehebette schwächen,
Der Töchter Ehrenblüth’ in seinen Augen brechen,
Und sie, wann die Begier nicht weiter ist entbrandt,
Unmenschlich untergehn durch ihres Schänders Hand.

How many a beautiful city,
Which once ornamented the whole country with its splendor,
Is now but dust and ashes? The walls are devastated,
The churches pulled down, the houses toppled.
As if a strong river, coming from nowhere,
Plunges over the freshly sown earth, ripping the fields with it,
Tears down the forrest, running outside of its banks,
So we experience the lightening and sulfurous rains
Brought by cannons’ gullets with their furious power,
It makes the countryside quake and resonate,
Flying with the air itself into the cities;
Clouds of smoke climb to the heavens as clouds themselves,
A sea of gunfire cinder covered everything
Startling even the wild enemy in his camp.
Hardened plaster glowed and heated,
The towers themselves shook, the metal fixtures began to sweat;
Many men, who fled before the hail of gunshot
Fell into the midst of the conflagration and burned,
Or suffocated in the smoke, or fell through the walls;
And what remained came into the hands
Of the vilest outrages, so, as the world was made,
Crafted by God, and the sun shined down upon it.
The gray-haired elderly, the wailing of the young,
The lamentations, cries and shouts of the great and small alike,
The common cries of rich and poor, yet none
Touched these beasts in the least.
It availed no one to be a noble, no social position was observed,
All had to flee, and all were slaughtered,
As if a ferocious wolf had torn into the sheep pen,
Ripping the throats of the lambs indifferently.
Must the man not have seen that he laid waste to his own marriage bed,
That he pierced the virginity of daughters with his eyes,
And they, when lust flares up no more,
Perished inhumanly by the hand of their violators.

Martin Opitz, Trost-Gedichte jn Widerwertigkeit dess Krieges: Erstes Buch (1633) in: Martin Opitz’ weltliche und geistliche Dichtung (1889), pp. 273-74 (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2016

Tearing Up the Map

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Land of Sod

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Only an Apocalypse Can Save Us Now

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Watchmen

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Acceptable Losses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Home

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Andrew Cockburn on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, Alan Jacobs on the disappearance of Christian intellectuals, a forum on a post-Obama foreign policy, a story by Alice McDermott, and more
Artwork by Ingo Günther
Article
Land of Sod·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Mike Slack
Article
The Watchmen·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Acceptable Losses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Alex Potter
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News

Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today