Works of Frederick Engels, 1840

On the Death of Immermann

Written: in September 1840
First published: in Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser No. 243, October 10, 1840
Signed: Friedrich Oswald

In the camp’s finest tent we'd sat all night
And mingled Spanish wine with German song.
The fields were turning grey in dawn’s first light;
Our eyes were aching — we'd stayed up so long.
The sun’s rays peeped into our tent and found
Our sherry bottles drained, in disarray.
The hour was late. Time we were homeward bound.
Come, let us mount the horses and away!

We flew. After carousing all night long,
What bliss to feel the freshness of the morrow.
Still in our ears the sound of strings and song;
Still far away the long day’s care and worry.
The shades of night had vanished. From the sky
Light fell on river, trees, fields bathed in dew.
We all looked up to trace with joyful eye
The sun’s bright progress through the cloudless blue.

We're home. Our steeds coursed well. Now I stand here
Upon the threshold of work’s tribulations.
Here is the paper. Let me draw fresh cheer
By drinking from the well-spring of the nations.
Russia, Great Britain, Turkish catastrophes!
And now for Germany — does all go well?
Ah, here.... What? Dead? Can I believe my eyes?
You, Immermann, must also bid farewell?
Defiant heart, so full of noble scorn,
Must you depart, then, for eternity,
Now that we see the rose despite the thorn
And bow to you in all humility?
Now that, like Schiller, proudly you beheld
Your people hang on every word from you?
Now that the love within your bosom held
Had blossomed forth with shining rays anew?

Aloof in German poetry’s sacred grove,
You shunned your fellow bards’ vociferous throng,
And by the Rhine in solitude you wove
The images of many a gentle song.
The mob’s harsh clamour never came to hurt you
In the flower garden where you toiled away.
So few the stories they could spread about you;
Living, you were a legend in your day.

Because the maltitude, that never can
Conceive what power inspires the poet’s lays,
Why should they heed the silent, serious man
Who wanders far from their well-trodden ways?
But you, 0 Immermann, that now have died,
Wanted to wrestle with yourself, alone,
And all the bitter jarring strife inside
That you grew up with, master on your own.

So, meditating through the long dark night
That held in thrall our German poetry,
In solitude you fought the inner fight
And battled through to see the dawning day.
When far above your dwelling’s mossy stones
July’s wild thunder rolled away at last,
You sent into the world your Epigones,
That requiem for a generation past.

And yet you saw the rising generation,
Those in whose hearts the youthful fires blaze,
Speak loudly to defend your reputation,
Your right to wear the bard’s full crown of bays.
In your abode you saw us drawing nigh,
You saw us silent at your feet, as we
Looked up into your rapt and thoughtful eye
And listened to your rolling poetry.

Now that the people, who forgot your name,
Have welcomed you with shouts of joy, bestowing
On you your rightful laurels of acclaim,
0 Immermann, is this a time for going?
Farewell! Here in this land of Germany
Poets to match your skill are very few.
I settled down to work, and swore to be
As German, and as strong and firm as you.