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Whether it was their engineer's stupidity,
Their haste, or waste, I neither know nor care, Or some contractor's personal cupidity,
Saving his soul by cheating in the ware
In the new batteries erected there;
A sad miscalculation about distance
Made all their naval matters incorrect; Three fireships lost their amiable existence
Before they reached a spot to take effect: The match was lit too soon, and no assistance
Could remedy this lubberly defect; They blew
in the middle of the river, While, though 't was dawn, the Turks slept fast as ever.
At seven they rose however, and surveyed
The Russ flotilla getting under-weigh. 'T was nine when still advancing undismayed,
Within a cable's length their vessels lay
Which was returned with interest, I may say,
For six hours bore they without intermission
The Turkish fire; and, aided by their own
At length they found mere cannonade alone
And made a signal to retreat at one.
The Moslem too had lost both ships and men;
But when they saw the enemy retire,
And galled the Russians with a heavy fire,
But here the effect fell short of their desire: Count Damas drove them back into the water Pell-mell, and with a whole gazette of slaughter.
« If » (says the historian here) « I could report
All that the Russians did upon this day,
And I should still have many things to say;»
This being the case, may show us what fame is:
For out of these three preux chevaliers, how
That such existed? (and they may live now
There 's fortune even in fame, we must allow,
But here are men who fought in gallant actions
As gallantly as ever heroes fought,
Their names are rarely found, nor often sought. Thus even good fame may suffer sad contractions,
And is extinguished sooner than she ought:
In short, this last attack, though rich in glory,
Shewed that somewhere, somehow, there was a fault; And Admiral Ribas (known in Russian story)
Most strongly recommended an assault;
Which made a long debate:—but I must halt;
There was a man, if that he was a man,
Not that his manhood could be called in question, For had he not been Hercules, his span
Had been as short in youth as indigestion Made his last illness, when, all worn and wan, ,
He died beneath a tree, as much unblest on The soil of the green province he had wasted, As e'er was locust on the land it blasted;
This was Potemkin—a great thing in days
When homicide and harlotry made great; If stars and titles could entail long praise,
His glory might half equal his estate.
A kind of phantasy proportionate
While things were in abeyance, Ribas sent
A courier to the prince, and he succeeded In ordering matters after his own bent.
I cannot tell the way in which he pleaded, But shortly he had cause to be content.
In the mean time the batteries proceeded, And fourscore cannon on the Danube's border Were briskly fired and answered in due order.
But on the thirteenth, when already part
Of the troops were embarked, the siege to raise, A courier on the spur inspired new heart
Into all panters for newspaper praise, As well as dilettanti in war's art,
By his dispatches couched in pithy praise, Announcing the appointment of that lover of Battles, to the command, Field Marshal Souvaroff.
The letter of the prince to the same marshal
Was worthy of a Spartan, had the cause
Defence of freedom, country, or of laws;
With its proud brow, it merits slight applause,
«Let there be light! said God, and there was light!»
« Let there be blood!» says man, and there's a sea! The fiat of this spoiled child of the night
(For day ne'er saw his merits) could decree More evil in an hour, than thirty bright
Summers could renovate, though they should be Lovely as those which ripened Eden's fruit, For war cuts up not only branch, but root.