Night Ride

Written: at the end of 1840
First published: in the Deutscher Courier No. 1, January 3, 1841
Signed: Friedrich Oswald

One night, my carriage bore me all alone
Across that well-known German territory
Where many a heart, by power beaten down,
Rages in impotent and blazing fury.

In fury that the freedom bought so dear
With struggle and with ceaseless vigilance
Had been cast out, for venal tongues to jeer
And cavil at with cruel insolence.

A mist lay on the meadows, deep and calm.
At times, a gust of wind would smite amain
The poplar-trees and they, in quick alarm
Aroused from sleep, soon slumbered on again.

Clear was the air. Sharp hung the sickle moon,
A sword of Damocles above the town
Towards which I sped.
The wrath of kings flies soon
From far away to strike its victims down.

Around the carriage wheels run leaping packs
Of dogs that bark at me.
And do they howl just like the Capital’s paid writer-hacks,
Having caught wind of my free-thinking soul?

What do I care? Sunk in my cushions low,
I live in dreams of many brave tomorrows.
Make no mistake — just before dawn, we know,
The nightmare plumbs the deepest of its horrors.

Yes, morning comes at last in silence stealing.
A single star shines forth to light its way.
The pious wake to bells of freedom pealing —
No tocsin now, but peace this joyful day!

The spirit’s tree has coiled its root-limbs round
The past, to crush all things outworn and old,
And now its branches strew the world around
With shining blossoms of eternal gold!

And so I slept, and woke that morning after,
And saw the earth all happy, cleansed and bright,
And Stüve’s city [Osnabrack, whose burgomaster was Johann Karl Bertram Stüve ]filled with joy and laughter,
City of Freedom, bathed in morning light.