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George Sylvester Viereck

The Evolution of George Sylvester Viereck’s Poem to Emperor William

(Below is Mr. Viereck’s poem as it appears in the original.   This version attracted a great deal of attention in England and was one of the causes that led Cecil Chesterton to challenge Mr. Viereck to debate the issues of the war.   The German translation of the poem is the work Dr. Hanns Heinz Ewers, the famous German author.   His admirable translation came to the attention of Mr. John L. Stoddard, the renowned American lecturer, now residing in Meran, Italy, who, without knowing that is was originally written in English, made a translation of it in that tongue.   To-day, upon the Emperor’s birthday, we find it a peculiarly opportune time to reprint the three poems and to reiterate the sentiments expressed in Mr. Viereck’s poem.)

The Original

O Prince of Peace, O Lord of War,

Unsheath thy blade without a stain,

Thy holy wrath shall scatter far

The bloodhounds from thy country’s fane!

Into thy hand the sword is forced,

By traitor friend and traitor foe,

On foot, on sea, and winged and horsed,

The Prince of Darkness strikes his blow.

Crush thou the Cossack arms that reach

To plunge the world into the night!

Save Goethe’s vision, Luther’s speech,

Thou art the Keeper of the Light!

When darkness was on all the lands,

Who kept God’s faith with courage grim?

Shall He uphold that country’s hands,

Or tear its members, limb from limb?

God called the Teuton to be free,

Free from Great Britain’s golden thrall,

From guillotine and anarchy,

From pogroms red and whips that fall.

May thy victorious armies rout

The yellow hordes against thee hurled,

The Czar whose sceptre is the knout,

And France, the harlot of the world!

But thy great task will not be done

Until thou vanquish utterly

The Norman sister of the Hun,

England, the Serpent of the Sea.

The flame of war her tradesmen fanned

Shall yet consume her, fleet and field;

The star of Frederick guide thy hand,

The God of Bismarck be thy shield!

Against the fell Barbarian horde

Thy people stand, a living wall;

Now fight for God’s peace with thy sword,

For if thou fail, a world shall fall!

As Translated into German by Hanns Heinz Ewers

OH Fürst des Friedens, Herr im Streit,

Zieh’ nun dein fleckenreines Schwert,

Dein heiliger Zorn soll jagen weit

Den Bluthund von des Landes Heerd!

Es zwang den Stahl in deine Faust

Der falsche Freund, der falsche Feind—

Des Höllenfürsten Fackel braust:

Land, Luft und Meer blutrot erscheint!

Schlag’ du den Reussen, der in Schmach

Und Finsternis die Welt zerbricht!

—Was Luther lehrte, Goethe sprach,

Erhalt uns du! Du bist das Licht!

Als Dunkel lag ob allem Land,

Du standst für Gott mit stolzem Mut!

—Und Gott sollt’ dir entzieh'n die Hand,

Dein Volk ertränken tief in Blut?

Gott wollte frei den Deutschen, frei!

Frei von Britannia’s goldenem Klang,

Von Anarchie und Tyrannei,

Von Aufruhr frei und Peitschenzwang!

So zeig’ dein Schwert im Sonnenlicht,

Dem gelben Hund, der dich anbellt,

Dem Zar, der mit der Knute ficht,

Frankreich, der Metze aller Welt!

Doch eher tilgst du nicht die Schmach,

Oh Sankt Georg, eh’ nicht dein Speer

In starkem Stoss den Kopf zerbrach—

England, dem Drachen aus dem Meer!

Die Flamme, die sein Rachen speit,

Ihn selbst verzehrend, überquillt!

——Sei Friedrich’s Stern nun dein Geleit!

Und Bismark’s Gott—er sei dein Schild!

Oh Fürst des Friedens, Herr im Krieg,

Zieh’ stolz hinaus aufs blutige Feld:

Dein muss er sein, der letzte Sieg,

Denn—wenn du fällst—fällt eine Welt!

As Translated from the German of Ewers into English by John L. Stoddard

O Prince of Peace! our Lord in war,

Draw now thy bright and stainless blade,

Thy righteous wrath shall scatter far

The bloodhounds which our hearth invade.

By faithless friend and treacherous foe

The steel was thrust within thy hand;

Hell’s torch is blazing now, and lo!

Bloodred seem sea and sky and land!

Smite thou the Tsar, whose shameful yoke

Enslaves a world in mental night;

What Luther taught and Goethe spoke

For us hold fast!   Thou art our light.

When darkness lay on every land,

Thou stoodst for God, with fearless frown;

Shall God from thee withdraw His hand,

Or let in blood thy people drown?

God wished the German to be free;

Free from Britannia’s clink of gold,

From anarchy and tyranny,

From pogroms and the knout . . . unrolled.

In sunlight, therefore, show thy sword

To barking cur of yellow face,

To Tsar, with all his whip-lashed horde,

To France, the strumpet of the race.

Yet, ere the shameful score is clear,

O Saint George, with triumphant ease

Transfix upon thy mighty spear

Old England, dragon of the seas!

The fire its throat spits out in pride

Itself shall burn with wounds unhealed;

Meanwhile be Frederick’s star thy guide,

And Bismarck’s God thy constant shield!

O Prince of Peace! in war our Lord,

Go proudly to thy flags unfurled!

As Victor, must thou sheathe thy sword,

For, if thou fallest, falls . . . a world!

Viereck, George Sylvester. “The Kaiser Poem in Many Forms.” The Fatherland 1, no. 25 (January 27, 1915): 13-15.

Viereck, George Sylvester. “The Kaiser Poem in Many Forms.” The Fatherland 1, no. 25 (January 27, 1915): 13-15.


Emperor William

Wilhelm II (1859–1941) was Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918.

Röhl, John C. G. “Wilhelm II, German Emperor.” In 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, edited by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson. Freie Universität Berlin, 2014–. Article published March 10, 2016. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/wilhelm_ii_german_emperor.


Cecil Chesterton

Cecil Edward Chesterton (1879–1918) was a British political journalist with “nationalistic, racist, and anti-parliamentary” views. He published the weekly paper New Witness starting in 1912 and was charged with criminal libel in 1913. When the war broke out in 1914, Chesterton was strongly patriotic and visited the United States to lecture and debate on behalf of the allied cause.

Bergonzi, Bernard. “Chesterton, Cecil Edward (1879–1918), political journalist.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-37276.


Dr. Hanns Heinz Ewers

Hanns Heinz Ewers (1871–1943) was a German actor, writer, and propagandist. While in the United States (1914–21) he was an outspoken proponent of the United States maintaining its neutrality and not joining the war as an ally of Britain. He toured cities with large German immigrant communities to show films from the German Foreign Office. Deutsche Kriegslieder includes seven decidedly pro–German poems by Ewers as well as poems by Americans that Ewers stranslated from English into German.

“Ewers, Hans Heinz.” In The Oxford Companion to German Literature, edited by Henry Garland and Mary Garland. Oxford University Press, 1997. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198158967.001.0001/acref-9780198158967-e-1543.


Mr. John L. Stoddard

John L. Stoddard (1850–1931) graduated from Williams College and studied for two years at Yale Divinity School, then traveled around the world and studied in Germany. After returning to the United States he lectured without interruptions “save those due to his repeated visits to remote countries.” He published his lectures as well as poetry.

Stoddard, John K. Biographical note in front matter to John L. Stoddard’s lectures: Illustrated and embellished with views of the world’s famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard Lectures. Vol. 1 of 10. Boston: Balch Brothers, 1898, n.p. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112003203608?urlappend=%3Bseq=15.


The Original

Viereck’s poem, “Wilhelm II., Prince of Peace,” was published in the first issue of The Fatherland, on August 10, 1914. See the earlier version in this archive for annotations.


As Translated into German

Ewers published his translation of this poem, “An Wilhelm II., den Friedensfuersten,” in his anthology, Deutsche Kriegslieder (New York: The Fatherland, 1914). For annotations, see poem in Deutsche Kriegslieder.



The female personification of Britain, depicted wearing a helmet and holding a shield and trident, symbolizes Britain as an imperial or sea power.

“Britannia, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2021. https://www-oed-com.www2.lib.ku.edu/view/Entry/23451?redirectedFrom=britannia.


anarchy and tyranny

Reference to the Reign of Terror (1793–94) a tumultuous period of the French Revolution (mid–1793 to July 1794) when the Jacobin faction under Maximilien Robespierre (1758–94) executed anyone perceived to be a threat.

Delahunty, Andrew, and Sheila Dignen. “reign of terror.” In A Dictionary of Reference and Allusion. Oxford University Press, 2010. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199567454.001.0001/acref-9780199567454-e-1563.



Nicholas II (1868–1918), Czar of Russia 1894–1917.

Peeling, Siobhan. “Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia.” In 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, edited by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson. Freie Universität Berlin, 2014–. Article published October 8, 2014. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/nicholas_ii_emperor_of_russia.



With Russia and England, an Entente Power.



Nicholas II (1868–1918), Czar of Russia 1894–1917.



Martin Luther (1483–1546), a professor of theology and monk who “triggered and substantially shaped” the Reformation. In 1517 he objected to the practice of selling indulgences and printed his 95 “Theses on the Power of Indulgences,” which posited that God’s justice did not involve demand but rather a gift of grace from God to humans.

Brecht, Martin, and Wolfgang Katenz. “Luther, Martin.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Oxford University Press, 1996. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195064933.001.0001/acref-9780195064933-e-0847.



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was a major German poet, dramatist, novelist, and literary critic of the Sturm und Drang, Classical, and Romantic periods, as well as an artist, scientist, and statesman.

“Goethe, Johann Wolfgang.” In The Oxford Companion to German Literature, edited by Henry Garland and Mary Garland. Oxford University Press, 1997. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198158967.001.0001/acref-9780198158967-e-1855.

For a detailed biography and chronology in German, see “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).” Künstler– und Denkerenzyklopädie. Goethezeitportal. Accessed June 6, 2021. http://www.goethezeitportal.de/wissen/enzyklopaedie/goethe/goethe-biographie.html.



A type of whip or scourge used in Imperial Russia as an instrument of punishment.


barking cur of yellow face

Racist designation for someone of South-East or East Asian ethnicity. From the late 19th century, often used to denote perceived political or economic threat from people of this ethnic group. Used here to denote Japan, with Russisa (Tsar) and France also mentioned in this stanza, and England in the next.

“yellow, adj. and n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2021. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/231534?rskey=9sLwHZ&result=1&isAdvanced=false.


Saint George

Saint George (died 303), a Christian martyr also known as Saint George, the Dragon-Slayer, is the patron saint of England.



Frederick II, 1712–86 (Frederick the Great) ruled the Kingdom of Prussia 1740–86. While some Wilhelmine poets “appropriate his memory as a national icon,” Toby McLeod argues that “even his military genius is open to question.”

McLeod, Toby. “Frederick II ‘the Great’, King of Prussia.” In The Oxford Companion to Military History. Oxford University Press, 2001. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198606963.001.0001/acref-9780198606963-e-453.



German statesman Otto von Bismarck (1815–98) served as Chancellor of Germany 1871–90. As Minister President and Foreign Minister of Prussia 1862–71, Bismarck orchestrated three wars to achieve German unification in 1871: the first against Denmark (1864), then against Austria (1866) and France (1870–71).

”Bismarck, Otto von.“ In World Encyclopedia. Philip’s, 2014. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/view/10.1093/acref/9780199546091.001.0001/acref-9780199546091-e-1333.