The Eve of Waterloo

by Lord Byron

 

There was a sound of revelry by night,
     And Belgium’s Capital had gathered then
     Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright
     The lamps shone o’er fair women and brave men ;
     A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
     Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
     Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
     And all went merry as a marriage bell;
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
 
Did ye not hear it?—No; ’twas but the wind,
     Or the car rattling o’er the stony street ;
     On with the dance! let joy be unconfined ;
     No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
     To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet—
     But hark!—that heavy sound breaks in once more,
     As if the clouds its echo would repeat;
     And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!
Arm! Arm! it is—it is—the cannon’s opening roar!
 
Within a windowed niche of that high hall
     Sate Brunswick’s fated chieftain; he did hear
     That sound the first amidst the festival,
     And caught its tone with Death’s prophetic ear;
     And when they smiled because he deemed it near,
     His heart more truly knew that peal too well
     Which stretched his father on a bloody bier,
     And roused the vengeance blood alone could quell;
He rushed into the field, and, foremost fighting, fell.
 
Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
     And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress,
     And cheeks all pale, which but an hour ago
     Blushed at the praise of their own loveliness;
     And there were sudden partings, such as press
     The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs
     Which ne’er might be repeated; who could guess
     If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,
Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise!
 
And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,
     The mustering squadron, and the clattering car,
     Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,
     And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;
     And the deep thunder peal on peal afar;
     And near, the beat of the alarming drum
     Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;
     While thronged the citizens with terror dumb,
Or whispering, with white lips—‘The foe! They come! they come!’
 
And wild and high the ‘Cameron’s Gathering’ rose!
     The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn’s hills
     Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes:—
     How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills,
     Savage and shrill! But with the breath which fills
     Their mountain-pipe, so fill the mountaineers
     With the fierce native daring which instils
     The stirring memory of a thousand years,
And Evan’s, Donald’s fame rings in each clansman’s ears!
 
And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
     Dewy with nature’s tear-drops, as they pass,
     Grieving, if aught inanimate e’er grieves,
     Over the unreturning brave,—alas!
     Ere evening to be trodden like the grass
     Which now beneath them, but above shall grow
     In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
     Of living valour, rolling on the foe
And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low.
 
Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
     Last eve in Beauty’s circle proudly gay,
     The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
     The morn the marshalling in arms,—the day
     Battle’s magnificently-stern array!
     The thunder-clouds close o’er it, which when rent
     The earth is covered thick with other clay
     Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
Rider and horse,—friend, foe,—in one red burial blent!
 
Lord Byron | Classic Poems
 

Destruction of the Sennacherib ] Growing Old ] She Walks in Beauty ] Italy versus England ] [ The Eve of Waterloo ] from The Prisoner of Chillon ] The Isles of Greece ] from Don Juan ]

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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