Hans Vogel

AN EPISODE OF THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR .

The fight is o'er, the day is done,
And thro' the clouds o'erhead
The fingers of the setting sun
Are pointing down blood-red, —
Beneath, on the white battlefield,
Lie strewn the drifts of dead.

No breath, no stir; but everywhere
The cold Frost crawleth slow,
And Frank and Teuton side by side
Lie stiffening in the snow, —
While piteously each marble face
Cleams in the ruby glow.

No sound; but yonder midst the dead
There stands one steed snow-white,
And clinging to its chilly mane,
Half swooning, yet upright,
Its rider totters, breathing hard,
Barcheaded in the light!

Hans Vogel. Spectacles on nose,
He gasps and gazes round —
He shivers as his eyes survey
That wintry battle-ground —
Then, parch'd with thirst and chill with cold,
He sinks, without a sound.

Before his vision as he lies
There gleams a quaint old Town,
He sees the students in the street
Swaggering up and down,
While at a casement sits a Maid
In clean white cap and gown.

Hans Vogel thinks, " My time hath come!
Ne'er shall these eyes of mine
Behold poor Ännchen, or the trees
Of dear old Ehbrenstein!"
He smacks his lips, " Mein Gott! for one
Deep draught of Rhenish wine!"

Then swift as thought his wild eyes gleam
On something at his side —
He stirs — he glares — he sits erect —
He grips it, eager-eyed:
A Flask it is, some friend or foe
Hath dropt there ere he died!

To God he mutters now a prayer,
Quaking in every limb;
Trembling he holds it to the light! —
'Tis full unto the brim!
A flask, a brimming flask of wine!
And God hath sent it him!

Hans Vogel's heart leaps up in joy,
" Dem Himmel sei Dank! " he cries —
Then pursing out his thirsty lips
Prepares to quaff his prize, —
When lo! a sound — he starts — and meets
A pair of burning eyes!

Propt on a bed of comrades dead,
His faint breath swiftly flying,
His breast torn open by a shell,
A Grenadier is lying: —
Grim as a wolf, with gleaming fangs,
The Frenchman glareth, dying!

White is his hair, his features worn
With many a wild campaign,
He rocks his head from side to side
Like to a beast in pain —
He groans athirst, with open mouth,
Again and yet again.

Hans Vogel, in the act to drink
And render God due praise,
Drops down his fever'd hand in doubt
And pauses in amaze,
For on the flask that Grenadier
Fixeth his thirsty gaze!

Hans Vogel smiles, " Here lieth one
Whose need is more than mine!"
Then, crawling over to his foe,
" Look, Frenchman, here is wine!
And by the God that made us both
Shall every drop be thine!"

Hast thou beheld a dying boar,
Struck bleeding to the ground,
Spring with a last expiring throe
To rip the foremost hound?
Terrible, fatal, pitiless,
It slays with one swift bound.

Ev'n so that grizzly wolf of war,
With eyes of hate and ire,
Stirs as he lies, and on the ground
Gropes with a dark desire, —
Then lifts a loaded carbine up,
And lo! one flash of fire!

A flash — a crash! Hans Vogel still
Is kneeling on his knee,
His heart is beating quick, his face
Is pale as man's can be;
The ball just grazed his bleeding brow, —
" Potstausend! " murmureth he.

Hans frowns: and raising to his lips
The flask, begins to quaff;
Then holds it to the fading light
With sly and cynic laugh.
Deep is his drought — sweet is the wine —
And he hath drunk the half!

But now he glanceth once again
Where that grim Frenchman lies —
Gasping still waits that wolf of war
Like to a beast that dies —
He groans athirst, with open mouth,
And slowly glazing eyes.

Hans Vogel smiles; unto his foe
Again now totters he —
So spent now is that wolf of war
He scarce can hear or see.
Hans Vogel holds his hand, and takes
His head upon his knee!

Then down the dying Frenchman's throat
He sends the liquor fine:
" Half yet remains, old boy," he cries,
While pouring down the wine —
" Hadst thou not play'd me such a trick,
It might have all been thine!"

Hans Vogel speaketh in the tongue
Of his good Fatherland —
The Frenchman hears an alien sound
And cannot understand,
But he can taste the warm red wine
And feel the kindly hand.

See! looking in Hans Vogel's face
He stirs his grizzly head —
Up, smiling, goes the grim moustache
O'er cheeks as grey as lead —
With one last glimmer of the eyes,
He smiles, — and he is dead.
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