lunes, 6 de noviembre de 2017

CHAPTER VI (IN MEMORIAM GUSTAVI ADOLPHI MMXVII)



GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS II (1594-1632)

ELECTED KING OF SWEDEN, OF THE GOTHS AND VANDALS

Gustavus Adolphus II. Elected King of Sweden, of the Goths and Vandals


"Even such is Time, which takes in Trust,
Our Youth, our Joy, our All we Have,
And pays us but with Earth and Dust,
Who in the Dark and Silent Grave,
Where we have wandered all our Ways,
Shuts up the story of our Days
But from this Earth, this Grave, this Dust,
My God will raise me up, I trust."

—Walter Raleigh.

*

"Ille faciet..."
—King Charles IX, of Gustavus Adolphus II.

*

"Virtue alone outlasts the Pyramids
Her monuments remain, when Egypt's fall."

—Edward Young.

CHAPTER VI

THE COSTLIEST OF CROWNS




It was late October now, and cold. Wallenstein did not believe that Gustavus would fight that winter.
But the King had decided to do so; he felt that his only security lay in the possibility of another victory like Breitenfeld; he was filled, too, with a strong presentiment that his work was over, his life done; it would be a miracle indeed if he could continue to fight as he had fought, expose himself as he had exposed himself, and live.
With Oxenstierna, as they had marched through the autumn forests of Thuringia, he had spoken of his beloved kingdom and his little child, drawing up a plan of regency for Christina if he should fall; at Saale, where the marketplace was packed with people praising him, he had said:
"Think not of me, I am a weak and dying man. Think of the Cause."
He took a kind farewell of his Queen, who had come to Erfurt, of his Chancellor, charged the garrison to have a good care of them, and rode after his troops, on the 31st of October 1632.
Wallenstein took Leipzig, but Gustavus saved Naumburg; the inhabitants went on their knees to him in their gratitude and the King was troubled.
"God will surely punish me for receiving such adoration—yet I hope He will not suffer my work to fail whatever becomes of me."
On the 4th of November Gustavus heard that Pappenheim had left Wallenstein to go to save Cologne; Gustavus resolved to attack the weakened Imperial army without waiting for the dubious Saxon reinforcements, and advanced towards Weissenfels where Wallenstein had left Colloredo to watch the enemy.
At ten o'clock that morning Wallenstein, secure and haughty in his pavilion, was amazed to hear three shots from Colloredo, the signal to be given if the enemy should advance.
At once he wrote to Pappenheim:
"The enemy is advancing. Sir, let everything else be, and hurry with all your forces and artillery back to me."
All that day the Swedes advanced, skirmishing with the Croats in the Rippach pass, while Wallenstein made ready for battle with fierce haste, frantically flinging his battalions into position.
The November night was dark and cold; the two armies, with their arms beside them, lay down to sleep on the bare ground of the flat Saxon plain. Gustavus with the brilliant Bernhard and the tough old von Kniphausen, took some rest in his field coach, but only for a few hours.
The dawn was obscured by a thick, stinging, chilly, white mist through which the Swedish drums beat and the voices of the chaplains rose reciting prayers before each regiment as it fell into line.
Gustavus, on his nutbrown horse Streiff, rode among the men as they stood to their arms; he had not tasted food and thought of nothing but the coming battle; he wore his elk-skin coat, stained and dusty.
As the mist lifted a little Luther's psalm, Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), and then the battle song of the King's own composition, penetrated the early vapours, Verzage nicht du Haüflein klein (Do Not Despair, My Little Band).
Gustavus then made a short speech to his men. "If you flinch from this fight you know that not a man of you will see Sweden again," he reminded his countrymen. He then waved his mighty sword over his bared head with the peak of golden hair, crying: "Forward in God's name! Gott mit uns!"
The mist had now partially cleared and a pallid sunshine fell across the plain, to mingle with a ruddier light given by the flames of Lützen, fired by Wallenstein. At eleven o'clock, general charges began, horse and foot at once, all along the line.
The nine hours' fight that followed is little known, but has been much written of; all accounts differ and all are in some degree untrustworthy; the generally accepted version may or may not be the truth of that desperate and hideous struggle, so frantic that even an eye-witness could not keep a chronicle of it.
The slaughter was at once terrific, the odds even for hours; backward and forward over the hillocks and ditches fought the Swedes, the Finns, the Croats and Piccolomini's Black Cuirassiers; the Austrian artillery was wrenched from them, then wrenched back; Wallenstein, crippled with gout, carried in a litter, encouraged his men with implacable resolve, with cold decision.
The Swedes appeared to have the advantage when at midday Pappenheim came up at a gallop, shouting for the King, with the hope of a hand-to-hand conflict with his rival.
Gustavus had heard that his centre had been pressed back, and rushed to the aid of his infantry, heading the Småland cavalry; heavy as he was, he overrode all his companions and disappeared into a wreath of mist and on to the causeway of the Austrian line that the Swedes had just been forced to abandon; a little page, a stripling surnamed Leubelfing, galloped after him.
As the first of the Smâlanders came up they were met by the royal horse Streiff galloping through the fog, his flanks bright with blood, his pistol holsters empty, his pace frenzied as he thundered down the line.
It was thus the Northerners learnt that the King had fallen, that he was lost, if not slain.
A fury consumed the Swedes, they clamoured to be led into action; the news spread to the valorous Bernhard, and with it the suggestion of retreat.
"Not retreat but vengeance!" shouted the young Duke.
A ferocious death struggle took place all along the line; Pappenheim was shot, soaking with his death blood the letter Wallenstein had just sent him; it is said he learnt of the fall of Gustavus before he expired; Nils Brahe was slain amid piles of his countrymen.
The awful news of the death of Gustavus spread, bringing fury with it; the heroic Bernhard declared his intention to fight to the last man and all the Swedes were frantic to avenge the King; Bernhard cut down an officer who hesitated to lead his men.
Nothing could resist the mighty onset of his torn and devastated ranks; before nightfall Bernhard had destroyed the last army of the Emperor and whipped Wallenstein back to Leipzig with twelve thousand men, all his artillery, and standards left behind on the ravaged plain which groaned with the agony of the dying.
The Bohemian had been utterly defeated, his army torn to tatters and the end of the Thirty Years' War, however long that futile horror might drag on, decided. Gustavus had accomplished what he had set out to accomplish; the power of the Habsburgs was broken and the ultimate safety of Protestantism secured.
Under a heap of slain the bitter Finns found the grand body of the King, close by that of the loyal page, Leubelfing; Gustavus had been shot through the bridle arm, the back, and pierced with swords, stripped, trampled on by horse and man, but the noble, gentle presence was unmistakable, even in such a death, to the Smâlanders.
It is doubtful if those who slew him knew who he was; he had fallen, as he was bound to fall, through his own rash courage.
"God Almighty lives if I die," he had answered Oxenstierna when he had begged him to wear armour, to don a breastplate for that dreadful time, at least.
The body was put in an ammunition waggon and taken to the little village of Meuchen; it had been recovered by the bravest of the brave, the flower of the Swedish army, Stâlhandske's Finlanders, in leading whom the King had fallen, and such of them as survived took their King to the humble Lutheran church and laid him, wrapped in cloaks stiff with blood, before the altar.
While the village schoolteacher read by candlelight the Service for the Dead over the solitary corpse, the sullen Finlanders, in complete, bloody, dinted armour, mounted guard outside in the winter dark.
Then, by torchlight, they carried Gustavus to the schoolteacher's house; he was so mangled that his entrails had to be removed and buried in the church; it was not possible to count the wounds he had received. In this simple place the schoolmaster was also the carpenter; he fashioned, during that night after the battle, a rude coffin for Gustavus Adolphus.
In the morning the Finns laid the King in this and bore him to Weissenfels where the body was embalmed, and then to Wittenberg, and then to Wolgast, and so slowly back to Sweden at last.
He had been from home two and a half years; in that time he had changed the face of Europe without tarnishing one of the purest reputations ever possessed by the noblest of men, and he had sealed with his blood his honourable endeavour and his high design.


To the memory of Gustavus Adolphus Karlsson of Vasa

*Nyköping, Sweden, 9th of December 1594 
 + Lützen, Saxony, 6th of November 1632

Beloved ruler of nations and leader of armies,
consort, father, friend, and lover

His spouse Mary Eleanor (next to the throne), their daughter Christina Augusta 
(in his arms), his right-hand man Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna (next to the throne),
 his courtiers and his people, his officers and soldiers, will always
 keep his memory alive, as long as Sweden and freedom exist.


Inspired by thirst
for glory, on the field of battle quaffed
instead death's bitter draught.

The last word was missing in his epic song:
the word that crowns every achievement.
The mourners have done their duty, right or wrong:
they wrote it in blood and bereavement.
He left us when we (and he) expected it the least
in the prime of his life and at the climax of his career,
before he could be tarnished by the failing vigour of an older age
or by the corruption brought upon him by success. 
A single bullet, just like any other, 
suddenly struck his back and entered his noble chest, 
to quench a flame that never could or should have burned brighter.




These are the cakes of 2017 - we also drank elderflower cordial (flädersaft) to the health of Gustavus Adolphus

These are the hilt and pommel of Gustavus's sword at Lützen. I have seen it live at the winter palace in Stockholm... coincidentally, it's a Pappenheimer Rapier!
The Count of Pappenheim popularised this style of officer's sword; Gustavus's was kept as a treasure in the Hofburg for as long as the Habsburgs ruled Austria (ditto for the pistols, doublet...), not returning to Sweden until the Republic of Austria, in the 1920s, gave all the spoils of Lützen as a gift to Sweden for the many lives saved by the Swedish Red Cross in the Great War.






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