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:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans
Post
Kid Chocolate’s Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Cuban eyes often look close to tears.”
Illustration by the author
Article
Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If you short-circuit the bottom, you threaten the entire cycle,” Joye told me. “Without a healthy ocean, we’ll all be dead.”
Illustration by John Ritter

Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:

15

Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.

A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today