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Amphiaraos (1815) D166


Vor Thebens siebenfach gähnenden Toren
Lag im furchtbaren Brüderstreit
Das Heer der Fürsten zum Schlagen bereit,
Im heiligen Eide zum Morde verschworen.
Und mit des Panzers blendendem Licht 
Gerüstet, als gält’ es, die Welt zu bekriegen, 
Träumen sie jauchzend von Kämpfen und Siegen, 
Nur Amphiaraos, der Herrliche, nicht.
Denn er liest in dem ewigen Kreise der Sterne, 
Wen die kommenden Stunden feindlich bedrohn. 
Des Sonnenlenkers gewaltiger Sohn
Sieht klar in der Zukunft nebelnde Ferne.
Er kennt des Schicksals verderblichen Bund
Er weiss, wie die Würfel, die eisernen, fallen,
Er sieht die Möira mit blutigen Krallen;
Doch die Helden verschmähen den heiligen Mund.
Er sah des Mordes gewaltsame Taten,
Er wusste, was ihm die Parze spann.
So ging er zum Kampf, ein verlor’ner Mann, 
von dem eig’nen Weibe schmählich verraten. 
Er war sich der himmlischen Flamme bewusst, 
Die heiss die kräftige Seele durchglühte;
Der Stolze nannte sich Apolloide,
Es schlug ihm ein göttliches Herz in der Brust.
„Wie? – ich, zu dem die Götter geredet,
Den der Wahrheit heilige Düfte umwehn,
Ich soll in gemeiner Schlacht vergehn,
von Periklymenos’ Hand getötet?
Verderben will ich durch eigene Macht,
Und staunend vernehm’ es die kommende Stunde 
Aus künftiger Sänger geheiligtem Munde,
Wie ich kühn mich gestürzt in die ewige Nacht.“
Und als der blutige Kampf begonnen,
Und die Eb’ne vom Mordgeschrei widerhallt,
So ruft er verzweifelnd: „Es naht mit Gewalt, 
Was mir die untrügliche Parze gesponnen.
Doch wogt in der Brust mir ein göttliches Blut, 
Drum will ich auch wert des Erzeugers verderben.“ 
Und wandte die Rosse auf Leben und Sterben, 
Und jagt zu des Stromes hochbrausender Flut.
Wild schnauben die Rosse, laut rasselt der Wagen, 
Das Stampfen der Hufe zermalmet die Bahn. 
Und schneller und schneller noch rast es heran, 
Als gält’ es, die flüchtige Zeit zu erjagen.
Wie wenn er die Leuchte des Himmel geraubt, 
Kommt er in Wirbeln der Windsbraut geflogen; 
Erschrocken heben die Götter der Wogen
Aus schäumenden Fluten das schilfichte Haupt.
Und plötzlich, als wenn der Himmel erglühte, 
Stürzt ein Blitz aus der heitern Luft,
Und die Erde zerreisst sich zur furchtbaren Kluft; 
Da rief laut jauchzend der Apolloide:
„Dank dir, Gewaltiger! fest steht mir der Bund. 
Dein Blitz ist mir der Unsterblichkeit Siegel; 
Ich folge dir, Zeus!“ – und er fasste die Zügel 
Und jagte die Rosse hinab in den Schlund.


Outside Thebes’ seven gaping gates 
lay, in grim fraternal strife,
the princes’ armies, ready for battle, 
and pledged to murder in sacred oath. 
Clad in dazzling armour,
as if intent on conquering the world, 
they dream joyfully of battle and victory. 
All but the noble Amphiaraos.
For in the eternal course of stars he reads
whom the coming hours threaten with a hostile fate. 
The mighty offspring of the sun’s master
sees clearly into the mists of the distant future.
He understands destiny’s pernicious bond;
he knows how the iron dice fall;
he beholds Fate with her bloody claws;
yet the heroes scorn his sacred words.
He saw monstrous deeds of murder;
he knew what Fate was spinning for him.
Thus he went to battle, a man doomed, 
shamefully betrayed by his own wife.
He was aware of the heavenly flame
which burned fiercely through his great soul; 
the proud man called himself the son of Apollo; 
a godlike heart beat in his breast.
'What? I, whom the gods have addressed, 
bathed in the holy scent of truth,
am to perish in mean battle,
slain by Periclymenos’ hand?
I wish to die by the power of my own hand. 
Future ages will hear, amazed,
from the sacred lips of minstrels
how I plunged boldly into eternal night.’
And when the bloody fight commenced,
and the plain echoed with murderous cries,
he called in despair: ‘What unerring Fate has spun 
for me now approaches with mighty force.
But divine blood flows in my breast,
thus will my death be worthy of my progenitor.’ 
And he turned his horses, for life or for death,
and sped to the river’s surging flood.
The stallions snort fiercely, the chariot rattles loudly, 
stamping hooves pound the track.
Faster and faster they approach,
as if striving to catch fleeting Time itself.
As if he had stolen the torch of heaven
he rushes onwards in a seething whirlwind. 
Horrified, the gods of the waves raise
their reed-covered heads from the foaming floods.
But suddenly, as if the heavens were ablaze,
a thunderbolt falls from the clear air, the earth
is ripped open, a terrifying chasm appears.
Then, in jubilation, the son of Apollo cried aloud: 
‘I thank you, mighty one! My covenant stands firm. 
Your thunderbolt is my seal of immortality.
I follow you, Zeus!’ And he seized the reins
and spurred his horses down into the abyss.

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Franz Peter Schubert was an late Classical and early Romantic composer. He produced a vast oeuvre during his short life, composing more the 600 vocal works (largely Lieder), and well as several symphonies, operas, and a large body of piano music. He was uncommonly gifted from a young age, but appreciation of his music was limited during his lifetime. His work became more popular in the decades after his death, and was praised by 19th century composers, including Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, and Liszt.

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Karl Theodor Körner  was a German poet and soldier. After some time in Vienna, where he wrote some light comedies and other works for the Burgtheater, he became a soldier and joined the Lützow Free Corps in the German uprising against Napoleon. During these times, he displayed personal courage in many fights, and encouraged his comrades by fiery patriotic lyrics he composed, among these being the “Schwertlied" (“Sword Song"), composed during a lull in fighting only a few hours before his death, and “Lützows wilde Jagd" ("Lützow's Wild Chase"), each set to music by both Carl Maria von Weber and Franz Schubert. He was often called the “German Tyrtaeus.

He was born at Dresden, capital of the Saxon electorate, the son of the consistorial councillor Christian Gottfried Körner and his wife Minna Stock Körner. He was raised by his parents and by his aunt, the artist Dora Stock, who lived in the home. He attended the Kreuzschule.

After his education, he chose mining as an occupation. He moved to Vienna, where he befriended Wilhelm von Humboldt, the Prussian ambassador, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich von Schlegel, and other eminent literary and scientific men. Here, within the short space of fifteen months, he produced a succession of dramas, operas, and farces, as well as several small poems. The success of his works obtained him the appointment of poet to the court at the Vienna Burgtheater. It was in this period of his life that he became betrothed to the popular actress Antonie Adamberger.

During the War of the Sixth Coalition, he left Vienna in March 1813, and together with Friedrich Friesen and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn joined the Lützow Free Corps, a voluntary paramilitary association which Ludwig Adolf Wilhelm von Lützow was then forming in Breslau, Silesia. In the midst of the most active campaigns, Körner continued to write poetry and other works. He wrote a singspiel, Der vierjährige Posten, which was set to music by Franz Schubert in 1815, but the piece was not performed until 1869, when it was staged at the Hofoper, Dresden. It was later adapted in English as The Outpost.

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