A Celebration of Women Writers

"Körner and His Sister" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 242-244.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 245] 

KÖRNER AND HIS SISTER.


Charles Theodore Körner, the celebrated young German poet and soldier, was killed in a skirmish with a detachment of French troops, on the 20th of August, 1813, a few hours after the composition of his popular piece, "The Sword-song." He was buried at the village of Wöbbelin in Mecklenburgh, under a beautiful oak, in a recess of which he had frequently deposited verses composed by him while campaigning in its vicinity. The monument erected to his memory is of cast iron; and the upper part is wrought into a lyre and sword, a favourite emblem of Körner's, from which one of his works had been entitled. Near the grave of the poet is that of his only sister, who died of grief for his loss, having only survived him long enough to complete his portrait, and a drawing of his burial-place. Over the gate of the cemetery is engraved one of his own lines:–

"Vergiss die treuen Tödten nicht."
Forget not the faithful dead.

See Richardson's Translation of Körner's Life and Works, and Downes's Letters from Mecklenburgh.


[Page 246] 

KÖRNER AND HIS SISTER.


GREEN wave the oak for ever o'er thy rest,
  Thou that beneath its crowning foliage sleepest,
And, in the stillness of thy country's breast,
  Thy place of memory, as an altar keepest;
Brightly thy spirit o'er her hills was pour'd,
          Thou of the Lyre and Sword!

Rest, bard! rest, soldier!–by the father's hand
  Here shall the child of after years be led,
With his wreath-offering silently to stand,
  In the hush'd presence of the glorious dead.
Soldier and bard! for thou thy path hast trod
          With freedom and with God.

[Page 247] 

The oak wav'd proudly o'er thy burial-rite,
  On thy crown'd bier to slumber warriors bore thee,
And with true hearts thy brethren of the fight
  Wept as they vail'd their drooping banners o'er thee.
And the deep guns with rolling peal gave token,
          That Lyre and Sword were broken.

Thou hast a hero's tomb:–a lowlier bed
  Is hers, the gentle girl beside thee lying,
The gentle girl, that bow'd her fair, young head
  When thou wert gone, in silent sorrow dying.
Brother, true friend! the tender and the brave–
          She pined to share thy grave.

Fame was thy gift from others;–but for her,
  To whom the wide world held that only spot,
She loved thee!–lovely in your lives ye were,
  And in your early deaths divided not.
Thou hast thine oak, thy trophy:–What hath she?–
          Her own blest place by thee!

[Page 248] 

It was thy spirit, brother! which had made
  The bright earth glorious to her thoughtful eye,
Since first in childhood midst the vines ye play'd,
  And sent glad singing thro' the free blue sky.
Ye were but two–and when that spirit pass'd,
          Wo to the one, the last!

Wo, yet not long!–She linger'd but to trace
  Thine image from the image in her breast,
Once, once again to see that buried face
  But smile upon her, ere she went to rest.
Too sad a smile! its living light was o'er,
          It answer'd hers no more.

The earth grew silent when thy voice departed,
  The home too lonely whence thy step had fled;
What then was left for her, the faithful-hearted?
  Death, death, to still the yearning for the dead!
Softly she perish'd:–be the Flower deplor'd
          Here with the Lyre and Sword!

[Page 249] 

Have ye not met ere now?–so let those trust
  That meet for moments but to part for years,
That weep, watch, pray, to hold back dust from dust,
  That love, where love is but a fount of tears.
Brother, sweet sister! peace around ye dwell:–
          Lyre, Sword, and Flower, farewell! *


[Page 249]

* The following lines recently addressed to the author of the above, by the venerable father of Körner, who, with the mother, still survives the "Lyre, Sword, and Flower" here commemorated, may not be uninteresting to the German reader.

Wohllaut tönt aus der Ferne von freundlichen Lüften getragen,
Schmeichelt mit lindernder Kraft sich in der Trauernden Ohr,
Stärkt den erhebenden Glauben an solcher seelen Verwandschaft,
Die zum Tempel die brust nur für das Würdige weihn.
Aus dem Lande zu dem sich stets der gefeyerte Jungling
Hingezogen gefühlt, wird ihm ein glänzender Lohn.
Heil dem Brittischen Volke, wenn ihm das Deutsche nicht fremd ist!
Uber Länder und Meer reichen sich beyde die Hand.
                                                                         Theodor Körner's Vater.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom