Beresinalied

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The Beresinalied, originally known as Unser Leben gleicht der Reise (the incipit) is a Lied composed by Friedrich Wilke after the 1792 poem die Nachtreise by Karl Ludwig Giesecke.

It became a symbol of the sacrifices of Swiss mercenaries in foreign service following popularization as Beresinalied by Otto von Greyerz and Gonzague de Reynold, tying it to the Battle of Berezina. The context is that Oberleutnant Thomas Legler, (1782-1835, born in Glarus) who served in the II corps of Marshal Nicolas Oudinot in Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion army in Russia in his memoirs Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem russischen Feldzug tells how his commander during the Battle on 28 November 1812 reminded him of the song and asked him to sing it.

Of the originally 8,000 men of the four Swiss regiments (division Merle), about 1,300 were left by the time the retreating army reached the Berezina River. Under General Jean Baptiste Eblé two bridges were built across the Berezina, and the second corps crossed to the western bank to beat back the Russian troops hindering the crossing. The Swiss engaged the Russian troops on 28 November 1812 on the road to Barysaŭ. The Russians pressed back the Swiss vanguard, trying to force them back into the river. Only 300 Swiss survived the day.


German text by Ludwig Giseke Translation

Unser Leben gleicht der Reise
Eines Wandrers in der Nacht;
Jeder hat in seinem Gleise
Etwas, das ihm Kummer macht.

Aber unerwartet schwindet
Vor uns Nacht und Dunkelheit,
Und der Schwergedrückte findet
Linderung in seinem Leid.

Mutig, mutig, liebe Brüder,
Gebt das bange Sorgen auf;
Morgen steigt die Sonne wieder
Freundlich an dem Himmel auf.

Darum laßt uns weitergehen;
Weichet nicht verzagt zurück!
Hinter jenen fernen Höhen
Wartet unser noch ein Glück.

Our life is like a journey
Of a wanderer through the night;
Everybody carries something on his way
That causes him to grieve.

But then unexpectedly do fade
Night and darkness before us,
And the sorely troubled find
Solace to their sorrow.

Fearless, fearless, dear brothers,
Abandon the anxious worries;
Tomorrow the sun will rise again
Friendly in the sky.

Therefore let us move on;
Do not retreat disheartenedly!
Beyond those far heights
A new happiness awaits us.