XXVI. Theodore Körner

Another corps of volunteers leaving Berlin had arrived at Breslau, and just alighted from their wagons on the large market-place, called the "Ring," and received their tickets for quarters at the city hall. Two of these volunteers, emerging from the building, descended arm in arm the steps of the front staircase. They were two young men of slight forms and strangely youthful appearance. Not the faintest down was around their fresh lips, and white and delicate were their foreheads. But no one was surprised at their tender age, for people were accustomed nowadays to see lads emulate manhood, believing that courage did not depend on years. By the side of aged men, boys who had just been confirmed were seen to enter the ranks of the volunteers, and handle their muskets with the same strength and energy as veteran soldiers. No one, therefore, particularly noticed the youthful age of the two volunteers who came forth from the city hall, and were now crossing the place arm in arm.

"Now our lot is cast," said one of them, with a smile. "We are soldiers!"

"Yes, we are soldiers," cried the other, "and we shall be brave ones, Caroline!"

"Caroline!" echoed the other, in dismay. "How imprudent! Did we not leave our female names with our wearing apparel at Berlin with the Jew, Leonora?"

"Ah, and you call me, too, by my female name," said Leonora, with a gentle smile. "No matter! it is all right enough so long as no one hears it. We have no secrets from each other, and we are, therefore, allowed to call each other by the names received at the baptismal font."

"But before the world we call ourselves differently now; I am Charles Petersen, and you--what is your name now, Leonora?"

"My name is Charles Renz," said Leonora, smiling. "That was the name of my dear teacher, to whom I am indebted for what little knowledge I have acquired, and who originally induced me to take the step I have ventured upon. He had been a soldier a long time, and loved his country and the royal family. History was his favorite study, and he told me of the heroic deeds of ancient nations in their struggles for liberty. His eyes beamed with transcendent ardor, and the words flowed from his lips like a stream of poetry. He taught me that, when the country was in danger, it was the duty of the women to take up arms in its defence, and that there was no more beautiful death than that on the field of honor. Joan of Orleans and the Maid of Saragossa were his favorite heroines, and he always called Queen Louisa the martyr of German liberty. When she died, three years ago, the first idea that struck me was, how my old teacher would bear up under this grief, and that it was incumbent upon me to comfort him. I hastened to him, and found him sad and disheartened. 'Now my hopes for Germany are gone,' he said, 'for the genius of German liberty has left us and fled to heaven. Beautiful and noble Queen Louisa might, perhaps, have still inspired the Germans to rise in arms against the tyrant; but she is dead, and liberty has died with her.' 'No,' I cried, 'no! liberty will blossom from her grave. Germany will rise to avenge the martyrdom of the queen; Germany's wrath will be kindled anew by the sufferings of this august victim that Napoleon's tyranny has wrung from us. Yes, the country will rise to avenge Louisa.' He gazed at me a long while, and his tears ceased to flow. After a prolonged pause he said: 'If it be as you say, if Germany take up arms, what will you do, Leonora? Will you stay at home, knit stockings, and scrape lint, or will you sacrifice your heart, your blood, your life, and be a heroine?' I exclaimed, joyously: 'I will sacrifice all to the fatherland, and help to achieve the victory, or die on the battle-field!' The eyes of my old teacher were radiant with delight. 'Swear it to me, Leonora,' he cried, 'swear to me, by all that is sacred--swear by the memory of our sainted Queen Louisa!' I laid my hand on the Bible, and swore by the memory of Queen Louisa to fight like a man and a hero. I am now about to fulfil my oath, and, as my dear old teacher has died, I have adopted his name as my inheritance, and call myself Charles Renz. It seems to me it is a doubly sacred duty now to be brave, for I must do honor to my teacher's name."

"And you will do so, I am sure," cried Caroline. "And I will do so, too, Leonora. No teacher has impelled me to love my native land. This sentiment is spontaneous; perhaps because I have nothing else to love. I am alone in the world; my dear parents are dead; I have no brothers or sisters, no lover; and inasmuch as I have nothing to love, I gave up my heart to hatred. I hate the French, and, above all, Napoleon, who has brought so much misery on Europe, and for ten years has spilt rivers of blood. It is hatred that has incited me-- hatred has forced the sword into my hand, and when we go into battle, I shall not only call, like you, 'Long live the fatherland!' but add, 'Death to the tyrant Napoleon, the enemy of the Germans!' Yes, I hate this Bonaparte more intensely than I love my own life; and, as I could not stab him with the needle, with which I made caps and bonnets for the fair ladies of Berlin, I have cast it aside, and taken up the sword. That is my whole history--the history of the ci- devant milliner Caroline Peters, the future horseman Charles Petersen."

"What!" ejaculated Leonora, in amazement. "You intend to enlist in the cavalry?"

"If they will accept me. I am well versed in horsemanship, for when my father was still living I rode out with him every day. He was a much-respected farmer in the suburbs of Stralsund, and owned many horses. During the siege of Stralsund he lost every thing, and we were reduced to extreme poverty. My father died of grief, and since that time I have not again mounted a horse. But I think I still know how to manage one, and am not afraid of doing so."

"But why will you? Why not remain in the infantry, which would be much more natural and simple?"

"Why? Shall I tell you the truth, Leonora? Let me tell you, then, confidentially; it is because long marches would incommode me. And you? Would it not be better for you to follow my example?"

"No," said Leonora, "I shall remain in the infantry, and become one of Lützow's riflemen--a member of the Legion of Vengeance.--I believe we have arrived at the house designated to us. Major von Lützow lives here; the numerous volunteers who are going in and out show that we have reached his headquarters. Now, Caroline, farewell! and let me greet you, friend Charles Petersen!"

"Leonora, farewell! and let me greet you, friend Charles Renz!" They shook hands and looked into each other's glowing faces.

"Forward now, comrade!" said Caroline, walking toward the house

"Forward!" echoed Leonora, jubilantly.

Arm in arm they walked across the gloomy hall to the low, brown door, entering the room pointed out to them as Major von Lützow's recruiting-office. It was a large, low room; long tables, painted brown, such as are to be found in small taverns or beer-saloons, stood on both sides of the smoky whitewashed walls; low stools, of the same description, were beside them, and constituted, with the tables, the only furniture of this hall, where the citizens and mechanics had formerly taken their beer, and where now the volunteers came to take the oath of fidelity to the fatherland and Major von Lützow. In the middle of this room stood a young lady of rare beauty. A plain black dress enveloped her form, reaching to her neck and veiling her bust. Her face was very white and delicate, a complexion to be found only among the fair daughters of the North; her blond hair fell down in heavy ringlets beside her faintly- flushed cheeks; a fervent light was beaming from her large light- blue eyes.

"That is Madame von Lützow, to whom the travellers in the stage- coach alluded," said Leonora to herself; "it is the count's noble daughter, who poured a glass of water over her hand because a Frenchman had kissed it, and who descended from her father's castle to marry a poor Prussian officer, whom she loved for the scars on his forehead."

The beautiful lady approached the two young volunteers with a sweet, winning smile. "You wish to see Major von Lützow, do you not?" she inquired. "Unfortunately, he is not at home; pressing business matters prevent him from personally welcoming the young heroes who wish to join him. He has charged me with doing so in his place, and you may believe that I bid you welcome with as joyous a heart as my husband would do."

"Oh, we are so happy to be received by you," said Leonora, smiling, "for we were told at Berlin of noble and beautiful Madame von Lützow enlisting the Legion of Vengeance, and who is so true a representative of the great idea of our struggle. For our struggle is one both of vengeance and love. Since then we have longed to be enlisted by you, madame, and to take our oath of fidelity."

"I accept it in the name of Major von Lützow," said the lady, with a gentle smile. "Here are your numbers, and now give me your names that I may enter them in the recruiting book." She approached the table on which the large open book was lying, and quickly noted down the names which the two volunteers gave, affixing the numbers already given. "Now, then," she said, kindly, nodding to them, "you are enlisted in the sacred service of the fatherland, and I hope you will do your duty. I hope you--"

At this moment the door was opened hastily, and a young man rushed into the room.

"Theodore Körner!" ejaculated the lady, greeting him cordially.

"Yes, Madame von Lützow, it is I," exclaimed the young man, saluting the two volunteers--"it is I, and I come to you a prey to boundless despair!"

Madame von Lützow hastened to him, and looked with an expression of heart-felt sympathy into his handsome, pale face.

"Yes, indeed," she said, "your face looks like a cloud from which thunder and lightning may be expected at any moment. What is the matter? What has happened to you, my poet and hero?"

"Come, let us go," whispered Caroline to her friend.

"No, let us stay," said Leonora, in a low voice. "If it is a secret, they will bid us go; but I should like to know what ails the fine- looking young man whom Madame von Lützow calls a poet and a hero. Oh, I have never yet seen a poet, and this one is so handsome!"

"Let us sit down on this bench," whispered Caroline, "and--"

"Hush, let us listen!" said Leonora, sitting down.

"It is not that, then?" exclaimed the lady, who in the mean time had continued her conversation with the young man. "Your father has not rebuked his son for the quick resolve he had taken."

"No, no," said Theodore Körner, hastily, "on the contrary, my father approves my determination to enlist, and sends me his blessing. I received a very touching letter from him this morning."

"It is his affianced bride, then, that has driven our poet to despair, because he loves her more ardently than the fatherland," said Madame von Lützow. "It is true, I cannot blame her for it, for the woman that loves has but one country--the heart of her lover, and she is homeless as soon it turns from her. But this is precisely the grand and beautiful sacrifice--that you give up for the sake of your country all that we otherwise call the greatest and holiest blessings of life--your affianced bride; your pleasant, comfortable existence; a fine, honorable position, and a future full of a poet's fame and splendor. It is, indeed, a sacrifice, but a sacrifice for which the fatherland will thank you, and which will incite thousands to emulate your noble example."

"Would it were so!" exclaimed Körner, enthusiastically, raising his large black eyes to heaven; "would that our patriotic ardor struck all hearts like a thunderbolt, and kindled a conflagration, whose flames would shed a lustre over the remotest times! I do not deny that I felt how great was the sacrifice I made, but this very feeling filled me with enthusiasm. All the stars of my happiness were shining upon me in mild beauty, but I was not allowed to look up to them because it was the night of adversity; but now that this night is about to vanish, and a new morning is dawning, my stars, too, must fade before the sun of liberty. That was the sacred conviction which drove me away from Vienna, from my betrothed bride, and caused me to cast aside all that otherwise imparts value to life. A great era requires great hearts. I felt strong enough to go out and bare my breast to the storm. Could I do nothing but sing songs in honor of my victorious brethren? No one would have then loved and esteemed me any longer; my parents would have been ashamed of me, and my affianced bride would have contemptuously turned away from the cowardly poet. Therefore, I gave up every thing for the sake of my native land. It is true, my parents and my Emma will weep for me. May God comfort them! I could not spare them this blow. It is not much that I risk my life; but that this life is adorned with love, friendship, and joy, and that I nevertheless risk it, is a sacrifice that can be compensated only by love of country, more sacred than any other love, and to it we should devote our life. [Footnote: His own words.--Vide "Theodore Körner's Works," edited by Carl Streckfuss p. 54] My noble father feels and knows this, and so does my betrothed."

"And yet, agreed though you are with yourself and your dear ones, why this despair?" asked Madame von Lützow, with a smile.

Körner looked down in confusion, and then raised his flaming eyes with a strange expression. "Ah, madame," he exclaimed, "I divine your stratagem; it is that of an angel, and, therefore, worthy of you."

"What stratagem do yon mean?" she asked, with a semblance of surprise.

"The angelic stratagem by which you comforted me in my grief, without knowing its cause. When I rushed so impolitely into this room, I told you that I was in despair. And you, instead of urging me to tell you at once the cause of it, inquired for the great affairs of my life, and whether my affliction came from my parents or my affianced bride. You thereby wished to admonish me that these momentous affairs and relations of my life, not having lost their harmony, my grief was, perhaps, but a passing dissonance, and that it really might not be worth while to give way to despair on account of it. I am sure, madame, I have understood you: was not this the object of your questions?"

Madame von Lützow nodded gently. "You have understood me," she said. "I think in all our grievances we should, before giving way to vexation or despair, lay the great questions of life before us, and inquire whether that which weighs us down touches them, whether it strikes at our true happiness. Now, if this is not the case, we should bear the grievance lightly, and not consider it a misfortune. To feel greatly what is great, and to heed little what is little, is the true wisdom of life."

"You are right, as you always are," said Theodore Körner, reverentially bowing to the beautiful lady, "and let me penitently confess, then, that I have this time heeded greatly what is little and have considered what grieved me a great misfortune. But now that I have confessed my guilt, the guardian angel of the volunteers must have mercy upon me and come to my assistance. For something very unpleasant has really befallen me, and no philosophy can dispute it."

"Well, confess what it is," exclaimed Madame von Lützow, smiling.

"You know, madame, that our Legion of Vengeance is to be solemnly consecrated at the village of Rochau, at the foot of the Zobtenberg, on Sunday next?"

"Of course I do, and I shall accompany Lützow and the volunteers in order to witness the ceremony."

"At the village church we are all to appear for the first time in our black uniforms, to receive the preacher's blessing, and to be consecrated as soldiers of the fatherland. I myself have written a poem, adapted to the air of an anthem, for this solemn occasion, and all my comrades will sing it. After the sermon the volunteers in the church will take the oath of war upon the swords of their officers. I have been ardently yearning for this day, and now I shall probably be unable to participate in its services, for--do not laugh, madame, at my insignificant mishap--the tailor refuses to make me a uniform by that time, and in citizen's clothes, as a fashionable dandy, I really cannot appear among the brave men who will proudly walk about in their litefkaes. The tailor says it is impossible for him to make a uniform at so short a notice; he pretends to be overwhelmed with work, and does not know where to find hands. Now you, the helping, advising, and protecting genius of the volunteers, are my last consolation and resort. If you send for the cruel tailor, and tell him how important it is for me to participate in that ceremony, your words will render possible what now he declares impossible. Therefore, send for the tailor, madame; he fortunately lives close by, in the court-yard, in the large rear building; order him to make me a uniform, and he will have to do so, for who could withstand your words?"

"Well, I will try," said Madame von Lützow, smiling. "I will see whether my words are so impressive as to move a tailor's heart."

"And if he is unable to comply with your wishes because he lacks assistants," said Leonora, hastily rising from her seat near the door, and approaching Körner and Madame von Lützow, "I offer myself as an assistant, for I am a tailor."

"So am I," exclaimed Caroline, vividly. "I know, too, how to ply the needle, and am ready to assist in sewing a comrade's uniform."

"Ah, the volunteers whom I have just enlisted, and whose pardon I have to ask for having forgotten them," cried Madame Von Lützow, smiling.

"We have rather to ask your pardon for staying here," said Leonora. "But we are indebted to you and to the poet Theodore Körner for the most soul-stirring sentiments, and it seems to me as though we have received only now the true consecration for the future that lies before ns. Now, that I know what great sacrifices one may joyously make, I feel how incumbent it was upon me to make them too, and I have no remorse at leaving my parents and my brothers--It is certainly true, as the poet said: 'A great era requires great hearts!' And therefore I will try, to the best of my power, to have a great heart, that I may be worthy of our great era."

"A great and noble heart is beaming from your eyes, my friend," said Theodore Körner, offering his hand to Leonora. "I greet you both as dear comrades of mine, and beg you to treat me as one."

"Yes, we will do so," exclaimed Caroline, shaking hands with the poet. "And we will prove it directly by going to that tailor and offering to assist him in making the uniform of our esteemed lieutenant."

"Softly, my friend!" laughed Theodore Körner, "I have not yet risen so high; I am no lieutenant."

"But you will be soon," said Caroline, ardently; "for one may easily read in your face that you are born to command, and not to obey. We volunteers are to elect our own officers. Well, then, I shall vote for Theodore Körner." [Footnote: Theodore Körner was elected lieutenant by his comrades on the 24th of April.]

"So shall I!" ejaculated Leonora.

"But while indulging in such dreams as to the future, we forgot the grim tailor," said Theodore Körner, smiling. "Madame von Lützow, I beseech you, pity my distress, and send for him, that your eloquence may soften his heart."

"But suppose he does not comply?" asked Madame von Lützow. "It would be wrong, too, to occupy his time while so busy. You say the man lives near?"

"Scarcely fifty steps from here."

"Well, then, conduct me to him!" said Madame von Lützow, "we will pay a visit to him as Torquato Tasso once went to the Duke di Ferrara. You, my two young friends, will please accompany us, that we may present to him two willing assistants. Come!"

"Yes, madame, and may your eloquence prevail!" exclaimed Körner, opening the door, and posting himself beside it in order to allow the lady to pass out. Graceful and smiling, she hastened through the gloomy room and approached the door, followed by the two volunteers with their rosy faces and bright eyes. When about to cross the threshold, she stood and gazed archly at Körner, "Stop," she said, "I have to impose a condition. If we are to assist a poet, he must in return pay us a poet's tribute. I shall not cross this threshold before you recite one of your new war-songs."

"Yes, a song!" cried the two volunteers.

"Well, you are silent?" asked Madame von Lützow, smiling. "Strike the chords of your lyre, and let us hear a battle-hymn!"

"No, not a battle-hymn," said Theodore Körner; "that requires the accompaniment of clashing arms and booming cannon. But to the fair patroness of the Legion of Vengeance I will communicate, although it is not completed, my hymn to the guardian angel of German liberty-- Queen Louisa!" Raising his dark-blue eyes to heaven, he recited the following lines, addressed "to Queen Louisa:"

"Du Heilige I hor Deiner Kinder Flehen, Es dringe machtig anf zo deinern Licht. Kannst wieder freundlich auf uns niedersehen Verklarter Engel! Ifinger weine nicht! Benn Preussens Adler soll zum Kampfe wehen. Es drangt Dein Volk sich jubelnd zu der Pflicht, Und Jeder wahlt, und keinen siehst du leben, Den freien Ted fur ein bezwung nes Leben."

"Wir lagen noch in feige Nacht gehettet; Da rief nach Dir Deiu besseres Geschick, An die unwurd'ge Zeit warst Du gekettet, Zur Rache mahnte Dein gebroch'ner Blick. So hast Du uns den deutschen Muth gerettet. Jetzt sieh auf uns, sieh auf Dein Volk zuruck, Wie alle Herzen treu und muthig brennen! Nun woll uns auch die Deinen wieder nennen!"

"Und wie einst, alle Krafte zu beleben, Ein Heil'genbild, fur den gerechten Krieg Dem Heeresbanner schutzend zugegeben, Als Oriflamme in die Lufte stieg: So soil Dein Bild auf unsern Fabnen schweben, Und soil uns leuchten durch die Nacht zum Sieg! Louise sei der Schutzgeist deutscher Sache! Louise sei das Losungswort zur Rache!"

[Footnote: O sainted one I now let thy children's prayer, As incense, rise to realms of heavenly light; Beholding us thou canst' with gladness hear, And tears no more may dim thy vision bright: For Prussia's standard in the battle near Will nerve thy people to their ancient might. Thy sons in crowded ranks await the strife, Preferring a free death to slavery's life.

Enthralled in long and timid gloom we lay; When Heaven recalled thee, and thy fetters broke Which bound thee to thy times' unworthy sway, Thy dying eyes of future vengeance spoke. Thus didst thou save on that sad final day The German honor, and our courage woke. Behold us now, as we all fear resign, With glowing hearts, and once more call us thine!

As erst to serried legions in the field, A sacred symbol, as a golden flame, Lit up the battle-standard, and revealed For whom the victory's just though bloody claim: So let us, 'neath thy bannered image, wield A valiant sword--our "oriflamme" thy name-- The pledge of honor and the gathering cry, To live for Prussia's glory, or to die!]

"Louisa shall be the guardian angel of the German cause and the battle-cry of vengeance!" echoed the two volunteers.

Madame von Lützow said nothing. She stood, with her white hands clasped, as if in prayer, and her sweet face turned heavenward. Tears were glittering in her eyes; and, giving her hand to the poet, she said in a low voice: "You have paid us a tribute worthy of you. Thanks! And now come!" She quickly crossed the threshold toward the court-yard. Körner was by her side; Leonora and Caroline, the two volunteers, followed her.

"The four windows on the ground-floor yonder are those of the tailor's shop," said Körner.

Madame von Lützow nodded, and walked across the wide court-yard toward the house.

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher