Leb wohl du teures Land

Leb wohl du teures Land, das mich geboren

While this song is neither about nor from the Civil War Era, it is certainly a song that belongs in this collection, for two reasons. The first is that it is about German immigration to America, and helps to illustrate why people would make such a journey, and what they expected to find in the New World.

The second reason is that the song was supposed to have been written by Frederick Hecker. Herr Hecker was the leader of the revolution that occured in Baden in 1848 and 1849. He was thus the original commander and friend of Franz Sigel and other '48ers who became prominant in Civil War America. Hecker himself was forced to emmigrate and became the colonel of the 24th Illinois Infantry, and later of the 82nd Illinois. Though still holding the official title of colonel, he commanded a brigade in the later half of the war, but would eventually resign in early 1864 because of not being promoted.

Leb wohl du teures Land, das mich geboren,
Beamtenwillkür treibt mich fort von heir.
Ich hab Amerika mir auserkoren,
dort scheint allein der Freiheit Sonne mir.
Dort drücken mich nicht Tyrannen Ketten,
dort kennt man erst des Lebens hohen Wert,
||: und wer sich will aus Sklaverei erretten,
der folge mir, dort wird er erst gehert. :||

Dort kennt man nicht die stolzen Fürstenknechte,
verprassend nur des Landmanns sauren Schweiß,
dort freut der Mensch sich seiner Menschenrechte,
er erntet auch die Frucht von seinem Fleiß.
Es quälen ihn nicht jene Müßiggänger
durch Fürstengunst betitelt und besternt.
||: Das Sklavenwort Eurer Gnaden und Gestrengen
ist aus dem Reich der Sprache weit entfernt. :||

Nach diesem Land laßt uns ihr Brüder ziehen,
es folge mir, der [die] Freiheit liebt und ehrt.
Ein neues Leben wird dort [uns] allen blühen
und Gott ist's, der Wünsche uns gewährt.
Schon schlägt die längst erehnte Stunde,
der Abchiedstag, ihr Brüder, ist jetzt da,
||: und bald erschallt aus unsrem Munde:
Wie gut, wie gut ist's in Amerika. :||


Farewell you dear country that bore me,
Arbitrariness of officials drove me away from here.
I have selected America;
There alone the sun of freedom shines for me.
There the tyrant's chains will not keep me down;
There one comes to know life's high value.
||:And whoever wants to save themselves from slavery,
Follow me, only there will he be valued.:||

There proud rulers (dukes) are unkown
Who only fritter away the husbandman's bitter sweat;
There humans can enjoy their human rights,
He also keeps the fruits of his industry.
He is not tortured by those idlers
Who are entitled and honored by the ruler.
||:The word "slave of your Honor"
is banned from the realm of language.:||

Let us go to this country brothers;
Whoever loves and honors freedom, follow me.
A new life will await all of us there,
And it is God who fulfills our wishes.
The hour long waited for is here,
Farewell, you brothers, is here now,
||:And soon it will ring out from our mouths:
"How good, how good it is in America:||"


Sources: I found this song on a CD entitled Songs of German Emigration to America by a German group called Eckstein. If you can ever find a copy of it, I strongly recommend it. In the liner notes, it gives the German lyrics for all of the songs, and historical notes on them in both English and German. It is very well done, shows a great deal of research, and is also just fun to listen to.

Vielen Dank! Many thanks to Birgit Riel. She has kindy offered this English translation of the passage for those readers who are "German impaired", like myself. She is a classmate of mine at UVa.