Page images
PDF
EPUB

XXXVIII.

Hark! heard you not those hoofs of dreadful note ?
Sounds not the clang of conflict on the heath?
Saw ye not whom the reeking sabre smote;
Nor saved your brethren ere they sank beneath
Tyrants and tyrants’ slaves ? the fires of death,
The bale-fires flash on high : — from rock to rock
Each volley tells that thousands cease to breathe ;

Death rides upon the sulphury Siroc,
Red Battle stamps his foot, and nations feel the shock.

1

XXXIX.

Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep'ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon ;
Restless it rolls, now fix'd, and now anon
Flashing afar, - and at his iron feet
Destruction cowers, to mark what deeds are done;

For on this horn three potent nations meet,
To shed before his shrine the blood he deems most

sweet.

1

from rock to rock Blue columns soar aloft in sulphurous wreath,

Fragments on fragments in confusion knock.” - MS.] 2 [“ A bolder prosopopeia,” says a nameless critic, “or one better imagined or expressed, cannot easily be found in the whole range of ancient and modern poetry. Unlike the plume of Horror,' or the eagle-winged Victory,' described by our great epic poet, this gigantic figure is a distinct object, perfect in linea. ments, tremendous in operation, and vested with all the attributes calculated to excite terror and admiration."]

XL.

By Heaven ! it is a splendid sight to see
(For one who hath no friend, no brother there)
Their rival scarfs of mix'd embroidery,
Their various arms that glitter in the air!
What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey !
All join the chase, but few the triumph share ;

The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can number their array.

XLI.

Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies ;
The shouts are France, Spain, Albion, Victory!
The foe, the victim, and the fond ally
That fights for all, but ever fights in vain,
Are met — as if at home they could not die —

To feed the crow on Talavera's plain,
And fertilize the field that each pretends to gain. 1

[We think it right to restore here a note which Lord Byron himself suppressed with reluctance, at the urgent request of a friend. It alludes, inter alia, to the then recent publication of Sir Walter Scott's “ Vision of Don Roderick," of which work the profits had been handsomely given to the cause of Portuguese patriotism :-.“ We have heard wonders of the Portuguese lately, and their gallantry. Pray Heaven it continue ; yet would it were bed-time, Hal, and all were well !'. They must fight a great many hours, by Shrewsbury clock,' before the number of their slain equals that of our countrymen butchered by these kind creatures, now metamorphosed into caçadores,' and what not. I merely state a fact, not confined to Portugal ; for in Sicily and Malta we are knocked on the head at a handsome average nightly, and not a Sicilian and Maltese is ever punished ! The neglect of protection is disgraceful to our government and governors ; for the murders are as notorious as the moon that shines upon them, and the apathy that overlooks them. The Portuguese, it is to be hoped, are complimented with the Forlorn Hope, if the cowards XLII. There shall they rot- Ambition's honour'd fools! 1 Yes, Honour decks the turf that wraps their clay ! Vain Sophistry! in these behold the tools, The broken tools, that tyrants cast away By myriads, when they dare to pave their way With human hearts - to what ? — a dream alone. Can despots compass aught that hails their sway?

Or call with truth one span of earth their own, Save that wherein at last they crumble bone by bone ?

are become brave (like the rest of their kind, in a corner), pray let them display it. But there is a subscription for these grou-dainon,' (they need not be ashamed of the epithet once applied to the Spartans); and all the charitable patronymics, from ostentatious A to diffident Z., and 11. 1s. Od. from An Admirer of Valour,' are in requisition for the lists at Lloyd's, and the honour of British benevolence. Well ! we have fought, and subscribed, and bestowed peerages, and buried the killed by our friends and foes ; and, lo ! all this is to be done over again! Like Lien Chi (in Goldsmith's Citizen of the World), as we 'grow older, we grow never the better.' It would be pleasant to learn who will subscribe for us, in or about the year 1815, and what nation will send fifty thousand men, first to be decimated in the capital, and then decimated again (in the Irish fashion, nine out of ten), in the bed of honour ;' which, as Serjeant Kite says, is considerably larger and more commodious than the bed of Ware.' Then they must have a poet to write the · Vision of Don Perceval,' and generously bestow the profits of the well and widely printed quarto, to rebuild the

Backwynd' and the Canongate,' or furnish new kilts for the half-roasted Highlanders. Lord Wellington, however, has enacted marvels; and so did his Oriental brother, whom I saw chariot. eering over the French fag, ard heard clipping bad Spanish, after listening to the speech of a patriotic cobbler of Cadiz, on the event of his own entry into that city, and the exit of some five thousand bold Britons out of this · best of all possible worlds.' Sorely were we puzzled how to dispose of that same victory of Talavera; and a victory it surely was somewhere, for everybody claimed it. The Spanish despatch and mob called it Cuesta's, and made no great mention of the Viscount; the French called it theirs (to my great discomfiture, - for a French consul stopped my

in Greece with a pestilent Paris gazette, just as I had killed Sebastiani • in buckram,' and King Joseph' in Kendal

XLIII.

Oh, Albuera, glorious field of grief!
As o’er thy plain the Pilgrim prick' his steed,
Who could foresee thee, in a space so brief,
A scene where mingling foes should boast and bleed!
Peace to the perish'd ! may the warrior's meed
And tears of triumph their reward prolong!
Till others fall where other chieftains lead,

Thy name shall circle round the gaping throng,
And shine in worthless lays, the theme of transient

song.2

XLIV.

Enough of Battle's minions ! let them play
Their game of lives, and barter breath for fame :
Fame that will scarce re-animate their clay,
Though thousands fall to deck some single name.
In sooth 'twere sad to thwart their noble aim
Who strike, blest hirelings ! for their country's good,
And die, that living might have proved her shame;

Perish’d, perchance, in some domestic feud,
Or in a narrower sphere wild Rapine's path pursued.

green'), - and we have not yet determined what to call it, or whose ; for, certes, it was none of our own. Howbeit, Massena's retreat is a great comfort ; and as we have not been in the habit of pursuing for some years past, no wonder we are a little awkward at first. No doubt we shall improve; or, if not, we have only to take to our old way of retrograding, and there we are at home.”] i [“ There let them rot — while rhymers tell the fools

How honour decks the turf that wraps their clay!

Liars ayaunt!” — MS.] 2 [This stanza is not in the original Ms. It was written at Newstead, in August 1811, shortly after the battle of Albuera, which took place on the 16th of May.]

XLV.

Full swiftly Harold wends his lonely way
Where proud Sevilla 1 triumphs unsubdued :
Yet is she free - the spoiler's wish'd-for prey !
Soon, soon shall Conquest's fiery foot intrude,
Blackening her lovely domes with traces rude.
Inevitable hour! 'Gainst fate to strive
Where Desolation plants her famish'd brood

Is vain, or Ilion, Tyre might yet survive,
And Virtue vanquish all, and Murder cease to thrive.

XLVI.

But all unconscious of the coming doom,
The feast, the song, the revel here abounds;
Strange modes of merriment the hours consume,
Nor bleed these patriots with their country's wounds:
Nor here War's clarion, but Love's rebeck 2 sounds;
Here Folly still his votaries inthralls;
And young-eyed Lewdness walks her midnight

rounds : Girt with the silent crimes of Capitals, Still to the last kind Vice clings to the tott'ring walls.

[At Seville, we lodged in the house of two Spanish unmarried ladies, women of character, the eldest a fine woman, the youngest pretty. The freedom of manner, which is general here, astonished me not a little ; and, in the course of further observation, I find that reserve is not the characteristic of Spanish belles. The eldest honoured your unworthy son with very particular attention, embracing him with great tenderness at parting (I was there but three days), after cutting off a lock of his hair, and presenting him with one of her own, about three feet in length, which I send, and beg you will retain till my return. Her last words were,' Adios, tu hermoso! me gusto mucho.' ' Adieu, you pretty fellow! you please me much.'" - Lord B. to his Mother, Aug. 1809.]

2 [A kind of fiddle, with only two strings, played on by a bow, said to have been brought by the Moors into Spain.]

« PreviousContinue »