Page images

- 28

BYRON.-Born, 1788; Died, 1824. George Gordon, Lord Byron, was one of the greatest English poets of modern times. Badly brought up, his mind was unfortunately warped and morbid in its pride and sensitiveness, and an unhappy marriage still further affected him for evil. There is much in his poems to regret, but very much to admire. Perhaps had he lived longer he would have atoned for the perversities and evils of his

“ Childe Harold” and many other poems are, notwithstanding, a glorious legacy to the world.

earliest years.

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 :-
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.5

[ocr errors]

1 Waterloo, fought on Sunday,

June 18, 1815, between the English and their allies, under Wellington, and the French under N&

poleon. 2 revelry, festivity. The Duchess

of Richmond gave a grand ball
on the night of the 15th.

3 Brussels.
• chivalry, here, the officers of the

Belgian army.
$ The two lines mean that, when the

dance invites them, there is no thought of sleep till morning.

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 window'd niche of that high hall
Sat Brunswick's fated chieftain ;6 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 rush'd into the field, and, foremost fighting, fell !8

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 evermore 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,

6 The Duke of Brunswick.
. He was mortally wounded at the

battle of Jena, in 1807.

8 He was killed at Quatre Bras, imme

diately before Waterloo.

And near, the beat of the alarming drum,


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 ”9 rose !
The war-note of Lochiel,10 which Albyn’slı hills
Have heard and heard too have her Saxon12 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 ears

And Ardennes13 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;

9 Cameron's gathering. High

land war tune. 10 Lochiel was the title of the chief of the clan Cameron.

yn is an old name for Scotland.

12 The English.
13 Ardennes, a great forest, which

reaches or reached from the north-
east of France into Belgium.

11 Al

[ocr errors]

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 !




'Twas twilight, and the sunless day went down

Over the waste of waters; like a veil,
Which, if withdrawn, would but disclose the frown

Of one whose hate is masked but to assail.
Thus to their hopeless eyes the night was shown,

And grimly darkled o'er their faces pale,
And the dim, desolate deep: twelve days had Fear
Been their familiar, and now Death was here.
At half-past eight o'clock booms, hencoops, spars,

And all things, for a chance, had been cast loose, That still could keep afloat the struggling tars,

For yet they strove, although of no great use; There was no light in heaven but a few stars ;

The boats put off, o'ercrowded with their crews; She gave a heel, and then a lurch to port, And going down head foremost-sunk, in short. Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell

Then shrieked the timid, and stood still the brave


The stanzas that follow

Then some leaped overboard with dreadful yell,

As eager to anticipate their grave;
And the sea yawned around her, like a hell,

And down she sucked with her the whirling wave,
Like one who grapples with his enemy,
And strives to strangle him before he die.
And first one universal shriek there rushed,

Louder than the loud ocean-like a crash
Of echoing thunder; and then all was hushed,

Save the wild wind and the remorseless dash
Of billows; but at intervals there gushed,

Accompanied with a convulsive splash,
A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.

[Some of the sailors had got off in an open boat.
are an episode in their story.]
There were two fathers in this ghastly crew,

And with them their two sons, of whom the one Was more robust and hardy to the view;

But he died early; and when he was gone, His nearest messmate told his sire, who threw

One glance on him, and said : “Heaven's will be done ! I can do nothing;” and he saw him thrown Into the deep without a tear or groan. The other father had a weaklier child,

Of a soft cheek, and aspect delicate; But the boy bore up long, and with a mild

And patient spirit held aloof his fate; Little he said, and now and then he smiled,

As if to win a part from off the weight



« PreviousContinue »