“I will obey your commands as to sending those unpublished pieces. Your criticism will be my reward. It is a price few sovereigns can pay. I am sure of your secrecy. Your virtue and your intellect must be in proportion. I should indeed consider it a precious happiness to come and pay my court to your royal highness. One travels to Rome to see paintings and ruins. A prince such as you is a much more singular object, worthier of a long journey.“Grumkow led me to the young man in gray. Coming near, I recognized him, though with difficulty. He had grown much stouter, and his neck was much shorter. His face also was much changed, and was no longer as handsome as it had been. I fell upon his neck. I was so overcome that I could only speak in an unconnected manner. I wept, I laughed like a person out of her senses. In my life I have never felt so lively a joy. After these first emotions were subsided I went and threw myself at the feet of the king, who said to me aloud, in the presence of my brother,“I therefore beg my dear papa to be gracious to me; and can here say that, after long reflection, my conscience has not accused me of any the least thing with which I could reproach myself. But if I have, against my will and knowledge, done any thing which has angered my dear papa, I herewith most submissively beg forgiveness, and hope my dear papa will lay aside that cruel hatred which I can not but notice in all his treatment of me. I54 could not otherwise suit myself to it, as I always thought I had a gracious papa, and now have to see the contrary. I take confidence, then, and hope that my dear papa will consider all this, and again be gracious to me. And in the mean while I assure him that I will never, all my days, fail with my will; and, notwithstanding his disfavor to me, remain my dear papa’s most faithful and obedient servant and son,
“‘This way!’ storm the others with hot tears; Adjutant Von Platen takes the flag: Platen too is instantly shot; but another takes it. ‘This way, on!’ in wild storm of rage and grief; in a word, they managed to do the work at Sterbohol, they and the rest. First line, second line, infantry, cavalry (and even the very horses, I suppose), fighting inexpressibly; conquering one of the worst problems ever seen in war. For the Austrians too, especially their grenadiers there, stood to it toughly, and fought like men; and ‘every grenadier that survived of them,’ as I read afterward, ‘got double pay for life.’On one occasion the king himself narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. One of his officers, General Trenck, gives the following graphic narrative of the incident:In his “epistle” Frederick had expressed the opinion that428 there was no God who took any interest in human affairs. He had also repeatedly expressed the resolve to Wilhelmina, and to Voltaire, to whom he had become partially reconciled, that he was prepared to commit suicide should events prove as disastrous as he had every reason to expect they would prove. He had also urged his sister to follow his example, and not to survive the ruin of the family. Such was the support which the king, in hours of adversity, found in that philosophy for which he had discarded the religion of Jesus Christ.
“‘My dogs destroy my chairs; but how can I help it? And if I were to have them mended to-day, they would be torn again to-morrow. So I suppose I must bear with the inconvenience. After all, a Marquise De Pompadour would cost me a great deal more, and would neither be as attached nor as faithful.’”Louis XV. felt insulted by this message, and responded in a similar strain of irritation. Thus the two monarchs were alienated from each other. Indeed, Frederick had almost as much cause to be dissatisfied with the French as they had to be dissatisfied with him. Each of the monarchs was ready to sacrifice the other if any thing was to be gained thereby.
Notwithstanding these sentiments, the king sent throughout Silesia a supply of sixty Protestant preachers, ordained especially243 for the work. Though Frederick himself did not wish to live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is very evident that he did not fear the influence of that Gospel upon his Silesian subjects. Very wisely the Protestant preachers were directed carefully to avoid giving any offense to the Catholics. They were to preach in barns and town-halls in places where there was no Protestant church. The salary of each was one hundred and fifty dollars a year, probably with rations. They were all placed under the general superintendence of one of the army chaplains.“This I would not do; my awe was too great. They thereupon laid hands upon me. One took me by the right arm, another by the left, and led me to the garden. Having got me there, they looked out for the king. He was among the gardeners examining some rare plant, and had his back to us. Here I had to halt. The officers began in an under tone to put me382 through my drill. ‘Take your hat under your left arm; put your right foot foremost; breast well forward; hold your head up; hold your papers aloft in your right hand; there, so—steady—steady!’The River Neisse is quite narrow. In preparation for the bombardment, Frederick planted his batteries on the south side of the stream, and also approached the city from the north. It will be remembered that Frederick had an army in Silesia at his command of about forty thousand men, abundantly provided with all the munitions of war. The little Austrian garrison hurriedly thrown into Neisse consisted of but sixteen hundred men, but poorly prepared either for battle or for siege. The Austrian commandant, General Roth, determined upon a heroic resistance. To deprive the assailants of shelter, the torch was applied to all the beautiful suburbs. In a few hours the cruel flames destroyed the labor of ages. Many once happy families were impoverished and rendered homeless. Ashes, blackened walls, and smouldering ruins took the place of gardens, villas, and comfortable homes.
The king then rattled on without waiting for replies: “How do you like your Cüstrin life? Do you still have as much aversion to Wusterhausen, and to wearing your shroud, as you called your uniform? Likely enough my company does not suit you. I have no French manners, and can not bring out witty sayings in the coxcomb way; and I truly consider all that as a thing to be thrown to the dogs. I am a German prince, and mean to live and die in that character. But you can now say what you have got by your caprices and obstinate heart, hating every thing that I liked, and if I distinguished any one, despising him. If an officer was put in arrest, you took to lamenting about him. Your real friends, who intended your good, you hated and calumniated. Those who flattered you and encouraged your bad purpose you caressed. You see what that has come to. In Berlin, in all Prussia, for some time back, nobody asks after you, whether you are in the world or not. And were it not that one or the other coming from Cüstrin reports you as playing tennis or wearing French hair-bags, nobody would know whether you were dead, or alive.“I write from a place where there lived once a great man,27 which is now the Prince of Orange’s house. The demon of ambition sheds its unhappy poisons over his days. He might be the most fortunate of men, and he is devoured by chagrins in his beautiful palace here, in the middle of his gardens and of a brilliant court.
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Sunday, July 6th, was a day of terrible heat. At three o’clock in the morning the Prussian troops were again in motion. There was not a breath of wind. The blazing sun grew hotter and hotter. There was no shade. The soldiers were perishing of thirst. Still the command was “onward,” “onward.” In that day’s march one hundred and five Prussian soldiers dropped dead in their tracks.Frederick concentrated his army at Konopischt, very near Beneschau. He could bring into the field sixty thousand men. Prince Charles was at the head of seventy thousand. In vain336 the Prussian king strove to bring his foes to a pitched battle. Adroitly Prince Charles avoided any decisive engagement. Frederick was fifty miles from Prague. The roads were quagmires. November gales swept his camp. A foe, superior in numbers, equal in bravery, surrounded him on all sides. The hostile army was led by a general whose greater military ability Frederick acknowledged.
In the above letter the king alludes to the “mania of making verses.” Strange as it may seem, he this winter, when apparently almost crushed beneath the weight of cares and sorrows, when every energy of mind and body seemed called into requisition in preparation for a new campaign, published an edition of his poems.“I arrived at last about one in the morning. I instantly threw myself on a bed. I was like to die of weariness, and in mortal terror that something had happened to my brother or the hereditary prince. The latter relieved me on his own score. He arrived at last about four o’clock; had still no news of my brother. I was beginning to doze a little, when they came to inform me that M. von Knobelsdorf wished to speak to me from the Prince Royal. I darted out of bed and ran to him.”详情
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