Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A German War Poem Translated: Argonnerwald, um Mitternacht

Argonnerwald, um Mitternacht
Pionierlied aus dem Weltkrieg, 1915

German Troops on Light Rail Line, Argonne Forest

Argonne Forest, at Midnight
A Sapper's Song from the World War, 1915

Argonne Forest, at midnight,
A sapper stands on guard.
A star shines high up in the sky,
bringing greetings from a distant homeland.

And with a spade in his hand,
He waits forward in the sap-trench.
He thinks with longing on his love,
Wondering if he will ever see her again.

The artillery roars like thunder,
While we wait in front of the infantry,
With shells crashing all around.
The Frenchies want to take our position.

Should the enemy threaten us even more,
We Germans fear him no more.
And should he be so strong,
He will not take our position.

The storm breaks!  The mortar crashes!
The sapper begins his advance.
Forward to the enemy trenches,
There he pulls the pin on a grenade.

The infantry stand in wait,
Until the hand grenade explodes.
Then forward with the assault against the enemy,
And with a shout, break into their position.

Argonne Forest, Argonne Forest,
Soon thou willt be a quiet cemetery.
In thy cool earth rests
much gallant soldiers' blood.

Translated by Jeff Curtis


  1. The prophetic final stanza had certainly come true by 1918. DBeer

  2. The Argonne forest is still a melancholy place, 100 years later.

  3. First off this is WWI.
    This expresses the german soldier under tremendous pressure of trench warfare holding out against battle fatigue. It is surely the most grim steadfast march toward death that the third reich appropriated for WWII. Most of the marches for the wehrmacht were bombastic prussian type or happy go lucky distraction type songs from the 1830-1930 era. This song goes well with standing long physical pain.

  4. Still my favorite poem that was turned into a song :)