The Visions of England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 127 pages of information about The Visions of England.

Orthez’ Bridge; crosses the river named Gave de Pau;—­and covered Soult’s forces then lying north of it.

THE SOLDIERS’ BATTLE

November 5:  1854

   In the solid sombre mist
   And the drizzling dazzling shower
   They may mass them as they list,
   The gray-coat Russian power;
They are fifties ’gainst our tens, they, and more! 
   And from the fortress-town
   In silent squadrons down
   O’er the craggy mountain-crown
      Unseen, they pour.

   On the meagre British line
   That northern ocean press’d;
   But we never knew how few
   Were we who held the crest! 
While within the curtain-mist dark shadows loom
   Making the gray more gray,
   Till the volley-flames betray
   With one flash the long array: 
      And then, the gloom.

   For our narrow line too wide
   On the narrow crest we stood,
   And in pride we named it Home,
   As we sign’d it with our blood. 
And we held-on all the morning, and the tide
   Of foes on that low dyke
   Surged up, and fear’d to strike,
   Or on the bayonet-spike
      Flung them, and died.

   It was no covert, that,
   ’Gainst the shrieking cannon-ball! 
   But the stout hearts of our men
   Were the bastion and the wall:—­
And their chiefs hardly needed give command;
   For they tore through copse and gray
   Mist that before them lay,
   And each man fought, that day,
      For his own hand!

   Yet should we not forget
   ’Gainst that dun sea of foes
   How Egerton bank’d his line,
   Till in front a cloud uprose
From the level rifle-mouths; and they dived
   With bayonet-thrust beneath;
   Clench’d teeth and sharp-drawn breath,
   Plunging to certain death,—­
      And yet survived!

   Nor the gallant chief who led
   Those others, how he fell;
   When our men the captive guns
   Set free they loved so well,
And embraced them as live things, by loss endear’d:—­
   Nor, when the crucial stroke
   On their last asylum broke,
   And e’en those hearts of oak
      Might well have fear’d,—­

   How Stanley to the fore
   The citadel rush’d to guard,
   With that old Albuera cry
   Fifty-seventh! Die hard
Yet saw not how his lads clear the crest,
   And, each one confronting five,
   The stubborn squadrons rive,
   And backward, downward, drive,—­
      —­Death-call’d to rest!

   —­O proud and sad for thee! 
   And proud and sad for those
   Who on that stern foreign field
   Not seeking, found repose,
As for England dear their life they gladly shed! 
   Yet in death bethought them where,
   Not on these hillsides bare,
   But within sweet English air
      Their own home-dead

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The Visions of England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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