페이지 이미지

grasp in direct contravention of the Treaty of Prague, protests, in the name of justice and of European law, against that spirit in the Government of Prussia which was evinced in the seizure of Silesia. The too-manifest fact that the statesmen arid people of Prussia are incapable of hearing the voice of justice incarnated in the Holstein member, and of obeying it in spite of all considerations of material advantage, is a proof that the Silesian policy has, in so far, stunted the intelligence and paralyzed the conscience of Prussia. The misery and unrest which, without question, prevail widely in that country—the burden of life rendered intolerable by military constraint and bureaucratic meddling — the spectre of Socialism menacing in the background — suggest a doubt whether it is not too soon to mark the seizure of Silesia as one of those lessons which God has written in the Bible of History.





TF the pirate in Shakspeare, who razed the eighth commandment from the Decalogue when he started on a cruise, attended well to his piratical business, and was bold, able, energetic, prompt, adroit, he would have had more success than pirates who played their game less cleverly, and might have been In many points an instructor. Even his history, therefore, might be worth reading. But Frederick was no mere pirate, and in describing his campaigns Carlyle brings into view far higher than mere piratical virtues. Frederick, in point of fact, was a hero of the Homeric type, armed with the science of the eighteenth century. The sacking of any town that came in his way did not expose Ulysses to the slightest disapprobation from Homer, and the seizure of Silesia would have excited enthusiastic admiration in the camp of Agamemnon. Not till we rise to the law of chivalry binding every true knight to defend a woman, or to the law of Christ enjoining every man to do to others as he would have others do to him, do we meet with a clear repudiation of such actions as Frederick's seizure. Frederick fell back upon the heroism of physical force. His views on chivalry were pretty much those of his friend the author of La Pucelle, and he made no pretence to being a Christian. Voltaire represented a reaction against Christianity in belief and theory, Frederick a reaction against Christianity in the practice of life and the management of affairs; and the renown of the one and the success of the other furnish a comment—on the whole a discouraging and melancholy comment —on Goethe's opinion that the race, having once attained to the height of Christianity, cannot recede from it. To follow the steps of a Homeric hero after seventeen hundred years of Christianity is not edifying; hut when our guide is such a describer as Carlyle, it is interesting; and the adventures of few heroes arc so diversified, picturesque, and startling as those of Frederick. The many-counselled, much-enduring Ulysses never came through one-half so much as the hero of the Seven Years' War; and whatever were Frederick's faults, he was not only as sagacious as Ulysses and as brave as Achilles, but had qualities and characteristies of his own that make his history more piquant than that of either. If it is the note of a poet to seek and find relief for his deepest feelings by pouring them forth in verse, whether the verse is particularly good or not, he was a born poet. His wit, also, if not refined, was as biting as his sword; and the crowned heads of Europe, ally and enemy pretty much alike, winced under the shafts of his wild mockery and bitter scorn. Here was a subject for the most racy historical describer of the century!

It is in the delineation of Frederick's campaigns that Mr. Carlyle's descriptive power is most signally displayed. Not only are the battles placed before the mind's eye with vivid distinctness, but we are made to understand the precise objects aimed at by the antagonist commanders, and the means they took to attain them. In pictorial descriptions of battles, there arc none but Homer and Scott who can be named in comparison with Carlyle; and Homer almost confined himself to the single combats of heroes; while Scott, though his Bannockburn and Flodden are admirable pictures of feudal fray, did not, in his Life of Napoleon, describe modern battles with corresponding skill. Carlyle describes the modern battle with the science of a military critic, and with the pictorial genius of a BATTLE OF HOHENFRIEDBERO. 165

poet . It is totally impossible to do justice to these masterpieces of literary art by brief extracts. They are wholes, and deserve study as such. But I shall give the reader two successive glimpses of Frederick in the field, first winning, then losing, a battle.

It had been the object of Frederick, in the earlier part of 1745, to entice Prince Karl, who was at the head of an Austrian and Saxon army, numbering about 70,000 men, to enter Silesia through the passes from Bohemia. The impression which he had conveyed to the Prince was that he was too weak to face the Austrians in the field, and hoped for nothing better than to secure his retreat upon Breslau. When the French envoy, Valori, a man who knew something of war, expressed surprise to Frederick that he had left the passes undefended, " Mon ami," replied the King, " if you want to get the mouse, don't shut the trap!"

Carlyle paints for us a view of the Austrian generals, as they appeared on the top of the mountains overlooking Silesia, while their men were marching past, to descend, as they imagined, in the rear of a retreating foe. I shall quote the account of the battle of Hohenfriedberg from this point, omitting much but altering nothing. The details of the actual fighting are too complicated, and would occupy too much space, to be cited.

The Battle Of HohENFitiEDBEHO, Juxe, 1745.

Prince Karl, with Weissenfels, General Berlichingen, and many plumed dignitaries arc dining on the hill-top near Hohenfriedberg: after having given order about everything, they witness there, over their wine, the issue of their columns from the mountains; which goes on all the afternoon with field-music, spread banners; and the oldest general admits he never saw a finer review-manoeuvre, or one better done, if so well. Thus sit they on the hill-top in the beautiful June afternoon, Silesia lying beautifully azure at their feet; the Zobtcnbcrg, enchanted mountain, blue and high on one's eastern horizon. The Austrian and Saxon gentlemen notice, four or five miles in the distance, a body of Prussian horse and foot, visibly wending northward; like a long glittering serpent, the glitter of their muskets flashing back yonder on the afternoon sun and us, as they mount from hollow to height. Ten or twelve thousand of them; making for Strigau, to appearance. Intending to bivouac or billet there, and keep some kind of watch over us; belike with au eye to being rear-guard, on the retreat toward Breslau to-morrow? Or will they retreat without attempting mischief? Serenity of Weissenfels engages to seize the heights and proper posts, over yonder this night yet; and will take Strigau itself, the first thing, to-morrow morning.

Yes, your serenities, those are Prussians in movement; and it is not their notion to retreat without mischief. For there stands, not so far off, on the Stanowitz Fuchsberg, a brisk little gentleman, if you could notice him; with his eyes fixed on you, and plans in the head of him now getting nearly mature. For certain, he is pushing out that column of men; and all manner of other columns are getting order to push out, and take their ground; and to-morrow morning — you will not find him in retreat! Friedrich, I presume, at this late hour of four, may be snatching a morsel of dinner; his orderlies are silently speeding, plans taken, orders given: To start all, at eight in the evening, for the bridge of Strigau; there to cross, and spread to the right and to the left . Never will Valori forget the discipline of those Prussians, and how they marched. Difficult ways; the hard road is for their artillery; the men march on each side, sometimes to mid-leg in water—never mind. Wholly in order, wholly silent; Valori followed them three leagues close, and there was not one straggler. Every private man, much more every officer, knows well what grim errand they are on; and they make no remarks. Steady as Time; and, except that their shoes are not of felt, silent as he. The Austrian watch-fires glow silent manifold to leftward 5-onder; silent overhead are the stars: the path of all duty, too, is silent (not about Strigau alone) for every welldrilled man. Friedrich's general order is, "No prisoners, you cavalry, in the heat of fight; cavalry, strike at the faces of them. You infantry, keep your fire till within fifty steps; bayonet withal is to be relied on." These were Friedrich's last general orders, given in the hollow of the night, near the foot of that Fuchsberg (Fox-hill) where he had been so busy all day.

To describe the battle which ensued, battle named of Strigau or Hohenfriedberg, excels the power of human talent, if human talent had leisure for such employment. It is the huge shock and clash of 70,000 against 70,000. An enormous furious rimullas (or " both at once," as the Latins phrase it), spreading over ten square miles. Rather say, a wide congeries of electric simultaneities; all electric, playing madly into one another; most loud, most mad: the aspect of which is smoky, thunderous, ab

« 이전계속 »