Reiters Morgengesang

Reiters Morgengesang

In The Life of Billy Yank, noted historian Bell Wiley wrote, "The favorite [song] of the Germans seems to have been their stirring soldier song "Morgenroth," [sic] which they sang in their native tongue when on the march and about the campfire." Indeed, "Morgenrot", or more properly "Reiters Morgengesang", seems to be the typical and most common of the songs in the German soldier's repetoir.

The song was written by Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827), who was better known for his original fairy tales and novels. The young writer wrote prolifically, if only for a short time, before he died of a sickness which had been worsened by (if not created by) his frantic work habits. Among his books was, Kriegs- und Volkslieder (Warsongs and Folksongs), which he edited and had published in 1824.


Morgenrot, Morgenrot,
Leuchtest mir zum frühen Tod?
|: Bald wird die Trompete blasen,
Dann muß ich mein Leben lassen,
Ich und mancher Kamerad! :|

Kaum gedacht, kaum gedacht,
Wird der Lust ein End gemacht!
|: Gestern noch auf stolzen Rossen,
Heute durch die Brust geschossen,
Morgen in das kühle Grab! :|

Ach wie bald, ach wie bald,
Schwindet Schönheit und Gestalt!
|: Strahlst du gleich mit deinen Wangen,
Die wie Milch und Purpur prangen,
Ach, die Rosen welken all! :|

Darum still, darum still
Füg ich mich, wie Gott es will.
|: Nun, so will ich wacker streiten,
Und sollt ich den Tod erleiden,
Stirbt ein braver Reitersmann! :|


Blush of Dawn, blush of dawn,
Has my time on earth then gone?
|:Soon the bugle will be blowing,
Soon my life-blood will be flowing,
Mine and many a comrade's too!:|

Scarce begun, scarce begun,
Till the sands of life are run;
|:Yesterday on horses flying,
Now mid hail of bullets dying,
Soon then in the cold,cold grave.:|

Soon, alas, soon, alas,
Lovely form and beauty pass;
|:Cheeks today so proudly glowing,
Boastful health and color showing!
Roses wither soon and die!:|

But be still, but be still,
Life will go as fate may will;
|:So I'll try to bravely meet it,
Even death and bravely greet it,
Like a valiant cavalier.:||



"Among foreign soldiers, the Germans were noted for their musical learning and accomplishments. .. The favorite of the Germans seems to have been their stirring soldier song 'Morgenroth,' [sic] which they sang in their native tongue when on the march and about the campfire. They also deligted in folk and national melodies of the homeland, and in patriotic and martial songs of their adopted America. Their bands were among the best in the army."
-Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank, p 169.

"The German regiments gave evidence from the very begining that they would express themselves in music. ...In the evening in camp the German-born soldiers sang songs reminiscent of German heroes and German fame and loyalty- songs sometimes gay, sometimes sad. Once a detail of three hundred Germans returning over the snow to camp from picket duty as the sun was rising struck up a German war song, 'Morgen Roth'"[sic].
-Ella Lonn, Foreigners in the Union Army and Navy, p 374.

June 30, 1863- "That evening Gen. Schurz ordered the German band of the 45th New York to play for the priest and nuns at the academy [St. Joseph's Academy, Emmitsburg, Maryland]. In the dwindling evening light, the small group played patriotic songs, marches, and polkas for the assembled crowd. Once the day's activities were concluded, the men gathered about their campfires and speculated on the battle they were sure was about to be joined. The growing darkness provided a background of eerie calm for "Morgenrot," always a favorite song among the German soldiers. On this occasion it proved prophetic..." The soldiers of the XI Corps would be heavily involved in the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on the following day.
- James S. Pula, The Sigel Regiment: A History of the 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865, p 157.

The English translation given here is not from the Civil War era, but it is given here because it is able to be sung to the same music. The translation was by Francis Owen. It is not a verbatim translation, but its very good.