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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

    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.

    Wide open swing the gates:

    Hail, Hohenzollern, hail to thee!…

    If thou be he

    For whom each hero waits,

    Hail, hail to thee!

    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,

    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.

    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—

    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

    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,

    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,

    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,

    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.

    “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

    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.

    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.