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Lord Byron

NOTE: This is originally from  Childe Harold's Pilgrimage ( Canto III - XVII )  It was later published separately as "Waterloo".   If you have read Childe Harold, you will notice it skips stanzas XIX and XX. I suppose this was due to the break in the storyline of Waterloo --- otherwise, this follows the wording of Lord Byron.

Added Note: ".... young, gallant Howard" mentioned, is Lord Byron's relative --- Frederick Howard, who died in the battle of Waterloo.


Stop---  for thy tread is on an Empire's dust !

An Earthquake's spoil is sepulchred below !

Is the spot marked with no colossal bust?

Nor column trophied for triumphal show?

None:  but the moral's truth tells simpler so.

As the ground was before, thus let it be; ---

How that red rain hath made the harvest grow !

And is this all the world has gained by thee,

Thou first and last of fields   King-making Victory ?

And Harold stands upon this place of skulls,

The grave of France, the deadly Waterloo !

How in an hour the power which gave annuls

Its gifts, transferring fame as fleeting too !

In "pride of place" here last the eagle flew,

Then tore with bloody talon the rent plain,

Pierced by the shaft of banded nations through;

Ambition's life and labors all were vain;

He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.

There was a sound of revelry by night,

And Belgium's capital had gather'd then

Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright

The lamps above o'er fair women and brave men;

A thousand hearts beat happily; and when

Music arose with its voluptuous swell,

Soft eyes look'd love to eyes which spake again,

And all went merry as a marriage-bell;

But hush !    Hark !    a deep sound strikes like a rising knell !

Did ye not hear it ?  ---  No;  'twas but the wind,

Or the car rattling o'er the stony street;

On with the dance !    let joy be unconfined,

No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet,

To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet ---

But, hark !   ---   that heavy sound breaks in once more,

As if the clouds its echo would repeat;

And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before !

Arm !   arm !    it is --- it is --- the cannon's opening roar !

Within a windowed niche of that high hall,

Sat Brunswick's fated chieftain; he did hear

That sound the first amidst the festival,

And caught its tone with death's prophetic ear;

And when they smiled because he deemed it near,

His heart more truly knew that peal too well

Which stretch'd his father on a bloody bier,

And roused the vengeance blood alone could quell;

He rushed into the field, and, foremost fighting fell.

Ah !    then and there was hurrying to and fro,

And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress,

And cheeks all pale, which but an hour ago

Blushed at the praise of ther own loveliness !

And there were sudden partings, such as press

The life from our young hearts, and choking sighs

Which ne'er might be repeated: who could guess

If ever more should meet those mutual eyes.

Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise !

And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,

The mustering squadron, and the clattering car,

Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,

And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;

And the deep thunder peal on peal afar,

And near, the beat of the alarming drum,

Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;

While thronged the citizens with terror dumb,

Or whispering with white lips  ---  "The foe They come !    They come ! "

And wild and high the "Cameron's gathering" rose,

The war note of Lochiel, which Albyn's hills

Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes:

How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills,

Savage and shrill !    But with the breath which fills

Their mountain-pipe, so fill the mountaineers

With the fierce native daring which instils

The stirring memory of a thousand years,

And Evan's, Donald's fame rings in each clansman's ear !

And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,

Dewy with nature's tear-drops, as they pass,

Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,

Over the unreturning brave,  ---  alas !

Ere evening to be trodden like the grass

Which, now beneath them, but above shall grow

In its next verdure, when this fiery mass

Of living valour, rolling on the foe,

And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low !

Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,

Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay;

The midnight brought the signal sound of strife,

The morn the marshalling in arms, --- the day

Battle's magnificently stern array !

The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which when rent,

The earth is covered thick with other clay.

Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent,

Rider and horse, --- friend, foe, --- in one red burial blent !

Their praise is hymn'd by loftier harps than mine;

Yet one I would select from that proud throng,

Partly because they blend me with his line,

And partly that I did his sire some wrong,

And partly that bright names will hallow song !

And his was of the bravest, and when shower'd

The death-bolts deadliest the thinn'd files along,

Even where the thickest of war's tempest lower'd,

They reach'd no nobler breast than thine, young, gallant Howard!

There have been tears and breaking hearts for thee,

And mine were nothing had I such to give;

But when I stood beneath the fresh green tree,

Which, living, waves where thou didst cease to live,

And saw around me the wild field revive

With fruits and fertile promise, and the Spring

Come forth her work of gladness to contrive,

With all her reckless birds upon the wing,

I turn'd from all she brought to those she could not bring !


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