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- The Thirty Years War, Book III. - 1/17 -


THE WORKS

OF

FREDERICK SCHILLER

Translated from the German

Illustrated

HISTORY OF THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR IN GERMANY.

BOOK III.

The glorious battle of Leipzig effected a great change in the conduct of Gustavus Adolphus, as well as in the opinion which both friends and foes entertained of him. Successfully had he confronted the greatest general of the age, and had matched the strength of his tactics and the courage of his Swedes against the elite of the imperial army, the most experienced troops in Europe. From this moment he felt a firm confidence in his own powers--self-confidence has always been the parent of great actions. In all his subsequent operations more boldness and decision are observable; greater determination, even amidst the most unfavourable circumstances, a more lofty tone towards his adversaries, a more dignified bearing towards his allies, and even in his clemency, something of the forbearance of a conqueror. His natural courage was farther heightened by the pious ardour of his imagination. He saw in his own cause that of heaven, and in the defeat of Tilly beheld the decisive interference of Providence against his enemies, and in himself the instrument of divine vengeance. Leaving his crown and his country far behind, he advanced on the wings of victory into the heart of Germany, which for centuries had seen no foreign conqueror within its bosom. The warlike spirit of its inhabitants, the vigilance of its numerous princes, the artful confederation of its states, the number of its strong castles, its many and broad rivers, had long restrained the ambition of its neighbours; and frequently as its extensive frontier had been attacked, its interior had been free from hostile invasion. The Empire had hitherto enjoyed the equivocal privilege of being its own enemy, though invincible from without. Even now, it was merely the disunion of its members, and the intolerance of religious zeal, that paved the way for the Swedish invader. The bond of union between the states, which alone had rendered the Empire invincible, was now dissolved; and Gustavus derived from Germany itself the power by which he subdued it. With as much courage as prudence, he availed himself of all that the favourable moment afforded; and equally at home in the cabinet and the field, he tore asunder the web of the artful policy, with as much ease, as he shattered walls with the thunder of his cannon. Uninterruptedly he pursued his conquests from one end of Germany to the other, without breaking the line of posts which commanded a secure retreat at any moment; and whether on the banks of the Rhine, or at the mouth of the Lech, alike maintaining his communication with his hereditary dominions.

The consternation of the Emperor and the League at Tilly's defeat at Leipzig, was scarcely greater than the surprise and embarrassment of the allies of the King of Sweden at his unexpected success. It was beyond both their expectations and their wishes. Annihilated in a moment was that formidable army which, while it checked his progress and set bounds to his ambition, rendered him in some measure dependent on themselves. He now stood in the heart of Germany, alone, without a rival or without an adversary who was a match for him. Nothing could stop his progress, or check his pretensions, if the intoxication of success should tempt him to abuse his victory. If formerly they had dreaded the Emperor's irresistible power, there was no less cause now to fear every thing for the Empire, from the violence of a foreign conqueror, and for the Catholic Church, from the religious zeal of a Protestant king. The distrust and jealousy of some of the combined powers, which a stronger fear of the Emperor had for a time repressed, now revived; and scarcely had Gustavus Adolphus merited, by his courage and success, their confidence, when they began covertly to circumvent all his plans. Through a continual struggle with the arts of enemies, and the distrust of his own allies, must his victories henceforth be won; yet resolution, penetration, and prudence made their way through all impediments. But while his success excited the jealousy of his more powerful allies, France and Saxony, it gave courage to the weaker, and emboldened them openly to declare their sentiments and join his party. Those who could neither vie with Gustavus Adolphus in importance, nor suffer from his ambition, expected the more from the magnanimity of their powerful ally, who enriched them with the spoils of their enemies, and protected them against the oppression of their stronger neighbours. His strength covered their weakness, and, inconsiderable in themselves, they acquired weight and influence from their union with the Swedish hero. This was the case with most of the free cities, and particularly with the weaker Protestant states. It was these that introduced the king into the heart of Germany; these covered his rear, supplied his troops with necessaries, received them into their fortresses, while they exposed their own lives in his battles. His prudent regard to their national pride, his popular deportment, some brilliant acts of justice, and his respect for the laws, were so many ties by which he bound the German Protestants to his cause; while the crying atrocities of the Imperialists, the Spaniards, and the troops of Lorraine, powerfully contributed to set his own conduct and that of his army in a favourable light.

If Gustavus Adolphus owed his success chiefly to his own genius, at the same time, it must be owned, he was greatly favoured by fortune and by circumstances. Two great advantages gave him a decided superiority over the enemy. While he removed the scene of war into the lands of the League, drew their youth as recruits, enriched himself with booty, and used the revenues of their fugitive princes as his own, he at once took from the enemy the means of effectual resistance, and maintained an expensive war with little cost to himself. And, moreover, while his opponents, the princes of the League, divided among themselves, and governed by different and often conflicting interests, acted without unanimity, and therefore without energy; while their generals were deficient in authority, their troops in obedience, the operations of their scattered armies without concert; while the general was separated from the lawgiver and the statesman; these several functions were united in Gustavus Adolphus, the only source from which authority flowed, the sole object to which the eye of the warrior turned; the soul of his party, the inventor as well as the executor of his plans. In him, therefore, the Protestants had a centre of unity and harmony, which was altogether wanting to their opponents. No wonder, then, if favoured by such advantages, at the head of such an army, with such a genius to direct it, and guided by such political prudence, Gustavus Adolphus was irresistible.

With the sword in one hand, and mercy in the other, he traversed Germany as a conqueror, a lawgiver, and a judge, in as short a time almost as the tourist of pleasure. The keys of towns and fortresses were delivered to him, as if to the native sovereign. No fortress was inaccessible; no river checked his victorious career. He conquered by the very terror of his name. The Swedish standards were planted along the whole stream of the Maine: the Lower Palatinate was free, the troops of Spain and Lorraine had fled across the Rhine and the Moselle. The Swedes and Hessians poured like a torrent into the territories of Mentz, of Wurtzburg, and Bamberg, and three fugitive bishops, at a distance from their sees, suffered dearly for their unfortunate attachment to the Emperor. It was now the turn for Maximilian, the leader of the League, to feel in his own dominions the miseries he had inflicted upon others. Neither the terrible fate of his allies, nor the peaceful overtures of Gustavus, who, in the midst of conquest, ever held out the hand of friendship, could conquer the obstinacy of this prince. The torrent of war now poured into Bavaria. Like the banks of the Rhine, those of the Lecke and the Donau were crowded with Swedish troops. Creeping into his fortresses, the defeated Elector abandoned to the ravages of the foe his dominions, hitherto unscathed by war, and on which the bigoted violence of the Bavarians seemed to invite retaliation. Munich itself opened its gates to the invincible monarch, and the fugitive Palatine, Frederick V., in the forsaken residence of his rival, consoled himself for a time for the loss of his dominions.

While Gustavus Adolphus was extending his conquests in the south, his generals and allies were gaining similar triumphs in the other provinces. Lower Saxony shook off the yoke of Austria, the enemy abandoned Mecklenburg, and the imperial garrisons retired from the banks of the Weser and the Elbe. In Westphalia and the Upper Rhine, William, Landgrave of Hesse, rendered himself formidable; the Duke of Weimar in Thuringia, and the French in the Electorate of Treves; while to the eastward the whole kingdom of Bohemia was conquered by the Saxons. The Turks were preparing to attack Hungary, and in the heart of Austria a dangerous insurrection was threatened. In vain did the Emperor look around to the courts of Europe for support; in vain did he summon the Spaniards to his assistance, for the bravery of the Flemings afforded them ample employment beyond the Rhine; in vain did he call upon the Roman court and the whole church to come to his rescue. The offended Pope sported, in pompous processions and idle anathemas, with the embarrassments of Ferdinand, and instead of the desired subsidy he was shown the devastation of Mantua.

On all sides of his extensive monarchy hostile arms surrounded him. With the states of the League, now overrun by the enemy, those ramparts were thrown down, behind which Austria had so long defended herself, and the embers of war were now smouldering upon her unguarded frontiers. His most zealous allies were disarmed; Maximilian of Bavaria, his firmest support, was scarce able to defend himself. His armies, weakened by desertion and repeated defeat, and dispirited by continued misfortunes had unlearnt, under beaten generals, that warlike impetuosity which, as it is the consequence, so it is the guarantee of success. The danger was extreme, and extraordinary means alone could raise the imperial power from the degradation into which it was fallen.

The most urgent want was that of a general; and the only one from whom he could hope for the revival of his former splendour, had been removed from his command by an envious cabal. So low had the Emperor now fallen, that he was forced to make the most humiliating proposals to his injured subject and servant, and meanly to press upon the imperious Duke of Friedland the acceptance of the powers which no less meanly had been taken from him. A new spirit began from this moment to animate the expiring body of Austria; and a sudden change in the aspect of affairs bespoke the firm hand which guided them. To the absolute King of Sweden, a general equally absolute was now opposed; and one victorious hero was confronted with another. Both armies were again to engage in the doubtful struggle; and the prize of victory, already almost secured in the hands of Gustavus Adolphus, was to be the object of another and a severer trial. The storm of war gathered around Nuremberg; before its


The Thirty Years War, Book III. - 1/17

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