Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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He shouted loud his battle-cry,

* Saint James for Argentine ! '
And of the bold pursuers four
The gallant knight from saddle bore ;
But not unharmed — a lance's point
Has found his breastplate's loosened joint,

An axe has razed his crest;
Yet still on Colonsay's fierce lord,
Who pressed the chase with gory sword,

He rode with spear in rest,
And through his bloody tartans bored

And through his gallant breast.



Nailed to the earth, the mountaineer
Yet writhed him up against the spear,

And swung his broadsword round !
Stirrup, steel-boot, and cuish gave way
Beneath that blow's tremendous sway,

The blood gushed from the wound ;
And the grjm Lord of Colonsay

Hath turned him on the ground,
And laughed in death-pang that his blade
The mortal thrust so well repaid.

Now toiled the Bruce, the battle done,
To use his conquest boldly won ;
And gave command for horse and spear
To press the Southron's scattered rear,
Nor let his broken force combine,
When the war-cry of Argentine

Fell faintly on his ear ;
' Save, save his life,' he cried, ' O/save
The kind, the noble, and the brave ! ■
The squadrons round free passage gave,

The wounded knight drew near ;
He raised his red-cross shield no more,
Helm, cuish, and breastplate streamed

with gore,
Yet, as he saw the king advance,
He strove even then to couch his lance —

The effort was in vain !
The spur-stroke failed to rouse the horse ;

Wounded and weary, in mid course

•He stumbled on the plain.
Then foremost was the generous Bruce
To raise his head, his helm to loose ; —

' Lord Earl, the day is thine !
My sovereign's charge and adverse fate
Have made our meeting all too late ;

Yet this may Argentine
As boon from ancient comrade crave —
A Christian's mass, a soldier's grave.'


Bruce pressed his dying hand — its grasp
Kindly replied ; but, in his clasp,

It stiffened and grew cold —
1 And, O farewell ! ' the victor cried,
' Of chivalry the flower and pride,

The arm in battle bold,
The courteous mien, the noble race,
The stainless faith, the manly face ! —
Bid Ninian's convent light their shrine
For late-wake of De Argentine.
O'er better knight on death-bier laid

Torch never
said ! '

gleamed nor mass was


Nor for De Argentine alone
Through Ninian's church these torches



And rose the death-prayer's awful tone.

That yellow lustre glimmered pale

On broken plate and bloodied mail,

Rent crest and shattered coronet,

Of baron, earl, and banneret ;

And the best names that England knew

Claimed in the death-prayer dismal due.

Yet mourn not, Land of Fame !
Though ne'er the Leopards on thy shield
Retreated from so sad a field

Since Norman William came.
Oft may thine annals justly boast
Of battles stern by Scotland lost ;

Grudge not her victory
When for her freeborn rights she strove ;
Rights dear to all who freedom love,

To none so dear as thee !

Turn we to Bruce whose curious ear
Must from Fitz-Louis tidings hear;
With him a hundred voices tell
Of prodigy and miracle,

' For the mute page had spoke.' —
' Page ! ' said Fitz-Louis, ' rather say
An angel sent from realms of day

To burst the English yoke.
I saw his plume and bonnet drop
When hurrying from the mountain top ;
A lovely brow, dark locks that wave,
To his bright eyes new lustre gave,
A step as light upon the green,
As if his pinions waved unseen ! '

' Spoke he with none ? ' — ' With none —

one word
Burst when he saw the Island Lord
Returning from the battle-field.' —
'What answer made the chief?' — 'He

Durst not look up, but muttered low
Some mingled sounds that none might

And greeted him 'twixt joy and fear
As being of superior sphere.'


Even upon Bannock's bloody plain
Heaped then with thousands of the slain,
Mid victor monarch's musings high,
Mirth laughed in good King Robert's eye : —
' And bore he such angelic air,
Such noble front, such waving hair ?
Hath Ronald kneeled to him ?' he said;
' Then must we call the church to aid —
Our will be to the abbot known
Ere these strange news are wider blown,
To Cambuskenneth straight he pass
And deck the church for solemn mass,
To pay for high deliverance given
A nation's thanks to gracious Heaven.
Let him array besides such state,
As should on princes' nuptials wait.
Ourself the cause, through fortune's spite,
That once broke short that spousal rite,
Ourself will grace with early morn
The bridal of the Maid of Lorn.'

8Hje Horo of tije Mz&.


Go forth, my Song, upon thy venturous way ;
Go boldly forth ; nor yet thy master blame
Who chose no patron for his humble lay,
And graced thy numbers with no friendly name
Whose partial zeal might smooth thy path to fame.
There was — and O, how many sorrows crowd
Into these two brief words ! — there was a claim
By generous friendship given — had fate allowed,
It well had bid thee rank the proudest of the proud !

All angel now — yet little less than all
While still a pilgrim in our world below !
What Vails it us that patience to recall
Which hid its own to soothe all other woes ;
What 'vails to tell how Virtue's purest glow
Shone yet more lovely in a form so fair :
And, least of all, what 'vails the world should know
That one poor garland, twined to deck thy hair,
Is hung upon thy hearse to droop and wither there !



Cf)e fidn of Waterloo.

Though Valois braved young Edward's gentle hand,

And Albert rushed on Henry's way-worn band,

With Europe's chosen sons, in arms renowned,

Yet not on Vere's bold archers long they looked,

Nor Audley's squires nor Mowbray's yeomen brooked, —

They saw their standard fall, and left their monarch bound.





&C, &C, &C,




It may be some apology for the imperfections of this poem, that it was composed hastily, and during a short tour
upon the Continent, when the Author's labors were liable to frequent interruption; but its best apology is, that it was
written for the purpose of assisting the Waterloo Subscription.
Abbotsford, 1815.

8Tfje jFfelti of Waterloo.

Fair Brussels, thou art far behind,
Though, lingering on the morning wind,

We yet may hear the hour
Pealed over orchard and canal,
With voice prolonged and measured fall,

From proud Saint Michael's tower;
Thy wood, dark Soignies, holds us now,
Where the tall beeches' glossy bough

For many a league around,
With birch and darksome oak between.
Spreads deep and far a pathless screen

Of tangled forest ground.
Stems planted close by stems defy

The adventurous foot — the curious eye

For access seeks in vain ;
And the brown tapestry of leaves,
Strewed on the blighted ground, receives

Nor sun nor air nor rain.
No opening glade dawns on our way,
No streamlet glancing to the ray

Our woodland path has crossed ;
And the straight causeway which we tread
Prolongs a line of dull arcade,
Unvarying through the unvaried shade

Until in distance lost.

A brighter, livelier scene succeeds ;
In groups the scattering wood recedes,


scorrs poetical works.

Hedge-rows, and huts, and sunny meads,

And corn-fields glance between ;
The peasant at his labor blithe
Plies the hooked staff and shortened
scythe : —

But when these ears were green,
Placed close within destruction's scope,
Full little was that rustic's hope

Their ripening to have seen !
And, lo ! a hamlet and its fane : —
Let not the gazer with disdain

Their architecture view ;
For yonder rude ungraceful shrine
And di. s proportioned spire are thine,

Immortal WATERLOO !


Fear not the heat, though full and high
Tin- sun has scorched the autumn sky,
And scarce a forest straggler now
To shade us spreads a -rrenwood bough;
These fields have seen a hotter day
Than e'er was fired by sunny ray.

in- mile on -you shattered hedge
i he soft hill whose long smooth ridge

Looks on the field below,
And sinks so gently on the dale
That not the folds of Beauty's veil

In easier curves can flow.

Brief space from thence the ground again
Ascending slowly from the plain

Forms an opposing screen,
Which with its crest of upland ground
Shuts the horizon all around.

The softened vale between
Slopes smooth and fair for courser's tread ;
Not the most timid maid need dread
To give her snow-white palfrey head

On that wide stubble-ground ;
Nor wood nor tree nor bush are there,
Her course to intercept or scare,

Nor fosse nor fence are found,
Save where from out her shattered bowers
Rise Hougomont's dismantled towers.


Now, see'st thou aught in this lone scene
Can tell of that which late hath been? —

A stranger might reply,
' The bare extent of stubble-plain
Seems lately lightened of its grain:
And yonder sable tracks remain
Marks of the peasant's ponderous wain

When harvest-home was nigh.
On these broad spots of trampled ground
Perchance the rustics danced such round

As Teniers loved to draw ;
And where the earth seems scorched by



To dress the homely feast they came,
And toiled the kerchiefed village dame
Around her fire of straw.'


So deem'st thou — so each mortal deems
Of that which is from that which seems : —

But other harvest here
Than that which peasant's scythe demands
Was gathered in by sterner hands,

With bayonet, blade, and spear.
No vulgar crop was theirs to reap,
No stinted harvest thin and cheap !

The fierce dragoon through battle's flood

Dashed the hot war-horse on.
These spots of excavation tell
The ravage of the bursting shell —
And feel'st thou not the tainted steam
That reeks against the sultry beam

From yonder trenched mound ?
The pestilential fumes declare
That Carnage has replenished there

Her garner-house profound.


Far other harvest-home and feast

Than claims the boor from scythe released

Heroes before each fatal sweep

Fell thick as ripened grain ;
And ere the darkening of the day,
Piled high as autumn shocks there lay
The ghastly harvest of the fray,
The corpses of the slain.

Ay, look again — that line so black

And trampled marks the bivouac,

Yon deep-graved ruts the artillery's track,

So often lost and won ;
And close beside the hardened mud
Still shows where, fetlock-deep in blood,

On these scorched fields were known \
Death hovered o'er the maddening rout,
And in the thrilling battle-shout
Sent for the bloody banquet out

A summons of his own.
Through rolling smoke the Demon's eye
Could well each destined guest espy,
Well could his ear in ecstasy

Distinguish every tone
That filled the chorus of the fray —
From cannon-roar and trumpet-bray,
From charging squadrons' wild hurra,
From the wild clang that marked their
way, —



Down to the dying groan
And the last sob of life's decay
When breath was all but flown.


Feast on, stern foe of mortal life,
Feast on ! — but think not that a strife
With such promiscuous carnage rife

Protracted space may last ;
The deadly tug of war at length
Must limits find in human strength,

And cease when these are past.
Vain hope ! — that morn's o'erclouded sun
Heard the wild shout of fight begun

Ere he attained his height,
And through the war-smoke volumed high
Still peals that unremitted cry,

Though now he stoops to night.
For ten long hours of doubt and dread,
Fresh succors from the extended head
Of either hill the contest fed ;

Still down the slope they drew,
The charge of columns paused not,
Nor ceased the storm of shell and shot ;

For all that war could do
Of skill and force was proved that day,
And turned not yet the doubtful fray

On bloody Waterloo.


Pale Brussels ! then what thoughts were

When ceaseless from the distant line

Continued thunders came !
Each burgher held his breath to hear
These forerunners of havoc near,

Of rapine and of flame.
What ghastly sights were thine to meet,
When, rolling through thy stately street,
The wounded showed their mangled plight
In token of the unfinished fight,
And from each anguish-laden wain
The blood-drops laid thy dust like rain !
How often in the distant drum
Heard'st thou the fell invader come,
While Ruin, shouting to his band,
Shook high her torch and gory brand ! —
Cheer thee, fair city ! From yon stand
Impatient still his outstretched hand

Points to his prey in vain,
While, maddening in his eager mood
And all unwont to be withstood,

He fires the fight again.


4 On ! On! ' was still his stern exclaim ;
4 ( '(.nt rout the battery's jaws of flame !

Rush on the levelled gun !
My steel-clad cuirassiers, advance!

Each Hulan forward with his lance,
My Guard — my chosen — charge for

France and Napoleon ! '
Loud answered their acclaiming shout,
Greeting the mandate which sent out
Their bravest and their best to dare
The fate their leader shunned to share.
But He, his country's sword and shield.
Still in the battle-front revealed
Where danger fiercest swept the field,

Came like a beam of light,
In action prompt, in sentence brief —
1 Soldiers, stand firm ! ' exclaimed the chief,

' England shall tell the fight ! '


On came the whirlwind — like the last
But fiercest sweep of tempest-blast —
On came the whirlwind — steel-gleams broke
Like lightning through the rolling smoke ;

The war was waked anew,
Three hundred cannon-mouths roared loud,
And from their throats with flash and cloud

Their showers of iron threw.
Beneath their fire in full career
Rushed on the ponderous cuirassier,
The lancer couched his ruthless spear,
And hurrying as to havoc near

The cohorts' eagles flew.
In one dark torrent broad and strong
The advancing onset rolled along,
Forth harbingered by fierce acclaim,
That from the shroud of smoke and flame
Pealed wildly the imperial name.


But on the British heart were lost
The terrors of the charging host;
For not an eye the storm that viewed
Changed its proud glance of fortitude,
Nor was one forward footstep staid,
As dropped the dying and the dead.
Fast as their ranks the thunders tear,
Fast they renewed each serried square ;
And on the wounded and the slain
Closed their diminished files again,
Till from their line scarce spears' lengths

Emerging from the smoke they see
Helmet and plume and panoply —

Then waked their fire at once !
Each musketeer's revolving knell,
As fast, as regularly fell,
As when they practise to display
Their discipline on festal day.

Then down went helm and lance,
Down were the eagle banners sent,
Down reeling steeds and riders went,



Corselets were pierced and pennons rent;

And to augment the fray,
Wheeled full against their staggering flanks,
The English horsemen's foaming ranks

Forced their resistless way.
Then to the musket-knell succeeds
The clash of swords, the neigh of steeds,
As plies the smith his clanging trade,
Against the cuirass rang the blade ;
And while amid their close array
The well-served cannon rent their way,
And while amid their scattered band
Raged the fierce rider's bloody brand,
Recoiled in common rout and fear
Lancer and guard and cuirassier,
Horsemen and foot, — a mingled host.
Their leaders fallen, their standards lost.


Then, Wellington ! thy piercing eye
This crisis caught of destiny —

The British host had stood
That morn 'gainst charge of sword and

As their own ocean-rocks hold stance,
But when thy voice had said, * Advance ! '

They were their ocean's flood. —
O thou whose inauspicious aim
Hath wrought thy host this hour of

Think'st thou thy broken bands will bide
The terrors of yon rushing tide ?
Or will thy chosen brook to feel
The British shock of levelled steel ?

Or dost thou turn thine eye
Where coming squadrons gleam afar,
And fresher thunders wake the war,

And other standards fly ? —
Think not that in yon columns file
Thy conquering troops from distant Dyle —

Is Blucher yet unknown?
Or dwells not in thy memory still,
Heard frequent in thine hour of ill,
What notes of hate and vengeance thrill

In Prussia's trumpet tone? —
What yet remains ? — shall it be thine
To head the relics of thy line

In one dread effort more ? —
The Roman lore thy leisure loved,
And thou canst tell what fortune proved

That chieftain who of yore
Ambition's dizzy paths essayed,
And with the gladiators' aid
For empire enterprised —
He stood the cast his rashness played,
Left not the victims he had made,
Dug his red grave with his own blade,
And on the field he lost was laid,
Abhorred — but not despised.


But if revolves thy fainter thought
On safety — howsoever bought —
Then turn thy fearful rein and ride,
Though twice ten thousand men have died

On this eventful day,
To gild the military fame
Which thou for life in traffic tame

Wilt barter thus away.
Shall future ages tell this tale
Of inconsistence faint and frail ?
And art thou he of Lodi's bridge,
Marengo's field, and Wagram's ridge !

Or is thy soul like mountain-tide
That, swelled by winter storm and shower,
Rolls down in turbulence of power

A torrent fierce and wide ;
Reft of these aids, a rill obscure,
Shrinking unnoticed, mean and poor,

Whose channel shows displayed
The wrecks of its impetuous course,
But not one symptom of the force

By which these wrecks were made !


Spur on thy way ! — since now thine ear
Has brooked thy veterans' wish to hear,

Who as thy flight they eyed
Exclaimed — while tears of anguish came.
Wrung forth by pride and rage and shame —

' O, that he had but died ! '
But yet, to sum this hour of ill,
Look ere thou leavest the fatal hill

Back on yon broken ranks —
Upon whose wild confusion gleams
The moon, as on the troubled streams

When rivers break their banks,
And to the ruined peasant's eye
Objects half seen roll swiftly by,

Down the dread current hurled —
So mingle banner, wain, and gun,
Where the tumultuous flight rolls on
Of warriors who when morn begun

Defied a banded world.


List — frequent to the hurrying rout,
The stern pursuers' vengeful shout
Tells that upon their broken rear
Rages the Prussian's bloody spear.

So fell a shriek was none
When Beresina's icy flood
Reddened and thawed with flame and blood
And, pressing on thy desperate way,
Raised oft and long their wild hurra

The children of the Don.
Thine ear no yell of horror cleft
So ominous when, all bereft
Of aid, the valiant Polack left —



Ay, left by thee —found soldier's grave
In Leipsic's corpse-encumbered wave.
Fate, in these various perils past,
Reserved thee still some future cast ;
On the dread die thou now hast thrown
Hangs not a single field alone,
Nor one campaign — thy martial fame,
Thy empire, dynasty, and name,

Have felt the final stroke ;
And now o'er thy devoted head
The last stern vial's wrath is shed,

The last dread seal is broke.


Since live thou wilt — refuse not now
Before these demagogues to bow,
Late objects of thy scorn and hate,
Who shall thy once imperial fate
.Make wordy theme of vain debate. —
Or shall we say thou stoop'st less low
In seeking refuge from the foe,
Against whose heart in prosperous life
Thine hand hath ever held the knife?

Such homage hath been paid
By Roman and by Grecian voice,
And there were honor in the choice,

If it were freely made.
Then safely come — in one so low, —
So lost, — we cannot own a foe ;
Though dear experience bid us end,
In thee we ne'er can hail a friend. —
Come, howsoe'er — but do not hide
Close in thy heart that germ of pride
Erewhile by gifted bard espied,

That 'yet imperial hope ; '
Think not that for a fresh rebound,
To raise ambition from the ground,

We yield thee means or scope.
In safety come — but ne'er again
Hold type of independent reign ;

No islet calls thee lord,
We leave thee no confederate band,
No symbol of thy lost command,
To be a dagger in the hand

From which we wrenched the sword.


Yet, even in yon sequestered spot,
May worthier conquest be thy lot

Than yet thy life has known;
Conquest unbought by blood or harm,
That needs nor foreign aid nor arm,

A triumph all thine own.
Such waits thee when thou shalt control
Those passions wild, that stubborn soul,

That marred thy prosperous scene: —
Hear this — from no unmoved heart,
Which sighs, comparing what thou art

With what tlimi MIGHTST have BEEN!


Thou too, whose deeds of fame renewed

Bankrupt a nation's gratitude,

To thine own noble heart must owe

More than the meed she can bestow.

For not a people's just acclaim,

Not the full hail of Europe's fame,

Thy prince's smiles, thy state's decree,

The ducal rank, the gartered knee,

Not these such pure delight afford

As that, when hanging up thy sword,

Well mayst thou think, ' This honest steel

Was ever drawn for public weal ;

And, such was rightful Heaven's decree,

Ne'er sheathed unless with victory ! '


Look forth once more with softened heart
Ere from the field of fame we part ;
Triumph and sorrow border near,
And joy oft melts into a tear.
Alas ! what links of love that morn
Has War's rude hand asunder torn !
For ne'er was field so sternly fought,
And ne'er was conquest dearer bought.
Here piled in common slaughter sleep
Those whom affection long shall weep :
Here rests the sire that ne'er shall strain
His orphans to his heart again ;
The son whom on his native shore
The parent's voice shall bless no more ;
The bridegroom who has hardly pressed
His blushing consort to his breast :
The husband whom through many a year
Long love and mutual faith endear.
Thou canst not name one tender tie
But here dissolved its relics lie !
O, when thou see'st some mourner's veil
Shroud her thin form and visage pale,
Or mark'st the matron's bursting tears
Stream when the stricken drum she hears,
Or see'st how manlier grief suppressed
Is laboring in a father's breast, —
With no inquiry vain pursue
The cause, but think on Waterloo !

Period of honor as of woes,
What bright careers 't was thine to close ! —
Marked on thy roll of blood what names
To Briton's memory and to Fame's
Laid there their last immortal claims !
Thou saw'st in seas of gore expire
Redoubted Picton's soul of fire —
Saw'st in the mingled carnage lie
All that of Ponsonby could die —
De Lancey change Love's bridal-wreath
For laurels from the hand of Death —
Saw'st gallant Miller's failing eye
Still bent where Albion's banners fly,



And Cameron in the shock of steel
Die like the offspring of Lochiel ;
And generous Gordon mid the strife
Fall while he watched his leader's life. — '
Ah ! though her guardian angel's shield
Fenced Britain's hero through the field,
Fate not the less her power made known
Through his friends' hearts to pierce his


Forgive, brave dead, the imperfect lay !
Who may your names, your numbers, say?
What high-strung harp, what lofty line,
To each the dear-earned praise assign,
From high-born chiefs of martial fame
To the poor soldier's lowlier name ?
Lightly ye rose that dawning day

From your cold couch of swamp and clay,
To fill before the sun was low
The bed that morning cannot know. —
Oft may the tear the green sod steep,
And sacred be the heroes' sleep

Till time shall cease to run ;
And ne'er beside their noble grave
May Briton pass and fail to crave
A blessing on the fallen brave

Who fought with Wellington !


Farewell, sad field ! whose blighted face
Wears desolation's withering trace ;
Long shall my memory retain
Thy shattered huts and trampled grain,
With every mark of martial wrong



That scathe thy towers, fair Hougomont !
Yet though thy garden's green arcade
The marksman's fatal post was made,
Though on thy shattered beeches fell
The blended rage of shot and shell,
Though from thy blackened portals torn
Their fall thy blighted fruit-trees mourn,
Has not such havoc bought a name

Immortal in the rolls of fame?
Yes — Agincourt may be forgot,
And Cressy be an unknown spot,

And Blenheim's name be new ;
But still in story and in song,
For many an age remembered long,

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 44 of 78)