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And Harold stands upon this place of skulls,
The grave of France, the deadly Waterloo !
How in an hour that power which gave annuls
Its gifts, transferring fame as fleeting too!
In “pride of place” (1) 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 labours all were vain;
He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.
Fit retribution! Gaul may champ the bit
And foam in fetters :--but is Earth more free?
Did nations combat to make One submit;
Or league to teach all kings true sovereignty?
What! shall reviving Thraldom again be
The patch’d-up idol of enlighten'd days ?
Shall we, who struck the Lion down, shall we
Pay the Wolf homage ? proffering lowly gaze
And servile knees to thrones ? No; prove before ye praise !
If not, o'er one fallen despot boast no more!
In vain fair cheeks were furrow'd with hot tears
For Europe's flowers long rooted up before
The trampler of her vineyards; in vain years
Of death, depopulation, bondage, fears,
Have all been borne, and broken by the accord
Ofroused-up millions : all that most endears
Glory, is when the myrtle wreathes a sword
Such as Harmodius (2) drew on Athens' tyrant lord.
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 shone 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; (3)
But hush: hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
XXII. 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 feetBut, 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 window'd niche of that high hall
Sate 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 smil'd because he deem'd it near,
His heart more truly knew that peal too well
Which stretched his father on a bloody bier,
And roused the vengeance blood alone can quell:
He rush'd 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
Blush'd at the praise of their own loveliness ;
And there were sudden partings, such as press
The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs
Which ne'er might be repeated; who could guess
If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,
Since upon nights 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 throng'd 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 (4) Evan's, (5) Donald's fame rings in eacka
XXVII. And Ardennes (6) 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.
XXVIII. 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 cover'd thick with other clay, Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent, Rider and horse--friend, foe,-in one red burial blent!
XXIX. 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 wide 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,
Iturn'd from all she brought to those she could not bring.(7)
I turn’d to thee, to thousands, of whom each
And one as all a ghastly gap did make
In his own kind and kindred, whom to teach
Forgetfulness were mercy for their sake;
The Archangel's trump, not glory's, must awake
Those whom they thirst for; though the sound of Fame
May for a moment soothe, it cannot slake
The fever of vain longing, and the name
So honour'd but assumes a stronger, bitterer claim.
XXXII. They mourn, but smile at length; and, smiling, mourn: The tree will wither long before it fall; The hull drives on, though mast and sail be torn; The roof-tree sinks, but moulders on the hall In massy hoariness; the ruin'd wall Stands when its wind-worn battlements are gone; The bars survive the captive they enthral;
The day drags through though storms keep out the sun; And thus the heart will break, yet brokenly live on: