Page images
PDF
EPUB

XXVII.

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
Of homicide; but there was no solidity

In the new batteries erected there;
They either missed, or they were never missed,
And added greatly to the missing list.

XXVIII.

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

up

in the middle of the river, While, though 't was dawn, the Turks slept fast as ever.

XXIX.

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
Off Ismail, and commenced a cannonade,

Which was returned with interest, I may say,
And by a fire of musquetry and grape,
And shells and shot of every size and shape.

XXX.

For six hours bore they without intermission

The Turkish fire; and, aided by their own
Land batteries, worked their guns with great precision;

At length they found mere cannonade alone
By no means would produce the town's submission,

And made a signal to retreat at one.
One bark blew up, a second near the works
Running aground, was taken by the Turks.

XXXI.

The Moslem too had lost both ships and men;

But when they saw the enemy retire,
Their Delhis manned some boats, and sailed again,

And galled the Russians with a heavy fire,
And tried to make a landing on the main.

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.

XXXII.

« If » (says the historian here) « I could report

All that the Russians did upon this day,
I think that several volumes would fall short,

And I should still have many things to say;»
And so he says no more-but

his court
To some distinguished strangers in that fray,
The Prince de Ligne, and Langeron, and Damas,
Names great as any that the roll of fame has.

pays

XXXIII.

This being the case, may show us what fame is:

For out of these three preux chevaliers, how
Many of common readers give a guess

That such existed? (and they may live now
For aught we know.) Renown's all hit or miss;

There 's fortune even in fame, we must allow,
'T is true, the Memoirs of the Prince de Ligne
Have half withdrawn from him oblivion's screen.

XXXIV.

But here are men who fought in gallant actions

As gallantly as ever heroes fought,
But buried in the heap of such transactions-

Their names are rarely found, nor often sought. Thus even good fame may suffer sad contractions,

And is extinguished sooner than she ought:
Of all our modern battles, I will bet
You can't repeat nine names from each gazette.

XXXV.

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;
In which he was opposed by young and hoary

Which made a long debate:—but I must halt;
For if I wrote down every warrior's speech,
I doubt few readers e'er would mount the breach.

XXXVI.

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;

XXXVII.

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.
This fellow, being six foot high, could raise

A kind of phantasy proportionate
In the then sovereign of the Russian people,
Who measured men as you would do a steeple.

XXXVIII.

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.

XXXIX.

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.

XL.,

The letter of the prince to the same marshal

Was worthy of a Spartan, had the cause
Been one to which a good heart could be partial,

Defence of freedom, country, or of laws;
But as it was mere lust of power to o'er-arch all

With its proud brow, it merits slight applause,
Save for its style, which said, all in a trice,
« You will take Ismail at whatever price.»

XLI.

«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.

« PreviousContinue »