TO France there wandered two grenadiers,
In Russia once captives made.
To German quarters they came after years,
And bowed their heads, dismayed.
And there they were sorrowful tidings told
That France was lost—and repelled,
Destroyed and defeated the army bold—
And the emperor captive held.
The grenadiers wept grievously
When told this mournful lore.
Then said the one: “Ah, woe is me,
How my old wound is sore!”
“The song is sung” the other said,
“I too would die with thee;
But wife and child, if I were dead,
Would perish utterly.”
“For wife and child what do I care!
Far better longings I know:
As hungry beggars let them fare—
My emperor, emperor—woe!
“But grant me, brother, one only prayer:
Now when I here shall die,
My body take to France and there
In French earth let me lie!
“My cross of honour with scarlet band
Upon my heart be placed;
And put my gun into my hand,
My sword gird round my waist!
“Then quietly I’ll lie and hark,
A sentry in my tomb,
Till I the horses’ prancing mark,
And hear the cannon’s boom.
“Then my emperor rides across my grave,
And swords will be clashing hard:
And armed I’ll rise up from my grave,
My emperor to guard!”
Written 1816. Translation by Margarete Münsterberg, first printed 1916.