Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
March 9
Wilhelm I., Emperor of Germany
By Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855–1896)
 
          March 22, 1797.—January 2, 1861.—January 18, 1871.—March 9, 1888.
  These four dates in the life of the Emperor William I. represent his birth, his succession to the Prussian throne, his elevation to the imperial throne of Germany and his death, which occurred on March 9, 1888.

WHEN the gray Emperor at the Gates of Death
Stood silent, up from Earth there came the sound
Of mourning and dismay; man’s futile breath
  Vexed the still air around.
 
But silent stood the Emperor and alone        5
Before the ever silent gates of stone
  That open and close at either end of life;
As who, having fought his fight,
Stands, overtaken of night,
  And hears afar the receding sound of strife.        10
Wide open swing the gates:
 
    Hail, Hohenzollern, hail to thee!…
    If thou be he
    For whom each hero waits,
    Hail, hail to thee!        15
 
So rings
The chorus of the Kings.
This is the House of Death, the Hall of Fame,
Lit, its vast length, by torches’ flickering flame;
And, with their faces by the torch-fires lit,        20
Around the board the expectant monarchy sit.
Filled are their drink-horns with the immortals’ wine—
They wait for him, the latest of their line.
 
  Under the flags they sit, beneath
  The which the keen sword spurned its sheath.        25
  Under the flags that first were woven
    To bring the fire to stranger eyes;
  That now, at cost of corselets cloven,
    In lines of tattered trophies rise.
  To greet the newly come they wait—        30
  The heroes of the German State:
 
His father, unto whom the west wind blew
The echo of the guns of Waterloo:
That greater FREDERICK, with the lust of power
  Still smouldering in his eyes, his troubled heart        35
Impatient with the briefness of his hour
  That altered Europe’s chart:
And he, the great Elector, he who first
  Sounded to Poland’s King a nation’s word:
 
And he who earlier, by Rome accursed,        40
  The trumpet-tone of Martin Luther heard—
      So the long line of faces grim
      Grows faint and dim,
And at the farther end, where lights burn low,
  Where, through a misty glow,        45
Heroes of German song and story rise
      Gods to our eyes,
Great HERMANN rises, father of a race,
To give the Emperor his place.
  “Come to the table’s head,        50
  Among the ennobled dead!”
He cries: “Nor none shall ask me of thy right.”
  Then speaks he to the board:
  “Bow down in one accord,
To him whose strength is Majesty, not Might.        55
 
“Emperor and King he comes; his people’s cry
  Pierces our distant sky;
Emperor and King he comes, whose mighty hand
Gathered in one the kingdoms of the land.
  Yet greater far the tale shall be        60
  That gains him immortality:
To his high task no selfish thought,
No coward hesitance he brought;
All that it was to be a King
  He was, nor counted of the cost.        65
He rounds our circle—Time may bring
The day when Earth shall need no King—
  All that Kings were, in him Earth lost.”
 
“Hail, Hohenzollern, hail!” cried the heroes dead;
And the gray Emperor sat at the table’s head.        70
 
 
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