"Make this my determination known to all Officers of the Army; prepare the men for what work is now to ensue, and say that I hold myself entitled to demand exact fulfilment of orders. For you, when I reflect that you are Prussians, can I think that you will act unworthily? But if there should be one or another who dreads to share all dangers with me, he,"--continued his Majesty, with an interrogative look, and then pausing for answer,--"can have his Discharge this evening, and shall not suffer the least reproach from me."--Modest strong bass murmur; meaning "No, by the Eternal!" if you looked into the eyes and faces of the group. Never will Retzow Junior forget that scene, and how effulgently eloquent the veteran physiognomies were.
"Hah, I knew it," said the King, with his most radiant smile, "none of you would desert me! I depend on your help, then; and on victory as sure."--The speech winds up with a specific passage: "The Cavalry regiment that does not on the instant, on order given, dash full plunge into the enemy, I will, directly after the Battle, unhorse, and make it a Garrison regiment. The Infantry battalion which, meet with what it may, shows the least sign of hesitating, loses its colors and its sabres, and I cut the trimmings from its uniform! Now good-night, Gentlemen: shortly we have either beaten the Enemy, or we never see one another again."
An excellent temper in this Army; a rough vein of heroism in it, steady to the death;--and plenty of hope in it too, hope in Vater Fritz. "Never mind," the soldiers used to say, in John Duke of Marlborough's time, "Corporal John will get us through it!"--That same evening Friedrich rode into the Camp, where the regiments he had were now all gathered, out of their cantonments, to march on the morrow. First regiment he came upon was the Life-Guard Cuirassiers: the men, in their accustomed way, gave him good- evening, which he cheerily returned. Some of the more veteran sort asked, ruggedly confidential, as well as loyal: "What is thy news, then, so late?" "Good news, children (KINDER): to-morrow you will beat the Austrians tightly!" "That we will, by--!" answered they.-- "But think only where they stand yonder, and how they have intrenched themselves?" said Friedrich. "And if they had the Devil in front and all round them, we will knock them out; only thou lead us on!"--"Well, I will see what you can do: now lay you down, and sleep sound; and good sleep to you!" "Good-night, Fritz!" answer all; [Muller, p. 21 (from Kaltenhorn, of whom INFRA); Preuss, &c. &c.] as Fritz ambles on to the next regiment, to which, as to every one, he will have some word.
Was it the famous Pommern regiment, this that he next spoke to,-- who answered Loudon's summons to them once (as shall be noticed by and by) in a way ineffable, though unforgettable? Manteuffel of Foot; yes, no other! [Archenholtz, ii. 61; and Kutzen, p. 35.] They have their own opinion of their capacities against an enemy, and do not want for a good conceit of themselves. "Well, children, how think you it will be to-morrow? They are twice as strong as we." "Never thou mind that; there are no Pommerners among them; thou knowest what the Pommerners can do!"--FRIEDRICH: "Yea, truly, that do I; otherwise I durst not risk the battle. Now good sleep to you! to-morrow, then, we shall either have beaten the Enemy or else be all dead." "Yea," answered the whole regiment; "dead, or else the Enemy beaten:" and so went to deep sleep, preface to a deeper for many of them,--as beseems brave men. In this world it much beseems the brave man, uncertain about so many things, to be certain of himself for one thing.
These snatches of Camp Dialogue, much more the Speech preserved to us by Retzow Junior, appear to be true; though as to the dates, the circumstances, there has been debating. [Kutzen, pp. 175-181.] Other Anecdotes, dubious or more, still float about in quantity;-- of which let us give only one; that of the Deserter (which has merit as a myth). "What made thee desert, then?" "Hm, alas, your Majesty, we were got so down in the world, and had such a time of it!"--"Well, try it one day more; and if we cannot mend matters, thou and I will both desert."
A learned Doctor, one of the most recent on these matters, is astonished why the Histories of Friedrich should be such dreary reading, and Friedrich himself so prosaic, barren an object; and lays the blame upon the Age, insensible to real greatness; led away by clap-trap Napoleonisms, regardless of expense. Upon which Smelfungus takes him up, with a twitch:--
"To my sad mind, Herr Doctor, it seems ascribable rather to the Dryasdust of these Ages, especially to the Prussian Dryasdust, sitting comfortable in his Academies, waving sublimely his long ears as he tramples human Heroisms into unintelligible pipe-clay and dreary continents of sand and cinders, with the Doctors all applauding.
"Had the sacred Poet, or man of real Human Genius, been at his work, for the thousand years last past, instead of idly fiddling far away from his work,--which surely is definable as being very mainly, That of INTERPRETING human Heroisms; of painfully extricating, and extorting from the circumambient chaos of muddy babble, rumor and mendacity, some not inconceivable human and divine Image of them, more and more clear, complete and credible for mankind (poor mankind dumbly looking up to him for guidance, as to what it shall think of God and of Men in this Scene of Things), --I calculate, we should by this time have had a different Friedrich of it; O Heavens, a different world of it, in so many respects!