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A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. X.--JULY, 1862.--NO. LVII.
It is certain that since the time of Homer the deeds and circumstances
of war have not been felicitously sung. If any ideas have been the
subject of the strife, they seldom appear to advantage in the poems
which chronicle it, or in the verses devoted to the praise of heroes.
Remove the "Iliad," the "Nibelungenlied," some English, Spanish, and
Northern ballads, two or three Old-Bohemian, the war-songs composed by
Ziska, and one or two Romaic, from the field of investigation, and one
is astonished at the scanty gleaning of battle-poetry, camp-songs, and
rhymes that have been scattered in the wake of great campaigns, and
many of the above-mentioned are more historical or mythological than
descriptive of war. The quantity of political songs and ballads,
serious and satirical, which were suggested by the great critical
moments of modern history, is immense. Every country has, or might
have, its own peculiar collections. In France the troubles of the
League gave an impulse to song-writing, and the productions of
Desportes and Bertaut are relics of that time. Historical and
revolutionary songs abound in all countries; but even the
"Marseillaise," the gay, ferocious "Carmagnole," and the "Ca Ira,"
which somebody wrote upon a drum-head in the Champ de Mars, do not
belong to fighting-poetry. The actual business of following into the
field the men who represent the tendencies of any time, and of helping
to get through with the unavoidable fighting-jobs which they organize,
seems to inspire the same rhetoric in every age, and to reproduce the
same set of conventional war-images. The range of feeling is narrow;
the enthusiasm for great generals is expressed in pompous commonplaces;
even the dramatic circumstances of a campaign full of the movement and
suffering of great masses of men, in bivouac, upon the march, in the
gloomy and perilous defile, during a retreat, and in the hours when
wavering victory suddenly turns and lets her hot lips be kissed, are
scarcely seen, or feebly hinted at. The horizon of the battle-field
itself is limited, and it is impossible to obtain a total impression
of the picturesque and terrible fact. After the smoke has rolled away,
the historian finds a position whence the scenes deliberately reveal to
him all their connection, and reenact their passion. He is the real
poet of these solemn passages in the life of man. 
[Footnote 1: There is a little volume, called _Voices from the
Ranks_, in which numerous letters written by privates, corporals,
etc., in the Crimea, are collected and arranged. They are full of
incident and pathos. Suffering, daring, and humor, the love of home,
and the religious dependence of men capable of telling their own Iliad,
make this a very powerful book. In modern times the best literature of
a campaign will be found in private letters. We have some from Magenta
and Solferino, written by Frenchmen; the character stands very clear in
them. And here is one written by an English lad, who is describing a
landing from boats in Finland, when he shot his first man. The act
separated itself from the whole scene, and charged him with it.
Instinctively he walked up to the poor Finn; they met for the first
time. The wounded man quietly regarded him; he leaned on his musket,
and returned the fading look till it went out.]
One would think that a poet in the ranks would sometimes exchange the
pike or musket for the pen in his knapsack, and let all the feelings
and landscapes of war distil through his fine fancy from it drop by
drop. But the knapsack makes too heavy a draught upon the nervous
power which the cerebellum supplies for marching orders; concentration
goes to waste in doing porter's work; his tent-lines are the only kind
a poet cares for. If he extemporizes a song or hymn, it is lucky if it
becomes a favorite of the camp. The great song which the soldier lifts
during his halt, or on the edge of battle, is generally written
beforehand by some pen unconscious that its glow would tip the points
of bayonets, and cheer hearts in suspense for the first cannon-shot of
the foe. If anybody undertakes to furnish songs for camps, he prospers
as one who resolves to write anthems for a prize-committee to sit on:
it is sutler's work, and falls a prey to the provost-marshal.
Nor are poets any more successful, when they propose to make camp-life
and soldiers' feelings subjects for aesthetic consideration. Their
lines are smooth, their images are spirited; but as well might the
campaign itself have been conducted in the poet's study as its
situations be deliberately transferred there to verse. The
"Wallenstein's Camp" of Schiller is not poetry, but racy and sparkling
pamphleteering. Its rhyming does not prevent it from belonging to the
historical treatment of periods that are picturesque with many passions
and interests, that go clad in jaunty regimental costumes, and require
not to be idealized, but simply to be described. Goethe, in his
soldier's song in "Faust," idealizes at a touch the rough work, the
storming and marauding of the mediaeval _Lanzknecht;_ set to
music, it might be sung by fine _dilettanti_ tenors in garrison,
but would be stopped at any outpost in the field for want of the
countersign. But when Goethe describes what he saw and felt in the
campaign in France, with that lucid and observant prose, he reproduces
an actual situation. So does Chamisso, in that powerful letter which
describes the scenes in Hameln, when it was delivered to the French.
But Chamisso has written a genuine soldier's song, which we intend to
give. The songs of Koerner are well known already in various English
[Footnote 2: See translations of Von Zedlitz's _Midnight Review_,
of Follen's _Bluecher's Ball_, of Freihgrath's _Death of
Grabbe_, of Rueckert's _Patriot's Lament_, of Arndt's
_Field-Marshal Bluecher_, of Pfeffel's _Tobacco-Pipe_, of
Gleim's _War Song_, of Tegner's _Veteran_, (Swedish,) of
Rahbek's _Peter Colbjornsen_, (Danish,) _The Death-Song of
Regner Lodbrock_, (Norse,) and Koerner's _Sword-Song_, in Mr.
Longfellow's _Poets and Poetry of Europe_. See all of Koerner's
soldier songs well translated, the _Sword-Song_ admirably, by
Rev. Charles T. Brooks, in _Specimens of Foreign Literature_, Vol.
XIV. See, in Robinson's _Literature of Slavic Nations_, some
Russian and Servian martial poetry.]
But the early poetry which attempts the description of feats at arms
which were points in the welfare of nations--when, for instance,
Germany was struggling to have her middle class against the privileges
of the barons--is more interesting than all the modern songs which
nicely depict soldiers' moods. Language itself was fighting for
recognition, as well as industrial and social rights. The verses mark
successive steps of a people into consciousness and civilization. Some
of this battle-poetry is worth preserving; a few camp-rhymes, also,
were famous enough in their day to justify translating. Here are some
relics, of pattern more or less antique, picked up from that field of
Europe where so many centuries have met in arms. 
[Footnote 3: Among such songs is one by Bayard Taylor, entitled
_Annie Laurie_, which is of the very best kind.]
The Northern war-poetry, before the introduction of Christianity, is
vigorous enough, but it abounds in disagreeable commonplaces: trunks
are cleft till each half falls sideways; limbs are carved for ravens,
who appear as invariably as the Valkyrs, and while the latter pounce
upon the souls that issue with the expiring breath, the former
banquet upon the remains. The celebration of a victory is an exulting
description of actual scenes of revelling, mead-drinking from mounted
skulls, division of the spoils, and half-drunken brags of future
prowess. The sense of dependence upon an unseen Power is manifested
only in superstitious vows for luck and congratulations that the Strong
Ones have been upon the conquering side. There is no lifting up of the
heart which checks for a time the joy of victory. They are ferociously
glad that they have beaten. This prize-fighting imagery belongs also
to the Anglo-Saxon poetry, and is in marked contrast with the
commemorative poetry of Franks and Germans after the introduction of
Christianity. The allusions may be quite as conventional, but they show
that another power has taken the field, and is willing to risk the
fortunes of war. Norse poetry loses its vigor when the secure
establishment of Christianity abolishes piracy and puts fighting upon
an allowance. Its muscle was its chief characteristic. We speak only
[Footnote 4: Braga was the name of the goblet over which the Norse
drinkers made their vows. Probably no Secessionist ever threatened more
pompously over his whiskey. The word goes back a great distance.
_Paruf_ is Sanscrit for rough, and _Ragh_, to be equal to.
In reading the Norse poetry, one can understand why _Braga_ was
the Apollo of the Asa gods, and why the present made to a favorite
Scald was called _Bragar-Laun_ (_Lohn_). _Bravo_ is also a
Here, for instance, is the difference plainly told. Hucbald, a monk of
the cloister St. Amand in Flanders, wrote "The Louis-Lay," to celebrate
the victory gained by the West-Frankish King Louis III. over the
Normans, in 881, near Saucourt. It is in the Old-High-German. A few
lines will suffice:--
The King rode boldly, sang a holy song,
And all together sang, Kyrie eleison.
The song was sung; the battle was begun;
Blood came to cheeks; thereat rejoiced the Franks;
Then fought each sword, but none so well as Ludwig,
So swift and bold, for 't was his inborn nature;
He struck down many, many a one pierced through,
And at his hands his enemies received
A bitter drink, woe to their life all day.
Praise to God's power, for Ludwig overcame;
And thanks to saints, the victor-fight was his.
Homeward again fared Ludwig, conquering king,
And harnessed as he ever is, wherever the need may be,
Our God above sustain him with His majesty!
Earlier than this it was the custom for soldiers to sing just before
fighting. Tacitus alludes to a kind of measured warcry of the
Germans, which they made more sonorous and terrific by shouting it into
the hollow of their shields. He calls it _barditus_ by mistake,
borrowing a term from the custom of the Gauls, who sang before battle
by proxy,--that is, their bards chanted the national songs. But Norse
and German soldiers loved to sing. King Harald Sigurdson composes
verses just before battle; so do the Skalds before the Battle of
Stiklestad, which was fatal to the great King Olaf. The soldiers learn
the verses and sing them with the Skalds. They also recollect older
songs,--the "Biarkamal," for instance, which Biarke made before he
fought. These are all of the indomitable kind, and well charged
with threats of unlimited slaughter. The custom survived all the social
and religious changes of Europe. But the wild war-phrases which the
Germans shouted for mutual encouragement, and to derive, like the
Highlanders, an omen from the magnitude of the sound, became hymns:
they were sung in unison, with the ordinary monkish modulations of the
time. The most famous of these was written by Notker, a Benedictine of
St. Gall, about the year 900. It was translated by Luther in 1524,
and an English translation from Luther's German can be found in the
"Lyra Germanica," p. 237.
[Footnote 5: Laing's _Sea-Kings of Norway_, Vol. II. p. 312; Vol.
III. p. 90.]
William's minstrel, Taillefer, sang a song before the Battle of
Hastings: but the Normans loved the purely martial strain, and this
was a ballad of French composition, perhaps a fragment of the older
"Roland's Song." The "Roman de Rou," composed by Master Wace, or Gasse,
a native of Jersey and Canon of Bayeux, who died in 1184, is very
minute in its description of the Battle of Val des Dunes, near Caen,
fought by Henry of France and William the Bastard against Guy, a Norman
noble in the Burgundian interest. The year of the battle was 1047.
There is a Latin narrative of the Battle of Hastings, in eight hundred
and thirty-five hexameters and pentameters. This was composed by Wido,
or Guido, Bishop of Amiens, who died in 1075.
The German knights on their way to Jerusalem sang a holy psalm,
beginning, "Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of the earth." This was
discovered not long ago in Westphalia; a translation of it, with the
music, can be found in Mr. Richard Willis's collection of hymns.
One would expect to gather fragments of war-poetry from the early times
of the Hungarians, who held the outpost of Europe against the Turks,
and were also sometimes in arms against the imperial policy of Germany.
But De Gerando informs us that they set both victories and defeats to
music. The "Rakotzi" is a national air which bears the name of an
illustrious prince who was overcome by Leopold. "It is remarkable that
in Hungary great thoughts and deep popular feelings were expressed and
consecrated, not by poetry, but by national airs. The armed Diets which
were held upon the plain of Rakos were the symbol of ancient liberty to
the popular apprehension; there is the 'Air of Rakos,' also the 'Air of
Mohacs,' which recalls the fall of the old monarchy, and the 'Air of
Zrinyi,' which preserves the recollection of the heroic defence of
Szigeth." These airs are not written; the first comer extemporized
their inartificial strains, which the feeling of the moment seized upon
and transmitted by tradition. Among the Servians, on the contrary,
the heroic ballad is full of fire and meaning, but the music amounts to
[Footnote 6: A. De Gerando, _La Transylvanie et ses Habitants_,
Tom. II. p. 265, et seq.]
The first important production of the warlike kind, after Germany began
to struggle with its medieval restrictions, was composed after the
Battle of Sempach, where Arnold Struthalm of Winkelried opened a
passage for the Swiss peasants through the ranks of Austrian spears. It
is written in the Middle-High-German, by Halbsuter, a native of
Lucerne, who was in the fight. Here are specimens of it. There is a
paraphrase by Sir Walter Scott, but it is done at the expense of the
metre and _naive_ character of the original.
In the thousand and three hundred and six and eightieth year
Did God in special manner His favor make appear:
Hei! the Federates, I say,
They get this special grace upon St. Cyril's day.
That was July 9, 1386. The Swiss had been exasperated by the
establishment of new tolls by the nobility, who were upheld in it by
the Duke of Austria. The Federates (_Confederates_ can never again
be used in connection with a just fight) began to attack the castles
which sheltered the oppressive baronial power. The castle behind the
little town of Willisow is stormed and burned. Thereupon the nobles
swear to put these Swiss free peasants down and get them a master. The
poet tells all this, and proceeds to describe their excesses and
Ye Lowland lords are drawing hither to the
To what an entertainment ye do not understand:
Hei! 't were better for shrift to call,
For in the mountain-fields mischances may
To which the nobles are imagined to reply,--
"Indeed! where sits the priest, then, to grant
this needful gift?"
In the Schweitz he is all ready,--he'll give
you hearty shrift:
Hei! he will give it to you sheer,
This blessing will he give it with sharp halberds
and such gear.
The Duke's people are mowing in the fields near Sempach. A knight
insolently demands lunch for them from the Sempachers: a burgher
threatens to break his head and lunch them in a heavy fashion, for the
Federates are gathering, and will undoubtedly make him spill his
porridge. A cautious old knight, named Von Hasenburg, rides out to
reconnoitre, and he sees enough to warn the Duke that it is the most
serious business in which he ever engaged.
Then spake a lord of Ochsenstein, "O Hasenburg,
Him answereth Von Hasenburg, "Thy words
bring me a smart:
Hei! I say to you faithfully,
Which of us is the coward this very day you'll see."
So the old knight, not relishing being punned upon for his counsel,
dismounts. All the knights, anticipating an easy victory, dismount,
and send their horses to the rear, in the care of varlets who
subsequently saved themselves by riding them off. The solid ranks are
formed bristling with spears. There is a pause as the two parties
survey each other. The nobles pass the word along that it looks like a
So spake they to each other: "Yon folk is
In case such boors should beat us, 't will bring
no fame at all:
'Hei! fine lords the boors have mauled!'"
Then the honest Federates on God in heaven
"Ah, dear Christ of Heaven, by Thy bitter
death we plead,
Help bring to us poor sinners in this our strait
Hei! and stand by us in the field,
And have our land and people beneath Thy
ward and shield."
The shaggy bull (of Uri) was quite ready to meet the lion (Leopold),
and threw the dust up a little with its hoof.
"Hei! will you fight with us who have beaten you before?"
To this the lion replies,--
"Thank you for reminding me. I have many a knight and varlet here to
pay you off for Laupen, and for the ill turn you did me at Morgarten;
now you must wait here till I am even with you."
Now drew the growling lion his tail in for a
Then spake the bull unto him, "Wilt have
Hei! then nearer to us get,
That this green meadow may with blood be
Then they began a-shooting against us in the
And their long lances toward the pious Federates
Hei! the jest it was not sweet,
With branches from the lofty pines down rattling
at their feet.
The nobles' front was fast, their order deep
That vexed the pious mind; a Winkelried he
"Hei! if you will keep from need
My pious wife and child, I'll do a hardy
"Dear Federates and true, my life I give to
They have their rank too firm, we cannot break
Hei! a breaking in I'll make.
The while that you my offspring to your protection
Herewith did he an armful of spears nimbly take;
His life had an end, for his friends a lane did make:
Hei! he had a lion's mood,
So manly, stoutly dying for the Four Cantons' good.
And so it was the breaking of the nobles' front began
With hewing and with sticking,--it was God's holy plan:
Hei! if this He had not done,
It would have cost the Federates many an honest one.
The poem proceeds now with chaffing and slaughtering the broken enemy,
enjoining them to run home to their fine ladies with little credit or
comfort, and shouting after them an inventory of the armor and banners
which they leave behind. 
[Footnote 7: It is proper to state that an attack has lately been made
in Germany upon the authenticity of the story of Winkelried, on the
ground that it is mentioned in no contemporaneous document or chronicle
which has yet come to light, and that a poem in fifteen verses composed
before this of Halbsuter's does not mention it. Also it is shown that
Halbsuter incorporated the previous poem into his own. It is
furthermore denied that Halbsuter was a citizen of Lucerne. In short,
there was no Winkelried! Perhaps we can afford to "rehabilitate"
villains of every description, but need therefore the heroic be reduced
to _deshabille_? That we cannot so well afford. We can give up
William Tell's apple as easily as we can the one in Genesis, but
Winkelreid's "sheaf of Austrian spears" is an essential argument
against original sin, being an altogether original act of virtue.]
Veit Weber, a Swiss of Freiburg, also wrote war-verses, but they are
pitched on a lower key. He fought against Charles the Bold, and
described the Battle of Murten, (Morat,) June 22, 1476. His
facetiousness is of the grimmest kind. He exults without poetry. Two or
three verses will be quite sufficient to designate his style and
temper. Of the moment when the Burgundian line breaks, and the rout
commences, he says,--
One hither fled, another there,
With good intent to disappear,
Some hid them in the bushes:
I never saw so great a pinch,--
A crowd that had no thirst to quench
Into the water pushes.
They waded in up to the chin,
Still we our shot kept pouring in,
As if for ducks a-fowling:
In boats we went and struck them dead,
The lake with all their blood was red,--
What begging and what howling!
Up in the trees did many hide,
There hoping not to be espied;
But like the crows we shot them:
The rest on spears did we impale,
Their feathers were of no avail,
The wind would not transport them.
He will not vouch for the number of the killed, but gives it on hearsay
as twenty-six thousand drowned and slain; but he regrets that their
flight was so precipitate as to prevent him from recording a more
refreshing total. He is specially merry over the wealth and luxurious
habits of Charles, alludes to his vapor-baths, etc.:--
His game of chess was to his cost,
Of pawns has he a many lost,
And twice his guard is broken;
His castles help him not a mite,
And see how lonesome stands his knight!
Checkmate's against him spoken.
[Footnote 8: Once, the year before, at Granson.]
The wars of the rich cities with the princes and bishops stimulated a
great many poems that are full of the traits of burgher-life. Seventeen
princes declared war against Nuremberg, and seventy-two cities made a
league with her. The Swiss sent a contingent of eight hundred men. This
war raged with great fierceness, and with almost uninterrupted success
for the knights, till the final battle which took place near Pillerent,
in 1456. A Nuremberg painter, Hans Rosenpluel, celebrated this in verses
like Veit Weber's, with equal vigor, but downright prosaic
street-touches. Another poem describes the rout of the Archbishop of
Cologne, who attempted to get possession of the city, in 1444. All
these Low-German poems are full of popular scorn and satire: they do
not hate the nobles so much as laugh at them, and their discomfitures
in the field are the occasion of elaborate ridicule.
The _Lanzknechts_ were foot-soldiers recruited from the roughs of
Germany, and derived their name from the long lance which they
carried; but they were also armed subsequently with the arquebuse.
They were first organized into bodies of regular troops by George
Frundsberg of Mindelheim, a famous German captain, whose castle was
about twenty miles south-west of Augsburg. It was afterwards the centre
of a little principality which Joseph I. created for the Duke of
Marlborough, as a present for the victory of Hochstaedt (Blenheim).
Frundsberg was a man of talent and character, one of the best soldiers
of Charles V. He saved the Imperial cause in the campaign of 1522
against the French and Swiss. At Bicocco he beat the famous Swiss
infantry under Arnold of Winkelried, a descendant, doubtless, of one of
the children whom Arnold Struthabn left to the care of his comrades. At
Pavia a decisive charge of his turned the day against Francis I. And on
the march to Rome, his unexpected death so inflamed the
_Lanzknechts_ that the meditated retreat of Bourbon became
impossible, and the city was taken by assault. His favorite mottoes
were, _Kriegsrath mit der That_, "Plan and Action," and _Viel
Feinde, viel Ehre_, "The more foes, the greater honor." He was the
only man who could influence the mercenary lancers, who were as
terrible in peace as in war.
[Footnote 9: It is sometimes spelled _landsknecht_, as if it meant
_country-fellows_, or recruits,--men raised at large. But that was
a popular misapprehension of the word, because some of them were
[Footnote 10: The French soldier-song about Marlborough is known to
The _Lanzknecht's_ lance was eighteen feet long: he wore a helmet
and breastplate, and was taught to form suddenly and to preserve an
impenetrable square. Before him all light and heavy cavalry went down,
and that great arm of modern war did not recover from its disgrace and
neglect till the time of Frederic. But his character was very
indifferent: he went foraging when there was no campaign, and in time
of peace prepared for war by systematic billeting and plundering. It
was a matter of economy to get up a war in order to provide employment
for the _Lanzknecht_.
Hans Sachs wrote a very amusing piece in 1558, entitled, "The Devil
won't let Landsknechts come to Hell." Lucifer, being in council one
evening, speaks of the _Lanzknecht_ as a new kind of man; he
describes his refreshing traits of originality, and expresses a desire
to have one. It is agreed that Beelzebub shall repair as a crimp to a
tavern, and lie in wait for this new game. The agent gets behind a
stove, which in Germany would shield from observation even Milton's
Satan, and listens while the _Lanzknechts_ drink. They begin to
tell stories which make his hair stand on end, but they also God-bless
each other so often, at sneezing and hiccupping, that he cannot get a
chance at them. One of them, who had stolen a cock and hung it behind
the stove, asks the landlord to go and fetch the poor devil. Beelzebub,
soundly frightened, beats a hasty retreat, expressing his wonder that
the _Lanzknecht_ should know he was there. He apologizes to
Lucifer for being unable to enrich his cabinet, and assures him that it
would be impossible to live with them; the devils would be eaten out of
house and home, and their bishopric taken from them. Lucifer concludes
on the whole that it is discreet to limit himself to monks, nuns,
lawyers, and the ordinary sinner.
The songs of the _Lanzknecht_ are cheerful, and make little of the
chances of the fight. Fasting and feasting are both welcome; he is as
gay as a Zouave. To be maimed is a slight matter: if he loses an
arm, he bilks the Swiss of a glove; if his leg goes, he can creep, or a
wooden leg will serve his purpose:--
It harms me not a mite,
A wooden stump will make all right;
And when it is no longer good,
Some spital knave shall get the wood.
But if a ball my bosom strikes,
On some wide field I lie,
They'll take me off upon their pikes,--
A grave is always nigh;
Pumerlein Pum,--the drums shall say
Better than any priest,--Good day!
[Footnote 11: Who besings himself thus, in a song from the Solferino
"Quand l'zouzou, coiffe de son fez,
A par hasard queuqu' goutt' sous l'nez,
L'tremblement s'met dans la cambuse;
Mais s'il faut se flanquer des coups,
Il sait rendre atouts pour atouts,
Et gare dessous,
C'est l'zouzou qui s'amuse!
Des coups, des coups, des coups,
C'est l'zouzou qui s'amuse."]
There is a very characteristic piece, without date or name of the
writer, but which, to judge from the German, was written after the time
of Luther. Nothing could better express the feeling of a people who
have been saved by martial and religious enthusiasm, and brought
through all the perils of history. It is the production of some
Meistersinger, who introduced it into a History of Henry the Fowler,
(fought the Huns, 919-935,) that was written by him in the form of a
comedy, and divided into acts. He brings in a minstrel who sings the
song before battle. The last verse, with adapted metre and music, is
now a soldier's song.
Many a righteous cause on earth
To many a battle growing,
Of music God has thought them worth,
A gift of His bestowing.
It came through Jubal into life;
For Lamech's son inventing
The double sounds of drum and fife,
They both became consenting.
For music good
Wakes manly mood,
Against our foes.
Calls stoutly, "On!
Fall on! fall on!
Clear field and street
Of hostile feet,
Shoot, thrust them through, and cleave,
Not one against you leave!"
Elias prophecy would make
In thirsty Israel's passion:
"To me a minstrel bring," he spake,
"Who plays in David's fashion."
Soon came on him Jehovah's hand,
In words of help undoubted,--
Great waters flowed the rainless land,
The foe was also routed.
Drom, Druri, Drom,
Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom,
Drumming and fifing good
Poets, too, sing;
Music is life
To peace and strife,--
And men have ever heeded
What chief by them is needed.
In Dorian mood when he would sing,
Timotheus the charmer,
'Tis said the famous lyre would bring
All listeners into armor:
It woke in Alexander rage
For war, and nought would slake it,
Unless he could the world engage,
And his by conquest make it.
Could strongly sing
To rouse the King
Till, in his ire
And manly fire,
For shield and weapon rising,
He went, the foe chastising.
For what God drives, that ever goes,--
So sang courageous Judith;
No one can such as He oppose;
There prospers what He broodeth.
Who has from God a martial mood,
Through all resistance breaking,
Can prove himself 'gainst heroes good,
On foes a vengeance taking.
Drums, when we droop;
Stand fast, my troop!
Let dart and sabre
The air belabor;
Give them no heed,
But be agreed
That flight be a breach of honor:
Of that be hearty scorner.
Although a part, as haps alway,
Will faintly take to fleeing,
A lion's heart have I to-day
For Kaiser Henry's seeing.
The wheat springs forth, the chaff's behind;
Strike harder, then, and braver;
[Footnote 12: This was first said by Rudolph of Erlach at the Battle of
Laupen, in 1339, fought between citizens of Berne and the neighboring
lords. The great array of the nobles caused the rear ranks of the
Bernese to shrink. "Good!" cried Erlach, "the chaff is separated from
the wheat! Cowards will not share the victory of the brave."
--Zschokke's _History of Switzerland_, p. 48, Shaw's translation.]
Perhaps they all will change their mind,
So, brothers, do not waver!
Pidi, Pom, Pom, Pom,
There's no retreat;
Wilt soon be slashed,
Be pierced and gashed:
But none of these things heeding,
The foe, too, set a-bleeding.
Many good surgeons have we here,
Again to heal us ready;
With God's help, then, be of good cheer,
The Pagans grow unsteady:
Let not thy courage sink before
A foe already flying;
Revenge itself shall give thee more,
And hearten it, if dying.
Drom, Drari, Drom,
Strike, thrust,--for we
Must victors be;
Let none fall out,
Keep order stout;
Close to my side,
Be grace of God revealed now,
And help us hold the field now!
God doth Himself encamp us round,
Himself the tight inspiring;
The foe no longer stands his ground,
On every side retiring;
Ye brothers, now set boldly on
The hostile ranks!--they waver,--
They break before us and are gone,--
Praise be to God the Saver!
Drom, Drari, Drom,
Come, brother, come!
Drums, make a noise!
My troops, rejoice!
Help now pursue
And thrust and hew;
The spoils remain
In reach of every finger,
But not a foe wilt linger.
Ye bold campaigners, praise the Lord,
And strifeful heroes, take now
The prize He doth to us accord,
Good cheer and pillage make now:
What each one finds that let him take,
But friendly share your booty,
For parents', wives', and children's sake,
For household use or beauty.
Pidi, Pom, Pom, Pom,
Field-surge on come,
My gash to bind,
Am nearly blind,--
The arrows stick,
Out pull them quick,--
A bandage here,
To save my ear,--
Come, bind me up,
And reach a cup,--
Ho, here at hand,
I cannot stand,--
Reach hither what you're drinking,
My heart is 'neath me sinking.
War-comrades all, heart's-brothers good,
I spare no skill and labor,
For these your hurts in hero-mood
You got from hostile sabre.
Now well behave, keep up thy heart,
God's help itself will tend thee;
Although at present great the smart,
To dress the wound will mend thee;
Wash off the blood,
Time makes it good,--
Reach me the shear,--
A plaster here,--
Hold out your arm,
'T is no great harm,--
Give drink to stay,
He limps away:
Thank God, their wounds all tended,
Be dart- and pike-hole mended!
Three faces does a surgeon wear:
At first God is not higher;
And when with wounds they illy fare,
He comes in angel's tire;
But soon as word is said of pay,
How gracelessly they grieve him!
They bid his odious face away,
Or knavishly deceive him:
No thanks for it
Ill to endure
For drugs that cure;
Pay and respect
Should he collect,
For at his art
Your woes depart;
God bids him speed
To you in need;
Therefore our dues be giving,
God wills us all a living.
No death so blessed in the world
As his who, struck by foeman,
Upon the airy field is hurled,
Nor hears lament of woman;
From narrow beds death one by one
His pale recruits is calling,
But comrades here are not alone,
Like Whitsun blossoms falling.
'T is no ill jest
To say that best
Of ways to die
Is thus to lie
In honor's sleep,
With none to weep:
Marched out of life
By drum and fife
To airy grave,
Thus heroes crave
A worthy fame,--
Men say his name
Is _Fatherland's Befriender_,
By life and blood surrender.
With the introduction of standing armies popular warlike poetry falls
away, and is succeeded by camp-songs, and artistic renderings of
martial subjects by professed poets. The people no longer do the
fighting; they foot the bills and write melancholy hymns. Weckerlin
(1584-1651) wrote some hearty and simple things; among others,
_Frisch auf, ihr tapfere Soldaten_, "Ye soldiers bold, be full of
cheer." Michael Altenburg, (1583-1640,) who served on the Protestant
side, wrote a hymn after the Battle of Leipsic, 1631, from the watch
word, "God with us," which was given to the troops that day. His hymn
was afterwards made famous by Gustavus Adolphus, who sang it at the
head of his soldiers before the Battle of Luetzen, November 16, 1632,
in which he fell. Here it is. (_Verzage nicht, du Haeuflein
Be not cast down, thou little band,
Although the foe with purpose stand
To make thy ruin sure:
Because they seek thy overthrow,
Thou art right sorrowful and low:
It will not long endure.
Be comforted that God will make
Thy cause His own, and vengeance take,--
'T is His, and let it reign:
He knoweth well His Gideon,
Through him already hath begun
Thee and His Word sustain.
Sure word of God it is to fell
That Satan, world, and gates of hell,
And all their following,
Must come at last to misery:
God is with us,--with God are we,--
He will the victory bring.
Here is certainly a falling off from Luther's _Ein feste Burg_,
but his spirit was in the fight; and the hymn is wonderfully improved
when the great Swedish captain takes it to his death.
Von Kleist (1715-1759) studied law at Koenigsberg, but later became an
officer in the Prussian service. He wrote, in 1759, an ode to the
Prussian army, was wounded at the Battle of Kuenersdorf, where Frederic
the Great lost his army and received a ball in his snuff-box. His
poetry is very poor stuff. The weight of the enemy crushes down the
hills and makes the planet tremble; agony and eternal night impend; and
where the Austrian horses drink, the water fails. But his verses were
full of good advice to the soldiers, to spare, in the progress of their
great achievements, the poor peasant who is not their foe, to help his
need, and to leave pillage to Croats and cowards. The advice was less
palatable to Frederic's troops than the verses.
But there were two famous soldier's songs, of unknown origin, the pets
of every camp, which piqued all the poets into writing war-verses as
soon as the genius of Frederic kindled such enthusiasm among
Prussians. The first was an old one about Prince Eugene, who was
another hero, loved in camps, and besung with ardor around every
watchfire. It is a genuine soldier's song.
Prince Eugene, the noble captain,
For the Kaiser would recover
Town and fortress of Belgrade;
So he put a bridge together
To transport his army thither,
And before the town parade.
When the floating bridge was ready,
So that guns and wagons steady
Could pass o'er the Danube stream,
By Semlin a camp collected.
That the Turks might be ejected,
To their great chagrin and shame.
Twenty-first of August was it,
When a spy in stormy weather
Came, and told the Prince and swore
That the Turks they all amounted,
Near, at least, as could be counted,
To three hundred thousand men, or more.
Prince Eugenius never trembled
At the news, but straight assembled
All his generals to know:
Them he carefully instructed
How the troops should be conducted
Smartly to attack the foe.
With the watchword he commanded
They should wait till twelve was sounded
At the middle of the night;
Mounting then upon their horses,
For a skirmish with the forces,
Go in earnest at the fight.
Straightway all to horseback getting,
Weapons handy, forth were setting
Silently from the redoubt:
Musketeers, dragooners also,
Bravely fought and made them fall so,--
Led them such a dance about.
And our cannoneers advancing
Furnished music for the dancing,
With their pieces great and small;
Great and small upon them playing,
Heathen were averse to staying,
Ran, and did not stay at all.
Prince Eugenius on the right wing
Like a lion did his fighting,
So he did field-marshal's part:
Prince Ludwig rode from one to th' other,
Cried, "Keep firm, each German brother,
Hurt the foe with all your heart!"
Prince Ludwig, struck by bullet leaden,
With his youthful life did redden,
And his soul did then resign:
Badly Prince Eugene wept o'er him,
For the love he always bore him,--
Had him brought to Peterwardein.
The music is peculiar,--one flat, 3/4 time,--a very rare measure, and
giving plenty of opportunity for a quaint camp-style of singing.
The other song appeared during Frederic's Silesian War. It contains
some choice reminiscences of his favorite rhetoric.
Fridericus Rex, our master and king,
His soldiers altogether to the field would bring,
Battalions two hundred, and a thousand squadrons clear,
And cartridges sixty to every grenadier.
"Cursed fellows, ye!"--his Majesty began,--
"For me stand in battle, each man to man;
Silesia and County Glatz to me they will not grant,
Nor the hundred millions either which I want.
"The Empress and the French have gone to be allied,
And the Roman kingdom has revolted from my side,
And the Russians are bringing into Prussia war;--
Up, let us show them that we Prussians are!
"My General Schwerin, and Field-Marshal Von Keith,
And Von Ziethen, Major-General, are ready for a fight;
Turban-spitting Element! Cross and Lightning get
Who has not found Fritz and his soldiers out yet!
"Now adieu, Louisa!--Louisa, dry your eyes!
There's not a soldier's life for every ball that flies;
For if all the bullets singly hit their men,
Where could our Majesties get soldiers then?
"Now the hole a musket-bullet makes is small,--
'T is a larger hole made by a cannon-ball;
But the bullets all are of iron and of lead,
And many a bullet goes for many overhead.
"'T is a right heavy calibre to our artillery,
And never goes a Prussian over to the enemy,
For 't is cursed bad money that the Swedes have to pay;
Is there any better coin of the Austrian?--who can say?
"The French are paid off in pomade by their king,
But each week in pennies we get our reckoning;
Sacrament of Cross and Lightning! Turbans, spit away!
Who draws so promptly as the Prussian his pay?"
With a laurel-wreath adorned, Fridericus my King,
If you had only oftener permitted plundering,
Fredericus Rex, king and hero of the fight,
We would drive the Devil for thee out of sight!
[Footnote 13: His queen]
Among the songs which the military ardor of this period stimulated, the
best are those by Gleim, (1719-1803) called "Songs of a Prussian
Grenadier." All the literary men, Lessing not excepted, were seized
with the Prussian enthusiasm; the pen ravaged the domain of sentiment
to collect trophies for Father Friedrich. The desolation it produced in
the attempt to write the word Glory could be matched only by the
sword. But Gleim was a man of spirit and considerable power. The shock
of Frederic's military successes made him suddenly drop the pen with
which he had been inditing Anacreontics, and weak, rhymeless Horatian
moods. His grenadier-songs, though often meagre and inflated, and
marked with the literary vices of the time, do still account for the
great fame which they acquired, as they went marching with the finest
army that Europe ever saw. Here is a specimen:--
VICTORY-SONG AFTER THE BATTLE NEAR PRAGUE.
Victoria! with us is God;
There lies the haughty foe!
He falls, for righteous is our God;
Victoria! he lies low.
'T is true our father is no more,
Yet hero-like be went,
And now the conquering host looks o'er
From high and starry tent.
The noble man, he led the way
For God and Fatherland,
And scarce was his old head so gray
As valiant his hand.
With fire of youth and hero-craft
A banner snatching, he
Held it aloft upon its shaft
For all of us to see;
And said,--"My children, now attack,--
Take each redoubt and gun!"
And swifter than the lightning track
We followed, every one.
Alas, the flag that led the strife
Falls with him ere we win!
It was a glorious end of life:
O fortunate Schwerin!
And when thy Frederic saw thee low,
From out his sobbing breath
His orders hurled us on the foe
In vengeance for thy death.
Thou, Henry, wert a soldier true,
Thou foughtest royally!
From deed to deed our glances flew,
Thou lion-youth, with thee!
A Prussian heart with valor quick,
Right Christian was his mood:
Red grew his sword, and flowing thick
His steps with Pandourt-blood.
Full seven earth-works did we clear,
The bear-skins broke and fled;
Then, Frederic, went thy grenadier
High over heaps of dead:
Remembered, in the murderous fight,
God, Fatherland, and thee,--
Turned, from the deep and smoky night,
His Frederic to see,
And trembled,--with a flush of fear
His visage mounted high;
He trembled, not that death was near,
But lest thou, too, shouldst die:
Despised the balls like scattered seed,
The cannon's thunder-tone,
Fought fiercely, did a hero's deed,
Till all thy foes had flown.
Now thanks he God for all His might,
And sings, Victoria!
And all the blood from out this fight
Flows to Theresia.
And if she will not stay the plague,
Nor peace to thee concede,
Storm with us, Frederic, first her Prague,
Then, to Vienna lead!
[Footnote 14: Marshal Schwerin, seventy years of age, who was killed at
the head of a regiment, with its colors in his hand, just as it crossed
through the fire to the enemy's intrenchments.]
[Footnote 15: The King's brother.]
[Footnote 16: A corps of foot-soldiers in the Austrian service,
eventually incorporated in the army. They were composed of Servians,
Croats, etc., inhabitants of the military frontier, and were named
originally from the village of Pandur in Lower Hungary, where probably
the first recruits were gathered.]
The love which the soldiers had for Frederic survived in the army after
all the veterans of his wars had passed away. It is well preserved in
THE INVALIDES AT FATHER FREDERIC'S GRAVE.
Here stump we round upon our crutches, round our Father's grave we go,
And from our eyelids down our grizzled beards the bitter tears will
'T was long ago, with Frederic living, that we
got our lawful gains:
A meagre ration now they serve us,--life's no
longer worth the pains.
Here stump we round, deserted orphans, and
with tears each other see,--
Are waiting for our marching orders hence,
to be again with thee.
Yes, Father, only could we buy thee, with our
blood, by Heaven, yes,--
We Invalides, forlorn detachment, straight
through death would storming press!
When the German princes issued to their subjects unlimited orders for
Constitutions, to be filled up and presented after the domination of
Napoleon was destroyed, all classes hastened, fervid with hope and
anti-Gallic feeling, to offer their best men for the War of Liberation.
Then the poets took again their rhythm from an air vibrating with the
cannon's pulse. There was Germanic unity for a while, fed upon
expectation and the smoke of successful fields. Most of the songs of
this period have been already translated. Ruckert, in a series of
verses which he called "Sonnets in Armor," gave a fine scholarly
expression to the popular desires. Here is his exultation over the
Battle of Leipsic:--
Can there no song
Roar with a might
Loud as the fight
Leipsic's region along?
Three days and three nights,
No moment of rest,
And not for a jest,
Went thundering the fights.
Three days and three nights
Leipsic Fair kept: Frenchmen who pleasured
There with an iron yardstick were measured,
Bringing the reckoning with them to rights.
Three days and all night
A battue of larks the Leipsicker make;
Every haul a hundred he takes,
A thousand each flight.
Ha! it is good,
Now that the Russian can boast no longer
He alone of us is stronger
To slake his steppes with hostile blood.
Not in the frosty North alone,
But here in Meissen,
Here at Leipsic on the Pleissen,
Can the French be overthrown.
Shallow Pleissen deep is flowing;
The dead receiving,
Seem to mountains for us growing.
They will be our mountains never,
But this fame
Shall be our claim
On the rolls of earth forever.
What all this amounted to, when the German people began to send in
their constitutional _cartes-blanches_, is nicely taken off by
Hoffman von Fallersleben, in this mock war-song, published in 1842:--
Hark to the beating drum!
See how the people come!
Flag in the van!
We follow, man for man.
From earth and house!
Ye women and children, good night!
Forth we hasten, we hasten to the fight,
With God for our King and Fatherland.
_A night-patrol of 1813 sings_.
O God! and why, and why,
For princes' whim, renown, and might,
To the fight?
For court-flies and other crows,
For the nonage of our folk,
For must-war-meal and class-tax,
For privilege and censordom--
Into battle without winking?
But--I was thinking--
Hark to the heating drum!
See how the people come!
Flag in the van!
We follow, man for man:
In battle's roar
The time is o'er
To ask for reasons,--hear, the drum
Again is calling,--tum--tum--tum,--
With God for King and Fatherland.
Or to put it in two stanzas of his, written on a visit to the Valhalla,
or Hall of German Worthies, at Regensburg:--
I salute thee, sacred Hall,
Chronicle of German glory!
I salute ye, heroes all
Of the new time and the hoary!
Patriot heroes, from your sleep
Into being could ye pass!
No, a king would rather keep
Patriots in stone and brass.
The Danish sea-songs, like those of the English, are far better than
the land-songs of the soldiers: but here is one with a true and
temperate sentiment, which the present war will readily help us to
appreciate. It is found in a book of Danish popular songs. 
[Footnote 17: _Sange til Brug for blandede Selskaber_, samlade af
FREDERIK SCHALDEMOSE. 1816. Songs for Use in Social Meetings, etc.]
(_Herlig er Krigerens Faerd_.)
Good is the soldier's trade,
For envy well made:
Over force-men he swingeth;
A loved one shall prize
The honor he bringeth;
Is there a duty?
That's soldier's booty,--
To have it he dies.
True for his king and land
The Northman will stand;
An oath is a band,--
He never can rend it;
The dear coast, 't is right
A son should defend it;
For battle he burneth,
Death's smile he returneth,
And bleeds with delight.
Scars well set off his face,--
Each one is a grace;
His profit they trace,--
No labor shines brighter:
A wreath is the scar
On the brow of a fighter;
His maid thinks him fairer,
His ornament rarer
Than coat with a star.
Reaches the king his hand,
That makes his soul grand,
And fast loyal band
Round his heart it is slinging;
From Fatherland's good
The motion was springing:
His deeds so requited,
Is gratefully lighted
A man's highest mood.
Bravery's holy fire,
Beam nobler and higher,
And light our desire
A path out of madness!
By courage and deed
We conquer peace-gladness:
We suffer for that thing,
We strike but for that thing,
And gladly we bleed.
But our material threatens the space we have at command. Four more
specimens must suffice for the present. They are all favorite
soldier-songs. The first is by Chamisso, known popularly as the author
of "Peter Schlemihl's Shadow," and depicts the mood of a soldier who
has been detailed to assist in a military execution:--
The muffled drums to our marching play.
How distant the spot, and how long the way!
Oh, were I at rest, and the bitterness through!
Methinks it will break my heart in two!
Him only I loved of all below,--
Him only who yet to death must go;
At the rolling music we parade,
And of me too, me, the choice is made!
Once more, and the last, he looks upon
The cheering light of heaven's sun;
But now his eyes they are binding tight:
God grant to him rest and other light!
Nine muskets are lifted to the eye,
Eight bullets have gone whistling by;
They trembled all with comrades' smart,--
But I--I hit him in his heart!
The next is by Von Holtei:--
THE VETERAN TO HIS CLOAK.
Full thirty years art thou of age, hast many a
storm lived through,
Brother-like hast round me tightened,
And whenever cannons lightened,
Both of us no terror knew.
Wet soaking to the skin we lay for many a
Thou alone hast warmth imparted,
And if I was heavy-hearted,
Telling thee would make me light.
My secrets thou hast never spoke, wert ever still and true;
Every tatter did befriend me,
Therefore I'll no longer mend thee,
Lest, old chap, 't would make thee new.
And dearer still art thou to ma when jests about thee roll;
For where the rags below are dropping,
There went through the bullets popping,--
Every bullet makes a hole.
And when the final bullet comes to stop a German heart,
Then, old cloak, a grave provide me,
Weather-beaten friend, still hide me,
As I sleep in thee apart.
There lie we till the roll-call together in the grave:
For the roll I shall be heedful,
Therefore it will then be needful
For me an old cloak to have.
The next one is taken from a student-song book, and was probably
written in 1814:--
Just help me, Lottie, as I spring;
My arm is feeble, see,--
I still must have it in a sling;
Be softly now with me!
But do not let the canteen slip,--
Here, take it first, I pray,--
For when that's broken from my lip,
All joys will flow away.
"And why for that so anxious?--pshaw!
It is not worth a pin:
The common glass, the bit of straw,
And not a drop within!"
No matter, Lottie, take it out,--
'T is past your reckoning:
Yes, look it round and round about,--
There drank from it--my King!
By Leipsic near, if you must know,--
'T was just no children's play,--
A ball hit me a grievous blow,
And in the crowd I lay;
Nigh death, they bore me from the scene,
My garments off they fling,
Yet held I fast by my canteen,--
There drank from it--my King!
For once our ranks in passing through
He paused,--we saw his face;
Around us keen the volleys flew,
He calmly kept his place.
He thirsted,--I could see it plain,
And courage took to bring
My old canteen for him to drain,--
He drank from it--my King!
He touched me on the shoulder here,
And said, "I thank thee, friend,
Thy liquor gives me timely cheer,--
Thou didst right well intend."
O'erjoyed at this, I cried aloud,
"O comrades, who can bring
Canteen like this to make him proud?--
There drank from it--my King!"
That old canteen shall no one have,
The best of treasures mine;
Put it at last upon my grave,
And under it this line:
"He fought at Leipsic, whom this green
Is softly covering;
Best household good was his canteen,--
There drank from it--his King!"
And finally, a song for all the campaigns of life:--
Lightest me towards the dead!
Soon the trumpets will be blowing,
Then from life must I be going,
I, and comrades many a one.
Soon as thought, soon as thought,
Pleasure to an end is brought;
Yesterday upon proud horses,--
Shot to-day, our quiet corses
Are to-morrow in the grave.
And how soon, and how soon,
Vanish shape and beauty's noon!
Of thy cheeks a moment vaunting,
Like the milk and purple haunting,--
Ah, the roses fade away!
And what, then, and what, then,
Is the joy and lust of men?
Ever caring, ever getting,
From the early morn-light fretting
Till the day is past and gone.
Therefore still, therefore still
I content me, as God will:
Fighting stoutly, nought shall shake me:
For should death itself o'ertake me,
Then a gallant soldier dies.
FROUDE'S HENRY THE EIGHTH.
The spirit of historical criticism in the present age is on the whole a
charitable spirit. Many public characters have been heard through their
advocates at the bar of history, and the judgments long since passed
upon them and their deeds, and deferentially accepted for centuries,
have been set aside, and others of a widely different character
pronounced. Julius Caesar, who was wont to stand as the model usurper,
and was regarded as having wantonly destroyed Roman liberty in order to
gratify his towering ambition, is now regarded as a political reformer
of the very highest and best class,--as the man who alone thoroughly
understood his age and his country, and who was Heaven's own instrument
to rescue unnumbered millions from the misrule of an oligarchy whose
members looked upon mankind as their proper prey. He did not overthrow
the freedom of Rome, but he took from Romans the power to destroy the
personal freedom of all the races by them subdued. He identified the
interests of the conquered peoples with those of the central
government, so far as that work was possible,--thus proceeding in the
spirit of the early Roman conquerors, who sought to comprehend even the
victims of their wars in the benefits which proceeded from those wars.
This view of his career is a sounder one than that which so long
prevailed, and which enabled orators to round periods with references
to the Rubicon. It is not thirty years since one of the first of
American statesmen told the national Senate that "Julius Caesar struck
down Roman liberty at Pharsalia," and probably there was not one man in
his audience who supposed that he was uttering anything beyond a
truism, though they must have been puzzled to discover any resemblance
between "the mighty Julius" and Mr. Martin Van Buren, the gentleman
whom the orator was cutting up, and who was actually in the chair while
Mr. Calhoun was seeking to kill him, in a political sense, by
quotations from Plutarch's Lives. We have learnt something since 1834
concerning Rome and Caesar as well as of our own country and its
chiefs, and the man who should now bring forward the conqueror of Gaul
as a vulgar usurper would be almost as much laughed at as would be that
man who should insist that General Jackson destroyed American liberty
when he removed the deposits from the national bank. The facts and
fears of one generation often furnish material for nothing but jests
and jeers to that generation's successors; and we who behold a million
of men in arms, fighting for or against the American Union, and all
calling themselves Americans, are astonished when we read or remember
that our immediate predecessors in the political world went to the
verge of madness on the Currency question. Perhaps the men of 1889 may
be equally astonished, when they shall turn to files of newspapers that
were published in 1862, and read therein the details of those events
that now excite so painful an interest in hundreds of thousands of
families. Nothing is so easy as to condemn the past, except the
misjudging of the present, and the failure to comprehend the future.
Men of a very different stamp from the first of the Romans have been
allowed the benefits that come from a rehearing of their causes.
Robespierre, whose deeds are within the memory of many yet living, has
found champions, and it is now admitted by all who can effect that
greatest of conquests, the subjugation of their prejudices, that he was
an honest fanatic, a man of iron will, but of small intellect, who had
the misfortune, the greatest that can fall to the lot of humanity, to
be placed by the force of circumstances in a position which would have
tried the soundest of heads, even had that head been united with the
purest of hearts. But the apologists of "the sea-green incorruptible,"
it must be admitted, have not been very successful, as the sence of
mankind revolts at indiscriminate murder, even when the murderer's
hands have no other stain than that which comes from blood,--for that
is a stain which will not "out"; not even printer's ink can erase or
cover it; and the attorney of Arras must remain the Raw-Head and
Bloody-Bones of history. Benedict Arnold has found no direct defender
or apologist; but those readers who are unable to see how forcibly
recent writers have dwelt upon the better points of his character and
career, while they have not been insensible to the provocations he
received, must have read very carelessly and uncritically indeed. Mr.
Paget has all but whitewashed Marlborough, and has shaken many men's
faith in the justice of Lord Macauley's judgement and in the accuracy
of his assertions. Richard III., by all who can look through the clouds
raised by Shakespeare over English history of the fifteenth century, is
admitted to have been a much better man and ruler than were the average
of British monarchs from the Conquest to the Revolution, thanks to the
labors of Horace Walpole and Caroline Halsted, who, however, have only
followed in the path struck out by Sir George Buck at a much earlier
period. The case of Mary Stuart still remains unsettled, and bids fair
to be the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case of history; but this is owing to
the circumstance that that unfortunate queen is so closely associated
with the origin of our modern parties that justice where her reputation
is concerned is scarcely to be looked for. Little has been said for
King John; and Mr. Woolryche's kind attempt to reconcile men to the
name of Jeffreys has proved a total failure. Strafford has about as
many admirers as enemies among those who know his history, but this is
due more to the manner of his death than to any love of his life: of so
much more importance is it that men should die well than live well, so
far as the judgement of posterity is concerned with their actions.
Strafford's master, who so scandalously abandoned him to the headsman,
owes the existence of the party that still upholds his conduct to the
dignified manner in which he faced death, a death at which the whole
world "assisted," or might have done so. Catiline, we believe, has
found no formal defender, but the Catilinarian Conspiracy is now
generally admitted to have been the Popish Plot of antiquity, with an
ounce of truth to a pound of falsehood in the narratives of it that
have come down to us from Rome's revolutionary age, in political
pamphlets and party orations. Cicero's craze on the subject, and that
tendency which all men have to overrate the value of their own actions,
have made of the business in his lively pages a much more consequential
affair than it really was. The fleas in the microscope, and there it
will ever remain, to be mistaken for a monster. Truly, the Tullian
gibbeted the gentleman of the Sergian _gens_. It must be confessed
that Catiline was a proper rascal. How could he have been anything
else, and be one of Sulla's men? And a proper rascal is an improper
character of the very worst kind. Still, we should like to have had his
marginal "notes" on Cicero's speeches, and on Sallust's job pamphlet.
They would have been mighty interesting reading,--as full of lies,
probably, as the matter commented on, but not the less attractive on
that account. What dull affairs libraries would be, if they contained
nothing but books full of truth! The Greek tyrants have found
defenders, and it has been satisfactorily made out that they were the
cleverest men of their time, and that, if they did occasionally bear
rather hard upon individuals, it was only because those individuals
were so unreasonable as not to submit to be robbed or killed in a quiet
and decorous manner. Mr. Grote's rehabilitation of the Greek sophists
is a miracle of ingenuity and sense, and does as much honor to the man
who wrote it as justice to the men of whom it is written.
Of the doubtful characters of history, royal families have furnished
not a few, some of whom have stood in as bad positions as those which
have been assigned to Robespierre and his immediate associates.
Catharine de' Medici and Mary I. of England, the "Bloody Mary" of
anti-Catholic localities, are supposed to be models of evil, to be in
crinoline; but if you can believe Eugenio Alberi, Catharine was not the
harlot, the tyrant, the poisoner, the bigot, and the son-killer that
she passes for in the common estimation, and he has made out a capital
defence for the dead woman whom he selected as his client. The Massacre
of St. Bartholomew was not an "Italian crime," but a French _coup
d'etat_, and was as rough and coarse as some similar transactions
seen by our grandfathers, say the September prison-business at Paris in
1792. As to Mary Tudor, she was an excellent woman, but a bigot; and if
she did turn Mrs. Rogers and her eleven children out to the untender
mercies of a cold world, by sending Mr. Rogers into a hot fire, it was
only that souls might be saved from a hotter and a huger fire,--a sort
of argument the force of which we always have been unable to
appreciate, no doubt because we are of the heretics, and never believed
that persons belonging to our determination ought to be roasted. The
incense of the stake, that was so sweet in ecclesiastical nostrils
three hundred years ago, and also in vulgar nostrils wherever the
vulgar happened to be of the orthodox persuasion, has become an
insufferable stench to the more refined noses of the nineteenth
century, which, nevertheless, are rather partial to the odor of the
gallows. Miss Strickland and other clever historians may dwell upon the
excellence of Mary Tudor's private character with as much force as they
can make, or with much greater force they may show that Gardiner and
other reactionary leaders were the real fire-raisers of her reign; but
the common mind will ever, and with great justice, associate those
loathsome murders with the name and memory of the sovereign in whose
reign they were perpetrated.
The father of Mary I. stands much more in need of defence and apology
than does his daughter. No monarch occupies so strange a position in
history as Henry VIII. A sincere Catholic, so far as doctrine went, and
winning from the Pope himself the title of Defender of the Faith
because of his writing against the grand heresiarch of the age, he
nevertheless became the chief instrument of the Reformation, the man
and the sovereign without whose aid the reform movement of the
sixteenth century would have failed as deplorably as the reform
movements of the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries had failed. A
legitimate king, though the heir of a successful usurpation, and
holding the royal prerogative as high as any man who ever grasped the
sceptre, he was the tool of the mightiest of revolutionists, and poured
out more royal and noble blood than ever flowed at the command of all
the Jacobins and Democrats that have warred against thrones and
dynasties and aristocracies. He is abhorred of Catholics, and
Protestants do not love him; for he pulled down the old religious
fabric of his kingdom, and furnished to the Reformers a permanent
standing-place from which to move the world, while at the same time he
slaughtered Protestants as ruthlessly as ever they were disposed of by
any ruler of the Houses of Austria and Valois. Reeking with blood, and
apparently insensible to anything like a humane feeling, he was yet
popular with the masses of his subjects, and no small share of that
popularity has descended to our time, in which he is admired by the
unreflecting because of the boldness and dash of his actions and on
account of the consequences of those actions, so that he is commonly
known as "bluff King Hal," a title that speaks more as to the general
estimate of his character than would a whole volume of professed
personal panegyric, or of elaborate defence of his policy and his
deeds. But this is not sufficient for those persons who would have
reasons for their historical belief, and who seek to have a solid
foundation for the faith they feel in the real greatness of the second
Tudor king of England. Men of ability have occasionally sought to
create an intelligible Henry VIII., and to cause us to respect one
whose doings have so potently affected human affairs through ten
generations, and the force of whose labors, whether those labors were
blindly or rationally wrought, is apparently as unspent as it was on
that day on which, having provided for the butchery of the noblest of
his servants, he fell into his final sleep. At the head of these
philosophic writers, and so far ahead of them as to leave them all out
of sight, is Mr. James Anthony Froude, whose "History of England from
the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth" has been brought down to
the death of Mary I., in six volumes,--another proof of the grand scale
on which history is now written, in order that it may be read on the
small scale; for it is not given to many men to have the time for study
which even a moderate modern course of history requires in these active
days. Mr. Froude is a very different writer from Dr. Nares, but the
suggestions made to the heavy Doctor by Macaulay might be borne in mind
by the lively historian. He should remember that "the life of man is
now threescore years and ten," and not "demand from us so large a
portion of so short an existence" as must necessarily be required for
the perusal of a history which gives an octavo volume for every five
years of the annals of a small, though influential monarchy.
Mr. Froude did not commence his work in a state of blind admiration of
his royal hero,--the tone of his first volume being quite calm, and on
the whole as impartial as could reasonably have been expected from an
Englishman writing of the great men of a great period in his country's
history; but so natural is it for a man who has assumed the part of an
advocate to identify himself with the cause of his client, that our
author rapidly passes from the character of a mere advocate to that of
a partisan, and by the time that he has brought his work down to the
execution of Thomas Cromwell, Henry has risen to the rank of a saint,
with a more than royal inability to do any wrong. That "the king can do
no wrong" is an English constitutional maxim, which, however sound it
may be in its proper place, is not to be introduced into history,
unless we are desirous of seeing that become a mere party-record. The
practice of publishing books in an incomplete state is one that by no
means tends to render them impartial, when they relate to matters that
are in dispute. Mr. Froude's first and second volumes, which bring the
work down to the murder of Anne Boleyn, afforded the most desirable
material for the critics, many of whom most pointedly dissented from
his views, and some of whom severely attacked his positions, and not
always unsuccessfully. They were, naturally, not disposed to think that
an act bad in itself changed its character when it became the act of
Henry VIII. It was contrary to all human experience to suppose that
Henry was in all cases in the right, while his opponents and his
victims were as invariably in the wrong. If there ever had lived and
reigned a man who could not do wrong, it was preposterous to look for
him in one who had been a wife-killer, a persecutor, the slayer of the
nobility of his kingdom, the exterminator of the last remnants of an
old royal race, the patron of fagots and ropes and axes, and a
hard-hearted and selfish voluptuary, who seems never to have been open
to one kind or generous feeling. Most of those tyrants that have been
hung up on high, by way of warning to despots, have had their
"uncorrupted hours," in which they vindicated their claim to humanity
by the performance of some good deeds. Gratitude for some such acts is
supposed to have caused even the tomb of Nero to be adorned with
garlands. But Henry VIII. never had a kind moment. He was the same
moral monster at eighteen, when he succeeded to his sordid, selfish
father, that he was at fifty-six, when he, a dying man, employed the
feeble remnants of his once Herculean strength to stamp the
death-warrants of innocent men. No wonder that Mr. Froude's critics
failed to accept his estimate of Henry, or that they arrayed anew the
long list of his shocking misdeeds, and dwelt with unction on his total
want of sympathy with ordinary humanity. As little surprising is it
that Mr. Froude's attachment to the kingly queen-killer should be
increased by the course of the critics. That is the usual course. The
biographer comes to love the man whom at first he had only endured. To
endurance, according to the old notion, succeeds pity, and then comes
the embrace. And that embrace is all the warmer because others have
denounced the party to whom it is extended. It is fortunate that no man
of talent has ever ventured to write the biography of Satan. Assuredly,
had any such person done so, there would have been one sincere,
enthusiastic, open, devout Devil-worshipper on earth, which would have
been a novel, but not altogether a moral, spectacle for the eyes of
men. A most clear, luminous and unsatisfactory account of the conduct
of Satan in Eden would have been furnished, and it would have been
logically made out that all the fault of the first recorded son was
with Eve, who had been the temptress, not the tempted, and who had
taken advantage of the Devil's unsophisticated nature to impose upon
his innocence and simplicity, and then had gone about among "the
neighbors" to scandalize his character at tea-tables and
Mr. Froude is too able a man to seek to pass crude eulogy of Henry
VIII. upon the world. He knows that the reason why this or that or the
other thing was done is what his readers will demand, and he does his
best to meet their requirements. Very plausible, and very well
sustained by numerous facts, as well as by philosophical theory, is the
position which he assumes in reference to Henry's conduct. Henry,
according to the Froudean theory, was troubled about the succession to
the throne. His great purpose was to prevent the renewal of civil war
in England, a war for the succession. When he divorced Catharine of
Aragon, when he married Anne Boleyn, when he libelled and murdered Anne
Boleyn, when he wedded Jane Seymour, when he became disgusted with and
divorced Anne of Cleves, when he married and when he beheaded Catharine
Howard, when he patronized, used, and rewarded Cromwell, and when he
sent Cromwell to the scaffold and refused to listen to his plaintive
plea for mercy, when he caused Plantagenet and Neville blood to flow
like water from the veins of old women as well as from those of young
men, when he hanged Catholics and burned Protestants, when he caused
Surrey to lose the finest head in England,--in short, no matter what he
did, he always had his eye steadily fixed across that boiling sea of
blood that he had created upon one grand point, namely, the
preservation of the internal peace of England, not only while he
himself should live, but after his death. His son, or whoso should be
his heir, must succeed to an undisputed inheritance, even if it should
be necessary to make away with all the nobility of the realm, and most
of the people, in order to secure the so-much-desired quiet.
Church-yards were to be filled in order that all England might be
reduced to the condition of a church-yard. That _Red Spectre_
which has so often frightened even sensible men since 1789, and caused
some remarkably humiliating displays of human weakness during our
generation and its immediate predecessor, was, it should seem, ever
present to the eyes of Henry VIII. He saw Anarchy perpetually
struggling to get free from those bonds in which Henry VIII. had
confined that monster, and he cut off nearly every man or woman in
whose name a plea for the crown could be set up as against a Tudor
prince or princess. Like his father, to use Mr. Froude's admirable
expression, "he breathed an atmosphere of suspended insurrection," and
he was fixed and firm in his purpose to deprive all rebelliously
disposed people of their leaders, or of those to whom they would
naturally look for lead and direction. The axe was kept continually
striking upon noble necks, and the cord was as continually stretched by
ignoble bodies, because the King was bent upon making insurrection a
failing business at the best. Men and women, patrician and plebeian,
might play at rebellion, if they liked it, but they should be made to
find that they were playing the losing game.
Now, this succession-question theory has the merit of meeting the very
difficulty that besets us when we study the history of Henry's reign,
and it is justified by many things that belong to English history for a
period of more than two centuries,--that is to say, from the deposition
of Richard II., in 1399, to the death of Elizabeth, in 1603. It is a
strangely suggestive satire on the alleged excellence of hereditary
monarchy as a mode of government that promotes the existence of order
beyond any other, that England should not have been free from trouble
for two hundred years, because her people could not agree upon the
question of the right to the crown, and so long as that question was
left unsettled, there could be no such thing as permanent peace for
the castle or the cottage or the city. Town and country, citizen,
baron, and peasant, were alike dependent upon the ambition of aspiring
princes and king-makers for the condition of their existence. The folly
of Richard II. enabled Henry of Bolingbroke to convert his ducal
coronet into a royal crown, and to bring about that object which his
father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, seems to have ever had at
heart. Henry IV. was a usurper, in spite of his Parliamentary title,
according to all ideas of hereditary right; for, failing heirs of the
body to Richard II., the crown belonged to the House of Mortimer, in
virtue of the descent of its chief from the Duke of Clarence, third
son of Edward III, the Duke of Lancaster being fourth son of that
monarch. Henry IV. felt the force of the objection that existed to his
title, and he sought to evade it by pretending to found his claim to
the crown on descent from Edmund of Lancaster, whom he assumed to have
been the _elder_ brother of Edward I.; but no weight was attached
to this plea by his contemporaries, who saw in him a monarch created
by conquest and by Parliamentary action. The struggle that then began
endured until both Plantagenets and Tudors had become extinct, and
the English crown had passed to the House of Stuart, in the person of
James I., who was descended in the female line from the Duke of
Clarence, through Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV., and
wife of Henry VII. Intrigues, insurrections, executions, and finally
great civil wars, grew out of the usurpation of the throne by the line
of Lancaster. We find the War of the Roses spoken of by nearly all
writers on it as beginning in 1455, when the first battle of St. Albans
was fought, but in fact the contest of which that war was but the
extreme utterance began nearly sixty years earlier than the day of the
Battle of St. Albans, its commencement dating from the time that Henry
IV. became King. A variety of circumstances prevented it from assuming
its severest development until long after all the actors in its early
stages had gone to their graves. Henry IV. was a man of superior
ability, which enabled him, though not without struggling hard for it,
to triumph over all his enemies; and his early death prevented a
renewal of the wars that had been waged against him. His son, the
overrated Henry V., who was far inferior to his father as a statesman,
entered upon a war with France, and so distracted English attention
from English affairs; and had he lived to complete his successes, all
objection to his title would have disappeared. Indeed, England herself
would have disappeared as a nation, becoming a mere French province, a
dependency of the House of Plantagenet reigning at Paris. But the
victor of Agincourt, like all the sovereigns of his line, died young,
comparatively speaking, and left his dominions to a child who was not a
year old, the ill-fated Henry VI. Then would have broken out the
quarrel that came to a head at the beginning of the next generation,
but for two circumstances. The first was, that the King's uncles were
able men, and maintained their brother's policy, and so continued that
foreign distraction which prevented the occurrence of serious internal
troubles for some years. The second was, that the Clarence or Mortimer
party had no leader.
There is a strange episode in the history of Henry V., which shows how
unstable was the foundation of that monarch's throne. While he was
preparing, at Southampton, for the invasion of France, a conspiracy was
discovered to have been formed to take the throne from him. The chief
actor in it was the Earl of Cambridge, who was speedily tried,
convicted, and beheaded, sharing the fate of his associates. Cambridge
was a son of the Duke of York, fifth son of Edward III., and he had
married Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Earl of March; and the
intention of the conspirators was to have raised that lady's brother,
Edmund Earl of March, to Henry's place. March was a feeble character,
and Cambridge is believed to have looked to his own wife's becoming
Queen-Regnant of England. The plot, according to one account, was
betrayed by March to the King, and the latter soon got rid of one whose
daring character and ambitious purpose showed that he must be dangerous
as an opposition chief. Henry's enemies were thus left without a head,
in consequence of their leader's having lost his head; and the French
war rapidly absorbing men's attention, all doubts as to Henry's title
were lost sight of in the blaze of glory that came from the field of
Agincourt. The spirit of opposition, however, revived as soon as the
anti-Lancastrians obtained a leader, and public discontent had been
created by domestic misrule and failure in France. That leader was the
Duke of York, son of that Earl of Cambridge who had been executed for
his part in the Southampton conspiracy, which conspiracy has been
called by an eminent authority the first spark of the flame which in
the course of time consumed the two Houses of York and Lancaster. Left
an infant of three years, it was long before York became a
party-leader, and probably he never would have disputed the succession
but for the weakness of Henry VI, which amounted to imbecility, and the
urging of stronger-minded men than himself. As it was, the open
struggle began in 1455, and did not end until the defeat and capture of
the person called Perkin Warbeck, in 1497. The greatest battles of
English history took place in the course of these campaigns, and the
greater part of the royal family and most of the old nobility perished
in them, or by assassination, or on the scaffold.
But the Yorkist party, though vanquished, was far from extinguished by
the military and political successes of Henry VII. It testifies
emphatically to the original strength of that party, and to the extent
and the depth of its influence, that it should be found a powerful
faction as late as the last quarter of Henry VIII.'s reign, fifty years
after the Battle of Stoke. "The elements of the old factions were
dormant," says Mr. Froude, "but still smouldering. Throughout Henry's
reign a White-Rose agitation had been secretly fermenting; without open
success, and without chance of success so long as Henry lived, but
formidable in a high degree, if opportunity to strike should offer
itself. Richard de la Pole, the representative of this party, had been
killed at Pavia, but his loss had rather strengthened their cause than
weakened it, for by his long exile he was unknown in England; his
personal character was without energy; while he made place for the
leadership of a far more powerful spirit in the sister of the murdered
Earl of Warwick, the Countess of Salisbury, mother of Reginald Pole.
This lady had inherited, in no common degree, the fierce nature of the
Plantagenets; born to command, she had rallied round her the
Courtenays, the Nevilles, and all the powerful kindred of Richard the
King-Maker, her grandfather. Her Plantagenet descent was purer than the
King's; and on his death, without a male child, half England was likely
to declare either for one of her sons, or for the Marquis of Exeter,
the grandson of Edward IV." Of the general condition of the English
mind at about the date of the fall of Wolsey Mr. Froude gives us a very
accurate picture. "The country," he says, "had collected itself; the
feuds of the families had been chastened, if they had not been subdued;
while the increase of wealth and material prosperity had brought out
into obvious prominence those advantages of peace which a hot-spirited
people, antecedent to experience, had not anticipated, and had not been
able to appreciate. They were better fed, better cared for, more justly
governed, than they had ever been before; and though, abundance of
unruly tempers remained, yet the wiser portion of the nation, looking
back from their new vantage-ground, were able to recognize the past in
its true hatefulness. Henceforward a war of succession was the
predominating terror with English statesmen, and the safe establishment
of the reigning family bore a degree of importance which it is possible
that their fears exaggerated, yet which in fact was the determining
principle of their action. It was therefore with no little anxiety that
the council of Henry VIII. perceived his male children, on whom their
hopes were centred, either born dead, or dying one after another within
a few days of their birth, as if his family were under a blight. When
the Queen had advanced to an age which precluded hope of further
offspring, and the heir presumptive was an infirm girl, the unpromising
aspect became yet more alarming. The life of the Princess Mary was
precarious, for her health was weak from her childhood. If she lived,
her accession would be a temptation to insurrection; if she did not
live, and the King had no other children, a civil war was inevitable.
At present such a difficulty would be disposed of by an immediate and
simple reference to the collateral branches of the royal family; the
crown would descend with even more facility than the property of an
intestate to the next of kin. At that time, if the rule had been
recognized, it would only have increased the difficulty, for the next
heir in blood was James of Scotland; and gravely as statesmen desired
the union of the two countries, in the existing mood of the people, the
very stones in London streets, it was said, would rise up against a
king of Scotland who claimed to enter England as sovereign. Even the
Parliament itself declared in formal language that they would resist
any attempt on the part of the Scotch king 'to the uttermost of their
There can be no doubt that Mr. Froude has made out his case, and that
"the predominating terror," not only of English statesmen, but of the
English people and their King, was a war of succession. If we were not
convinced by what the historian says, we should only have to look over
the reign of Elizabeth, and observe how anxious the statesmen of that
time were to have the succession question settled, and how singular was
the effect of that question's existence and overshadowing importance on
the conduct of the Great Queen. The desire that she should marry, and
the pertinacity with which she was urged to abandon her maiden state by
Parliament, which strike us of the nineteenth century as being not
simply indelicate, but utterly gross even in the coarse sixteenth
century, must in fairness be attributed to the fear that prevailed
throughout England that that country might again become the theatre of
a civil conflict as extensive, as bloody, and as destructive of
material prosperity and moral excellence as had been the Wars of the
Roses,--a fear which the existence of the contest between Catholicism
and Protestantism was well calculated to exaggerate to a very alarming
extent. The coquetry and affectation of the Queen, which have been held
to detract largely from her claim to be considered a woman of sense and
capacity, become natural in her and intelligible to us when we consider
them in connection with the succession question. She could not
positively declare that she would under no circumstances become a
wife, but at the same time she was firm in her heart never to have a
husband. So she followed the politician's common plan: she compromised.
She allowed her hand to be sought by every empty-handed and
empty-headed and hollow-hearted prince or noble in Europe, determined
that each in his turn should go empty away; and so she played off
princes against her own people, until the course of years had left no
doubt that she had become, and must ever remain, indeed "a barren
stock." Her conduct, which is generally regarded as having been
ridiculous, and which may have been so in its details, and looked upon
only from its feminine side, throws considerable light upon the entire
field of English politics under the Tudor dynasty.
If it could be established that the conduct of Henry VIII. toward his
people, his church, his nobles, and his wives was regulated solely with
reference to the succession question, and by his desire to preserve
the peace of his kingdom, we believe that few men would be disposed to
condemn most of those of his acts that have been long admitted to
blacken his memory, and which have placed him almost at the very head
of the long roll of heartless tyrants. That the end justifies the
means is a doctrine which everybody condemns by word of mouth, but the
practice founded upon which almost all men approve in their hearts,
whenever it applies to their own schemes, or to schemes the success of
which promises to benefit them, either individually or in the mass. As
the apologists of the French Jacobins have argued that their favorites
were cruel as the grave against Frenchmen only that they might
preserve France from destruction, so might the admirers of Henry plead
that he was vindictively cruel only that the English masses might live
in peace, and be protected in quietly tilling their fields, manuring
them after their own fashion, and not having them turned up and
fertilized after the fashion of Bosworth and Towton and Barnet. Surely
Henry Tudor, second of that name, is entitled to the same grace that is
extended to Maximilien Robespierre, supposing the facts to be in his
But are the facts, when fairly stated, in his favor? They are not. His
advocates must find themselves terribly puzzled to reconcile his
practice with their theory. They prove beyond all dispute that the
succession question was the grand thought of England in Henry's time;
but they do not prove, because they cannot prove, that the King's
action was such as to show that he was ready, we will not say to make
important sacrifices to lessen the probabilities of the occurrence of a
succession war, but to do anything in that way that required him to
control any one of the gross passions or grosser appetites of which he
was throughout his loathsome life the slave and the victim. He seems to
have passed the last twenty years of his reign in doing deeds that give
flat contradiction to the theory set up by his good-natured admirers of
after-times, that he was the victim of circumstances, and that, though
one of the mildest and most merciful of men in fact, those villanous
circumstances did compel him to become a tyrant, a murderer, a
repudiator of sacramental and pecuniary and diplomatic obligations, a
savage on a throne, and a Nebuchadnezzar for pride and arrogance, only
that, unfortunately for his subjects in general, and for his wives in
particular, he was not turned out to grass. A beast in fact, he did not
become a beast in form. Scarcely one of his acts, after the divorce of
Catharine of Aragon, was of a character to favor the continuance of
peace in England, while many of them were admirably calculated to
bring about a war for the regal succession. Grant that he was justified
in putting away his Spanish wife,--a most excellent and eminently
disagreeable woman, a combination of qualities by no means
uncommon,--where was the necessity of his taking Anne Boleyn to wife?
Why could he not have given his hand to some foreign princess, and so
have atoned to his subjects for breaking up the Spanish alliance, in
the continuance of which the English people had no common political
interest, and an extraordinary commercial interest? Why could he not
have sent to Germany for some fair-haired princess, as he did years
later, and got Anne of Cleves for his pains, whose ugly face cost poor
Cromwell his head, which was giving the wisest head in England for
the worst one out of it? Henry, Mr. Froude would have us believe,
divorced Catharine of Aragon because he desired to have sons, as one
way to avoid the breaking out of a civil war; and yet it was a sure way
to bring Charles V. into an English dispute for the regal succession,
as the supporter of any pretender, to repudiate the aunt of that
powerful imperial and royal personage. The English nation, Mr. Froude
truly tells us, was at that time "sincerely attached to Spain. The
alliance with the House of Burgundy" (of which Charles V. was the head)
"was of old date; the commercial intercourse with Flanders was
enormous,--Flanders, in fact, absorbing all the English exports; and as
many as fifteen thousand Flemings were settled in London. Charles
himself was personally popular; he had been the ally of England in the
late French war; and when, in his supposed character of leader of the
anti-Papal party in Europe, he allowed a Lutheran army to desecrate
Rome, he had won the sympathy of all the latent discontent which was
fomenting in the population." Was it not a strange way to proceed for
the preservation of peace in England to offend a foreign sovereign who
stood in so strong and influential a position to the English people?
Charles was not merely displeased because of the divorce of his
relative, his mother's sister, a daughter of the renowned Isabella, who
had wrought such great things for Christendom,--promoting the discovery
of America, and conquering Granada,--but he was incensed at the mere
thought of preferring to her place a private gentlewoman, who would
never have been heard of, if Henry had not seen fit to raise her from
common life, first to the throne, and then to the scaffold. That was an
insult to the whole Austro-Burgundian family, whose dominions rivalled
those of the Roman Caesars, and whose chief had just held a King of
France captive and a Pope of Rome besieged. The Emperor might, perhaps,