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Ferdinand Freiligrath, "Hurrah, Germania!" (July 25, 1870)

The liberal and democratic views of author Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876) prompted censors to ban his poems in the 1840s. Freiligrath emigrated to London in 1846. Two years later, he returned to Germany, where he met Karl Marx (1818-1883) and became co-editor of Marx’s Neue Rheinische Zeitung. In 1851, after a period of imprisonment, Freiligrath went into exile in London; he remained there until 1868. Freiligrath’s revolutionary background did not prevent him from embracing a kind of poetry that was emotional, Protestant, and transparently political. The following poem was written just days after France declared war on Prussia in July 1870. The Rhine is an important symbol in the poem, as it was for many nationalists who claimed that France must never hold the river’s left bank: the Rhine was always to be a “German Rhine.” The poem reflects the success of Bismarck’s strategy to portray Germany as a peace-loving nation: Germania, personified as a woman and mother, is unjustly attacked by a belligerent enemy but resolves in righteous anger to protect her children, who, in turn, unite in her support.

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Hurrah, Germania!

Hurrah! thou lady proud and fair,
Hurrah! Germania mine!
What fire is in thine eye as there
Thou bendest o’er the Rhine!
How in July’s full blaze dost thou
Flash forth thy sword, and go,
With heart elate and knitted brow,
To strike the invader low!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!

No thought hadst thou, so calm and light,
Of war or battle plain,
But on thy broad fields, waving bright,
Didst mow the golden grain,
With clashing sickles, wreaths of corn
Thy sheaves didst garner in,
When, hark! across the Rhine War’s horn
Breaks through the merry din!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!

Down sickle then and wreath of wheat
Amidst the corn were cast,
And, starting fiercely to thy feet,
Thy heart beat loud and fast;
Then with a shout I heard thee call,
“Well, since you will, you may!
Up, up, my children, one and all,
On to the Rhine! Away!”
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Germania!

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