Gerald Massey: Craigcrook Castle (3)

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GLIMPSES OF THE WAR.
______________

I.


LIKE peering Children down some distant lane,
What time with pealing pomp and pageant shows
The Battle in its bravery blazons by,
We peered into the passing world of War—
Its crowning Heaven pulst with starry hopes—
Its crowded Hell of red and writhing pain;
With hearts that ached or burned, as kindled cheeks
Flamed up in reddening shame, or bloom of pride,
And told the story as the pictures rose.
How England swooned beneath the kiss of Peace,
And languisht in her long voluptuous dream,
While weed-like creatures crept along her path.
Where leapt of old proud waves of glorious life,
The sluggish channels choked with golden sand.
The hills of light rose shining far away,
Where she should stand and touch the hem of Heaven;
But, day by day she darkened deeper down.
The cold, grim Shadow stretcht o'er half the earth,
Came freezing round her watchfire's dying flame,
While spirit-finger-pointings signalled her,
And spirit-rustlings surged the air in vain.

A tearless anguish flamed from Poland's eyes
When the red Deluge closed above her head:
Sodden with suffering and unwept tears,
The heart of Hungary pled in silence stern:
Poor Italy lay in her guarded grave,
Her life all crouching in one listening sense,
To catch aught stirring in the upper world:
Out of the North the brute Colossus strode,
With grimly solemn pace, proud in the might
That moves not but to crush, and terribly towered
Its growing shape thro' Battle's bloody gap
Where Nations fell; and like a Cyclops' eye
Its one idea lit it to the prey:
While pale Expediency paltered for
Our peaceful chance of being eaten last.

And England slumbered in the lap of Peace,
Beneath her grand old Oak, which, hale and strong,
Rode down the storm, and wrestled with the winds,
To rise in pomp of bloom, and pæan of song,
Green with the sap of many hundred springs;
And tossed its giant arms in wanton life,
Like Victory smiling in the sun of Glory.
She saw not how the worms eat out its heart.
Life deftly masks the hiding-place of death;
And Ruin leads his Bride in a garland green
For sacrifice.     So England slept in peace.
And in the glamour of her dream she saw
Brave fancies foot it holding Freedom's pall,
Waving their funeral links for bridal lights.

Came Nemesis, her lightnings stabbed the dark,
To show the way, and startled England woke!
Behold the glorious creature leaping from
Delilah's lap, to the battle-chariot,
Like Sternness stript for strife.     Grim-wooing War
Mirrors his terrible beauty in her face;
Her heart is dancing to a loftier tune,
On fire to bring the death-strokes hand to hand,
The brightness of her look consumes the cloud.
Ah, God hath called His Chosen once again,
And the Old Guard of Freedom takes the field.
Rejoicing in the glory of her strength,
Like some proud cataract she shouts for the strife,
And hurls her hurrying waves of valour down.
The glorious shudder of intrepid blood
Hurtles thro' all her veins, and Victory's voice
Cries from the inmost oracle of her soul.
Her swift avenging armaments shall flame
O'er land and sea, sublime as when of old
With a colossal calm she rode the waves
Of war, that heaved magnificent in storm.
The noble prophecy of ripened age
Was on her youthful brow ; fulfilment comes.
She lifts the Ark of Freedom in her arms,
Safe thro' the deluge of a warring world.

 

______________

II.


FOR Freedom's battle march auld Scotland's brave,
And Edinburgh streets are piled with life to-day.
High on her crags the royal City sits,
And sees the files of war far-winding out,
And with the gracious golden Morning smiles
Her proudest blessing down.     Old Arthur's Seat
Flings up his cap of cloud for brave success;
The Pentlands lift their veil and lean to see;
But the old Castle standeth staidly stern,
As some scarred Chief who sends his boys to battle:
While the Sea flashes in the sun, our Shield,
So rich in record of heroic names!

The gay Hussars come riding thro' the town,
A light of triumph sparkling in their eyes;
The Music goeth shouting in their praise,
Like a loud people round the Victor's car;
And Highland plumes together nod as though
There went the Funeral Hearse of a Russian Host:
The bickering bayonets flutter wings of fire,
And gaily sounds the March o' the Cameron Men.

The War-steeds sweeping—men to battle going—
Singing the freeman's songs of fatherland—
The banners with old battle-memories stirred—
The wave of Beauty's hand—meed of her eyes—
The thrilling Pibroch, and the wild war-drum,
The stern sword-music of our grand Hurrah,
And answering cheer for death or victory—
All make me tingle with a triumph of life,
And I could weep that I am left behind,
To see the tide ebb where I may not follow.
And there they march afield, those gallant men;
To win proud death, or larger life, they leave
Home's rosy circle ringed with blessings rich,
For the far darkness, and the battle-cloud,
Where many have fall'n, and many yet must fall,
In spurring their great hearts up to the leap,
For such brave dashes at unconquered heights.
The shadow of solemn Sorrow falls behind,
Where sobbing Sweethearts look their loving last,
And weeping Wives hold up the little ones.
The sun sets in their faces, life grows grey,
And sighs of desolation sweep its desert.
The winter of the heart aches in the eyes
Of Mothers who have given their all, their all.

And yet methinks the Heroic Time returns,
Such look of triumph lit the meanest face
To-day: there seemed no heart so earthy but
Had some blind gropings after nobler life,
With hands that reacht toward God's Gate Beautiful.
Our England bright'ning thro' the battle-smoke,
Had toucht them with her glory's lovelier light.
And though their darlings fall, and tho' they die
In this death-grapple in the night with Wrong;
The memory of their proud deeds cannot die.
They may go down to dust in bloody shrouds,
And sleep in nameless tombs.     But for all time,
Foundlings of Fame are our beloved Lost.
For me, this day of glorious life shall be
One of the starry brides of Memory,
Whose glittering faces light the night of soul.

 

______________

III.


TWINE a garland for the grave
Of our Beautiful! our Brave!
And their names in glory grave
        Who have died for us.
High the battle-banner wave!
They have perisht but to save,
They have leapt a Curtian grave
        In their pride for us.

 

______________

IV.


OUR old War-banners on the wind
    Were dancing merrily o'er them;
Our half world husht with hope behind—
    The sullen Foe before them!
They trode their march of battle, bold
    As death-devoted freemen;
Like those Three Hundred Greeks of old,
    Or Rome's immortal Three Men.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

With towering heart and lightsome feet
    They went to their high places;
The fiery valour at white heat
    Was flashing in their faces!
Magnificent in battle-robe,
    And radiant, as from star-lands,
That spirit shone which girds our globe
    With glory, as with garlands !
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

They saw the Angel Iris o'er
    Their deluge of grim fire;
And with their life's last tide they bore
    The Ark of Freedom higher!
And grander 'tis i' the dash of death
    To ride on Battle's billows,
When Victory's kisses take the breath,
    Than sink on balmiest pillows!
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

Brave Hearts, with noble feeling flusht,
    In ripe and ruddy riot
But Yesterday! how are ye husht
    Beneath the smile of Quiet!
For us they pour'd their blood like wine,
    From life's ripe-gather'd clusters;
And far thro' History's night shall shine
    Their deeds with starry lustres.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

We laid them not in Churchyard home,
    Beneath our darling daisies:
But to their rude mounds Love will come,
    And sit, and sing their praises.
And soothly sweet shall be their rest
    Where Victory's hands have crown'd them ;
To Earth our Mother's bosom prest,
    And Heaven's arms around them.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

Yes, there they lie 'neath Alma's sod,
    On pillows dark and gory,—
As brave a host as ever trod
    Old England's fields of glory.
With head to home and face to sky,
    And feet the Tyrant spurning,
So grand they look, so proud they lie,
    We weep for glorious yearning.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

They in Life's outer circle sleep,
    As each in death stood Sentry!
And with our England's Dead still keep
    Their watch for kin and country.
Up Alma, in their red footfalls,
    Comes Freedom's dawn victorious;
Such graves are courts to festal halls!
    They banquet with the Glorious.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

Our Chiefs who matcht the men of yore,
    And bore our shield's great burden,—
The nameless Heroes of the Poor,—
    They all shall have their guerdon.
In silent eloquence, each life
    The Earth holds up to heaven;
And Britain gives for Child and Wife,
    As those dear hearts have given.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

The spirits of our fathers still
    Stand up in battle by us;
And in our need, on Alma hill,
    The Lord of Hosts was nigh us.
Let Joy or Sorrow brim our cup,
    'Tis an exultant story,
How England's Chosen Ones went up
    Red Alma's hill to glory.
Ah, Victory! joyful Victory!
    Like Love, thou bringest sorrow;
But, O! for such an hour with thee,
    Who could not die to-morrow?

 

______________


V.


TWINE a garland for the grave
Of our Beautiful! our Brave!
And their names in glory grave
        Who have died for us.
High the battle-banner wave!
They have perisht but to save,
They have leapt a Curtian grave
        In their pride for us.

 

______________

VI.


HOW they conquer, gallant guarders, with the red wet
           
sword in hand!
How thy life, at their brave ardours, crimsons high with
           
health, Old Land!
How they run the race of glory! how they light these
           
darkened years!
In our land's heroic story, 'tis the proudest tale of tears

In the Alma's vineyards ruddy, did they toil for our
           
increase;
In the fields of battle bloody, they shall plant our palms
           
of Peace.
They may rest by Alma river; they may die in deserts
           
drear:
But for ever, and for ever, shall our country hold them dear.

With her smile the Angel Duty lit their brows as with a
           
crown;
And for love of her dear beauty they to death go grandly
           
down.
Eyes may weep the unreturning; hearts will break with
           
Mother and Bride:
But, on Britain's front no mourning glooms for those
           
who thus have died.

 

______________

VII.


TWINE a garland for the grave
Of our Beautiful! our Brave!
And their names in glory grave
        Who have died for us.
High the battle-banner wave!
They have perisht but to save,
They have leapt a Curtian grave
        In their pride for us.

 

______________

VIII.


SIT proud in your saddles! grip tighter each blade!
We ride, ho, we ride a magnificent raid!
To-day win a glory that never shall fade.
                  Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

O the lightning of life!     O the thunder of steeds!
Great thoughts burn within us like fiery seeds,
Swift to flame out a red fruitage of deeds.
                  Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

O the wild joy of Warriors going to die,
All Sword, and all Flame, with our brows lifted high!
Ride on, happy band, for the glory swims nigh.
                  Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

Chariots of fire in the dark of death stand;
Down thro' the battle-cloud reaches a Hand
To crown all who die for their own dear land.
                 Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

The Sea of Flame wraps us now! take one long breath,
And plunge for the prize of Immortals, beneath.
Shout to the cannonade, shouting to Death:
                 Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

Spring to now! dash thro' now! and cleave crest and crown!
For each foe round you strown now, a wreath of renown!
In a red rain of Sabres ride down, dash them down.
                 Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

Charge back! once again we must ride the death-ride,
You Victor-few smiling in terrible pride!
Charge home! smoking hell of horse, grim, glorified!
                  Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

Now cheer for the living! now cheer for the dead!
Now cheer for the deed on that hill-side red!
The glory is gathered for England's head.
                  Old England for ever!   Hurrah!

 

______________

IX.


AH, weep not for the Heroes whom we never more shall
           
see;
Ah, weep we were not with them in their ruddy revelry!
God of Battles! but 't were glorious to have mounted
           
Victory's Car,
When the Chivalry of Europe smote the squadrons of the
           
Czar!

'Tis brave, while banners wave, to be where Freedom's
           
Champions are,
And burst upon the Enemy like Gods from clouds of war!
Our Old Land beauteous leans above her darlings as they
           
die,
And, bosom'd in her arms of love, her slain ones richly lie

We blessed them for the Battle, who but marcht to the
           
Bier;
Some were riper for the Bridal—some were Fathers gray
           
and sere;
With a kiss for Child and Wife, some went out in War's
           
red wrack;
And to the land that gives us life, Who'd grudge to give
           
it back?

I had a gallant Brother, loved at home, and dear to
           
me—
I have a mourning Mother, winsome Wife, and Children
           
three—
He lies with Balaklava's dead.   But let the Old Land
           
call,
And we'd give our living remnant, and we'd follow one
           
and all!

We speak a few weak words; but, the great hearts gone
           
to God,
They have fought with their Swords—won our battles red
           
wet-shod!
While we sat at home, brave laurels for our Land they
           
went to win;
And with smiles Valhalla lightens as our Heroes enter in.

They bore our Banner fearless to the death, as to the
           
fight,
They lifted England peerless to the old heroic height.
We weep not for the Heroes whom we never more shall
           
see,—
We weep we were not with them in their ruddy revelry.

 

______________

X.


TWINE a garland for the grave
Of our Beautiful! our Brave!
And their names in glory grave
        Who have died for us.
High the battle-banner wave!
They have perisht but to save,
They have leapt a Curtian grave
        In their pride for us.

 

______________

XI.


"YOU brave, you bonny Nightingale,
     You are no summer Bird;
Your music sheathes an Army's wail
     That pierces like a Sword.
All night she sings, brave Nightingale,
     With her breast against the thorn;
Her saintly patience doth not fail,
     She keepeth watch till morn.

"Ah, sing, you bonniest Bird of God,
     The night is sad and long;
To dying ears—to broken hearts—
     You sing an Angel's song!
She sings, she sings, brave Nightingale,
     And weary warrior souls
Are caught up into Slumber's heaven,
     And lapped in Love's warm folds.

"O sing, O sing! brave Nightingale,
     And at your magic note
Upon Life's sea victoriously
     The sinking soul will float.
O sing, O sing! brave Nightingale,
     And lure them back again,
Whose path is lost and spirit crost,
     In dark wild woods of Pain.

"She sings, she sings, brave Nightingale,
     She breathes a gracious balm;
Her presence breaks the waves of war,
     She smiles them into calm.
She sings, she sings, brave Nightingale,
     Of auld Langsyne and Home;
And life grows light, the world grows bright,
     And blood runs rich with bloom.

"Day unto day her dainty hands
     Make Life's soiled temples clean,
And there's a wake of glory where
     Her spirit pure hath been.
At midnight, thro' that shadow-land,
     Her living face doth gleam;
The dying kiss her shadow, and
     The Dead smile in their dream.

"Brave Bird of Love, in Life's sweet May,
     She rose up from the feast,
To shine above our Banner,
     Like God's Angel in the East.
Brave Bird of Life, wave healing wings
     O'er that gray Land o' the Dead;
God's heaven lie round you like a shield
     Earth's blessings on your head."

 

______________


The Rose did lift her veil, and blush
    At her bower-door like a Bride;
The shy brown birds came back with Spring,
    In our merry green woods to hide.
But there she sang, our Nightingale!
    Till War's stern heart grew mild;
And, nestling in the arms of Peace,
    He slumbered like a Child.

 

______________

XII.


'TWAS Midnight ere our Guns' grim laugh at their wild
           
work did cease,
And at the smouldering fires of War we lit the pipe of
           
peace.
At Four, a burst of Bells went up thro' Night's Cathedral
           
dark,
It seemed so like our Sabbath-chimes, we could but lie,
          
and hark!
So like the Bells that call to prayer in the dear land far
          
away;
Their music floated on the air, and kist us—to betray.
Our camp lay on the shadowy hill, all silent as a cloud,
Its very heart of life stood still—and the white Mist
           
brought its shroud;
For Death was waking in the dark, and grimly smiled to see
How all was ranged and ready for his sumptuous jubilee.

O wily are the Russians, and they came to their wild work—
Their feet all shod for silence in the best blood of the Turk!
While in its banks our fiery tide of War serenely slept,
Their subtle serpentry unrolled, and stealthily they crept!
In the Ruins of the Valley do the Birds of Carnage stir?
A rustle in the gloom like wheels! feet trample—bullets
            whir—
Blessed God! the Foe is on us.   Now the Bugles with a
           
start
Thrill—like the cry of a wrongèd Queen—to the red roots
            of the heart;
And long and loud the wild war-drums with throbbing
           
triumph roll,—
A sound to set the blood on fire, and warm the shivering
           
soul.

The war-worn and the weary leapt up ready, fresh, and
           
true!
No weak blood curdled white i' the face, no valour turned
           
to dew;
Majestic as a God defied, arose our English Host—
All for the peak of Peril rusht—each for the fieriest
           
post!
Thro' the mist, and thro' the mud, and o'er the hill-brow
           
scowling grim,
As is the frown of Murder when he dreams his dreadful
           
dream.
On Bayonets and Swords the smile of conscious victory
           
shone,
And down to death we dasht the Rebels plucking at our
           
Throne.
On, on they came with face of flame, and storm of shot
           
and shell—
Up!  Up! like heaven-scalers, as we sent them back to Hell.

As Bridegroom leaves his wedded Bride in gentle slumbers
           
sealed,
Our England slumbered in the West, when her Warriors
           
went a-field.
We thought of her, and swore that day to strike immortal
           
blows,
As all along our leaguered line the roar of battle rose.
Her Banners waved like blessing hands, and we knew it
           
was the hour
For a glorious grip till fingers met in the throat of Russian
           
power.
And at a bound, and with a sound that madly cried to kill,
The Lion of Old England leapt like lightning from the hill.
And there he stood superb, thro' all that Sabbath of the
           
Sword,
And there he slew, with a terrible scorn, his hunters, horde
           
on horde.
All Hell seemed bursting on us, as the yelling Demons
           
came—
The Cannon's tongues of quick red fire lickt all the hills
           
a-flame!
Mad whistling shell, wild sneering shot, with devilish glee
           
went past,
Like fiendish feet and laughter hurrying down the battle-
           
blast.
And thro' the air, and round the hills, there ran a wrack
           
sublime
As tho' the Eternal's Ark were crashing on the shores of
           
Time.
No Sun! but none is needed,—Men can feel their way to
           
fight,
The lust of Battle in their face—eyes filled with fiery
           
light;
And long ere dawn was red in heaven, upon the dark
           
earth lay
The prophesying morning-red of a great and glorious
           
day.

Like the old Sea, white-lipped with rage, they dash, and
           
foam despair
On ranks of rock, and what a prize for the Wrecker Death
           
was there!
But as 't were River Pleasaunce, did our fellows take that
           
flood,
With a royal throbbing in the pulse that beat voluptuous
           
blood:
The Guards went down to the fight in grey, but now
           
they're gory red—
Christ save them, they're surrounded! Leap your ramparts
          
 of the dead,
And back the desperate battle, for there is but one short
           
stride
Between the Russ and victory!  One more tug, you true and tried!
Glory to God!  They are here! with bloody spur, Ride,
           
Bosquet, ride!
Down like a flood from Etna foams their valour's burning
           
tide.

Now, God for Merrie England, cry ! Hurrah for France
           
the Grand,
And charge the foe together, all abreast, and hand to
           
hand!
He but caught a shadowy glimpse across the smoke of
           
Alma's fray
Of the Destroying Angel that shall smite his strength
           
to-day.
We shout and charge together, and again, again, again,
Our plunging battle tears its path, and paves it with the
           
slain.
Hurrah! the mighty host doth melt before our fervent
           
heat;
Against our side its breaking heart doth faint and fainter
           
beat.
And O but 'tis a gallant show, and a merry march, as thus
We sound into the glorious goal with shouts victorious!

From morn till night, we fought our fight, and at the set
           
of sun
Stood Conquerors on Inkerman—our Soldiers' Battle
           
won.
That morn their legions stood like corn in its pomp of
           
golden grain!
That night the ruddy sheaves were reapt upon the misty
           
plain!
For we cut them down by thunder-strokes, and piled the
           
shocks of slain:
The hill-side like a vintage ran, and reel'd Death's harvest-
          
wain.
We had hungry hundreds gone to sup in Paradise that
           
night,
And robes of Immortality our ragged Braves bedight!
They fell in Boyhood's comely bloom, and Bravery's lusty
           
pride;
But they made their bed o' the Russian dead, ere they lay
           
down and died.

We gathered round the tent-fire in the evening cold and
           
gray,
And thought of those who rankt with us in Battle's rich
           
array,
Our Comrades of the morn who came no more from that
           
fell fray!
The salt tears wrung out in the gloom of green dells far
           
away—
The eyes of lurking Death that in Life's crimson bubbles
           
play—
The stern white faces of the Dead that on the dark ground
           
lay
Like Statues of old Heroes, cut in precious human
           
clay—
Some with a smile as life had stopt to music proudly
           
gay—
The household Gods of many a heart all dark and dumb
           
to-day!
And hard hot eyes grew ripe for tears, and hearts sank
           
down to pray.
From alien lands, and dungeon-grates, how eyes will strain
           
to mark
This waving Sword of Freedom burn and beckon thro'
           
the dark!
The Martyrs stir in bloody graves, the rusted armour
           
rings
Adown the long aisles of the dead, where lie the warrior
           
Kings.
To the mighty Mother England came the radiant Victory
With Laurels red, and a bitter cup like Christ's last agony.
She took the cup, she drank it up, she raised her laurelled
           
brow:
Her sorrow seemed like solemn joy, she lookt so noble now.
The dim divine of distance died—the purpled Past grew
           
wan,
As came this crowning Glory o'er the heights of
           
Inkerman.

 

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XIII.


CZAR Nicholas called to North and South,
    "Come, see the world's great show!
I'll thrust my head in the Lion's mouth,"
    And he laught, "Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!"
"I am the Lion-Tamer dread—
    I make the old brute quail!"
The Lion he shook his incredulous head,
    And wagged his dubious tail.

O the Lion lay down in the pride of his might;
    'Twas a brave, magnanimous beast!
O the Lion leapt up to his shaggiest height;
    The lord of a bloody feast!
Now hold, now hold, thou desperate man,
    Or thy braggart cheek may pale;
Lo ! Terror tow'rs mighty in his main,
    And Vengeance tugs at his tail.

Like a statue of Satan, Nick, alas! stood,
    And he chuckled a low lying laugh:
"The world is my Knoutship's whipping-top:
    Hot blood for wine I quaff!"
He called to North, he called to South,
    "Come, see the old brute quail:
I'll thrust my head in his mumbling mouth:"
    The Lion he wagged his tail.

He thrust his head in the Lion's mouth:
    Ho! Ho! but the sport was rare!
The Lion smelt blood in the giant's breath,
    And his clencht teeth held him there.
Then he cried, from between the gates of death,
    With the voice of a Spirit in bale,
"Now God-a-mercy on my soul!
    Does the Lion wag his tail?"

Then each one strove to say him Yea,
    But each one held his breath;
For the fires of hell lit the Lion's eyes,
    And his looks communed with Death!
The Giant's heart melts like snow in his mouth,
    His voice is a woman's wail;
The Avenger knocks at the door of his life,
    In that lash of the Lion's tail.

A low, dread sound, as from underground,
    Now signals the realms of the dead ;
And the Tamer lies tamed on the earth full-length;
    That is, except—a head.
And the poor old beast, at whose aspect mild
    The meanest thing dared rail,
Shakes his mane like a Conqueror's bloody plumes,
    And—quietly wags his tail.

 

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XIV.


"AROUND us the night closes dense as a wood,
 The Stars down the darkness like eerie eyes brood;
 While out through the nightfall my fearless thoughts flee
 To him who is fighting far over the sea.

"Across the mirk moorland the birds of night cry;
 A wind stirs my flesh as of Ghosts gliding by;
 Oh, clasp thy hands, pretty one, kneel down with me,
 And pray for thy father far over the sea.

"O, brave is my Donald, and gallant and gay
 He'll flash through the fight in the wild, bloody day;
 He'll crest the high waves upon Valour's red sea;
 God shield him!   God send him back safely to me!"

 

______________


He's lying, poor Wife! with the valiant and tried,
Who to-night poured their life on a ruddy hill-side :
And still she sings tenderly, "Over the sea,
Blow, breezes, and bring back my darling to me."

Her soul it sat smiling, all meek as a dove,
In her pure perfect face that was lighted with love;
Her child to the full heart endearing she drew,
And bowed like a Flower 'neath its blessing of dew.

 

______________


Some luminous Beauty glides over the place,
A white mist of glory! a white spirit-face!
And a starry shape comes slow and sweet from the gloom;
God help thee, poor Widow! thy Husband is home!

She knows not the Presence that hovereth nigh,
Nor whence fell the slumber that healed her heart's-cry;
But she weeps in her vision, and prayerfully
Still murmurs, "God send him back safely to me!"

 

______________

XV.


WILD is the wintry weather!
    Dark is the night, and cold!
All closely we crowd together,
    Within the family fold.
A mute and mighty Shadow flies
    Across the land on wings of gloom!
And thro' each Home its awful eyes
    May lighten with their stroke of doom.
Life's light burns dim—we hold the breath—
All sit stern in the shadow of Death,
    Around the household fire—
    This Winter's-night in England,
Straining our ears for the tidings of War,
    Holding our hearts, like Beacons, up
            higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

We talk of Britain's glory,
    We sing some brave old song,
Or tell the thrilling story
    Of her wrestle with the wrong.
Till we clutch the spirit-sword for the strife,
    And into our Rest would rather fall
Down Battle's cataract of life,
    Than turn the white face to the wall.
Sing, O, for a charge victorious!
And the meekest face grows glorious!
    As we sit by the household fire,
    This Winter's-night in England,—
Our souls within us like steeds of War!
    And we hold our hearts, like Beacons, up
            higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

And oft in silence solemn
    We peer from Night's dark tent,
And see the quivering column
    Like a cloud by lightning rent.
For death, how merry they mount and ride!
    Those swords look keen for their lap of gore!
Such Valour leaps out Deified!
    Such souls must rend the clay they wore!
How proud they sweep on Glory's track!
So many start! so few come back
    To sit by the household fire,
    On a Winter's-night in England,
And with rich tears wash their wounds of War,
    Where we hold our hearts, like Beacons, up
           higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

We thrill to the Clarion's clangour,
    And harness for the fight:
With the Warrior's glorious anger,
    We are nobly mad to smite:
No dalliance, save with Hate, hold we,
    Where Life and Death keep bloody tryst,
And all the red Reality
    Reels on us through a murder-mist!
Wave upon wave rolls Ruin's flood,
And the hosts of the Tyrant melt in blood,
    As we sit by the household fire;
    This Winter's-night in England,
And our colour flies out to the music of War,
    While we hold our hearts, like Beacons, up
            higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

Old England still hath Heroes
    To wear her sword and shield!
We knew them not while near us,
    We know them in the field!
Look! how the Tyrant's hills they climb,
    To hurl our gage in his grim hold!
The Titans of the earlier time,
    Tho' larger-limb'd, were smaller-soul'd!
Laurel, or Amaranth, light their brow!
Living or dead, we crown them now!
    As we sit by the household fire,
    This Winter's-night in England:
From the white cliffs watching the storm of War,
    Holding our hearts, like Beacons, up higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

O! their brave love hath rootage
    In the Old Land, deep and dear,
And Life's ripe, ruddy fruitage
    Hangs summering for them here!
And tender eyes, tear-luminous,
    Melt thro' the dark of dreamland skies,
While, pleading aye for home and us,
    The heart is one live brood of cries!
Old feelings cling!    O how they cling!
And sweet birds sing!    O how they sing
    Them back to the household fire,
    This Winter's-night in England,
Where we wait for them weary and wounded
            from War,
    Holding our hearts, like Beacons, up higher,
For those who are fighting afar!

Ah, me! how many a Maiden
    Will wake o' nights, to find
Her tree of life, love-laden,
    Swept bare in this wild wind!
The Bird of bliss, to many a nest,
    Will come back never, never mo!
So many a goodly, gallant crest
    That waved to victory, now lies low!
We pray for them, we fear for them,
And silently drop a tear for them,
    As we sit by the household fire;
    This Winter's-night in England,
Each life looking out for its own love-star!
    Holding our hearts, like Beacons, up higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

But, there's no land like England,
    Wherever that land may be!
Of all the world 'tis king-land
    Crown'd, by its Bride, the Sea!
And they shall rest i' the balmiest bed,
    Who battle for it, and bleed for it!
And they shall be head of the Glorious Dead,
    Who die in the hour of need for it!
And long shall we sing of their deeds divine,
In songs that warm the heart like wine,
    As we sit by the household fire,
    On a Winter's-night in England,
And the tale is told of this night of War,
    How we held our hearts, like Beacons, up
            higher,
For those who were fighting afar.

 

______________

XVI.


                     SITTING in her sorrow lone,
                     Still our Mother makes her moan
For the Lost; and to the Martyrs' Hill our thoughts in
      
mourning go.
                     O, that desert of the Dead,
                     Who lay down in their death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow!

                     Into glory had they rode
                     When the tide of triumph flowed,
Not a tear would we shed for the heroes lying low.
                     But our hearts break for the Dead,
                     In their desolate death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow.

                       Praying breath rose white in air,
                       Eyes were set in a stern stare,
Hands were stretcht for help that came not as they sank
       
in silence low:
                      Our grand, our gracious Dead,
                      Who lay down in their death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow.

                       Now the winter snows are gone,
                       And Earth smiles as though the Dawn
Had come up from it in Flowers—such a light of grace
       
doth glow
                      All about our darkened Dead,
                      Who lay down in their death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow.

                     But, never, never more,
                     Comes the Spring that will restore
To their own love, their own land, the dear ones lying
           
low
                    On the Martyrs' Hill, our Dead
                    Who lay down in their death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow.

                       Till with victory God replies,
                       Shall our Battle storm the skies,
And our living heroes think, as they grapple with the foe,
                       Of our perisht, peerless Dead,
                       Who lay down in their death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow.

                      Through a hundred battles red,
                      Shall their fame float overhead:
Into everlasting flowers shall their martyr memories blow.
                      So we crown our glorious Dead,
                      Who lay down in their death-bed,
With their winding-sheet and wreath of winter snow.

 

______________

XVII.


HOW shall I help thee, Mother, in thy need?
I cried, and lookt my life out thro' mine eyes,
Across the smoke of thy great Sacrifice.
Give me some perilous post, or daring deed.
O might I breathe in Song heroic breath,
And strike my harp, as Lightning smites his wires,
To bear God's message with celestial fires!
Sing how the Glory of our land hath risen;
Sing midnight pæans by the Martyrs' graves;
Walk War's red highways, voyage grim wide waves:
Or in an English cheer go down to death,
Where the soul bursts in wings on Battle's wind!
No! England waves her Minstrels forth to find
Our Lion Heart again in Austria's prison.

 

______________

XVIII.


THEY have died, our true and tried, ere Our flag victorious
            
flew
O'er the burning battle-hell, we must ride to conquest
            
through.
But they died, our Glorified! on the field of their renown;
And they died when the pride of the Foeman's power
             
went down.
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill with our bravest Brave!

A proud flame in the Death-wind waved the Warrior's soaring plume:
Stern in his shroud of fire, the Foe glared from his burning tomb!
Victory's shouts were ringing as they flasht from out the strife,
To meet God's angels bringing garlands for the Kings of Life.
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill with our bravest Brave!

Bear them to that grave in a solemn march and slow,
Let Music talk in tears o'er the great ones lying low;
They will sleep calm and deep when the battle-bugles blow;
A sumptuous monument they shall have when next we meet the Foe!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill with our bravest Brave!

We quaff our cup o' the vintage, and from darkened depths arise
The bubbles, like the tears that plead in Desolation's eyes;
Yet there's glory in our grief,—'tis a glory that shall grow
When our Sorrow hath no morrow, and 't was centuries ago.
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill with our bravest Brave!

Bury them on Cathcart's Hill,—their glory from its crest
Shall flame, a terror to the North, a watchfire to the West!
They have done with their work, lay them down to their rest,
In their hand the battle-brand, with the banner on their breast.
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill with our bravest Brave!

 

______________

XIX.


O SUFFERING people, this is not our fight,
Who called a holy crusade for the right.
The Despot's bloody game our tricksters play,
And stake our future, chance by chance, away.
O darkened hearts in desolate home-stead!
O wasted bravery of our mighty dead!
The flower of men fall stricken from behind:
The Knaves and Cowards stab us bound and blind.
With faces turned from Battle, they went forth:
We marcht with ours set stern against the North.
They shuffled lest their feet should rouse the dead:
We went with resurrection in our tread.
They trembled lest the world might come to blows:
We quivered for the tug and mortal close.
They only meant a mild hint for the Czar:
We would have bled him through a sumptuous war.
While they were quenching Freedom's scattered fires,
We kindled memories of heroic Sires.
They'd have this grand old England cringe and pray,
"Don't smite me, Kings; but if you will, you may:"
We'd make her as in those proud times of old,
When Cromwell spoke, and Blake's war-thunders rolled.
They to the passing powers of darkness fawn:
With warrior joy we greet this crimson Dawn.
To crowned Bloodsuckers they would bind us slaves:
We would be free, or sleep in glorious graves.
State-Spiders, Here or There, weave webs alike;
These hold the victims, while the others strike.
The Dwarfs drag our great Banner in the mire:
We ask for men to bear it high and higher.
O stop their fiddling over War's grim revel,
And pitch them from your shoulders to—the Devil.

 

______________

XX.


THERE was a poor old Woman once, a daughter of our
         
nation,
Before the Devil's portrait stood in ignorant adoration.
"You're bowing down to Satan, Ma'am," said some
          
Spectator civil:
"Ah, Sir, it's best to be polite, for we may go to the Devil."
                             Bow, bow, bow:
We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

So England hails the Saviour of Society, and will tarry at
His feet, nor see her Christ is he who sold him, curst
           
Iscariot.
By grace of God, or sleight of hand, he wears the royal
           
vesture,
And at thy throne, Divine Success! we kneel with reverent
   
         gesture,
                              And bow, bow, bow:
We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

O when the Sun is over us, we venerate the sunlight;
But when Eclipse is over it, we venerate the dunlight.
No matter what is uppermost, upon all-fours we revel,
And when Hell triumphs over heaven—conciliate the Devil,
                                And bow, bow, bow:
We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

Ah, Louis, had you come to us despisèd and rejected,
You might have gone to—Coventry, unnoticed and
            neglected:
But as you've done one Nation so, and left another undone,
We kiss you Sire at Windsor—crown you more than king
            
in London,
                              And bow, bow, bow:
We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

Our Idol's hands are red with blood, with blood his eyes
            
are sodden,
But we know 'tis only Russian blood which he has spilt
            
and trodden!
He wears the imperial purple now, that plotting prince of
            
evil;
He lets us share his glory if we bow down to the Devil;
                              And we bow, bow, bow:
We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

With hand to hilt, and ear to earth, waits Revolution,
            breathless,
To catch the resurrection sound of Liberty the deathless!
But we see no Danger hug us round—no Sword hang o'er
           
us gory,
While to this mocking Mirage in the sunset of our glory
                               We bow, bow, bow:
We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

Back, back, you foolish Peoples, slink into your weeping
 
           places,
Quench Freedom's torch in tears, and put her light out in
           
your faces:
The heart of England beats no more to the old heroic level;
The poor old Woman bows before her Portrait of the Devil.
                                Bow, bow, bow:
She may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow.

 

______________

XX.


FADES the New Aurora
    That so glorious shone afar,
We but saw its fair face smiling
    In the wreck-fed waves of war.
The peace-fool to his pillow
    Now may sneak, and sleep:
But a glory gone for ever,
    We must weep; let us weep.

Sleep the buried thunders;
    Their reverberations cease:
And the grim old War-God
    Must smile—a painted Peace.
Wild eyes are mad-house windows
    Of Souls that plead in vain!
Over their old dark sorrow
    Greeneth the soft spring-rain.

Cowards in the Council!
    Heroes in the field!
Is our short sad story,
    By the blood of Martyrs sealed.
On those lone Crimean ridges
    In the night our dead arise,
And the Norland winds come wailing
    With their curses, and their cries.

Sublime in all her suffering!
    In the fight so brave!
Poor old England's victories
    Bow her to the grave.
On the Sea she keeps her Eden,
    But the Snake is curled
Round her heart, that will beguile her
    Of her crown of the world.

Had we struck for Freedom
    One immortal battle-blow,
Like the men who rose for England,
    Two hundred years ago,—
The dead Nations lying
    Where they fought and fell of old,
Would have risen from their prison,
    And their buried flags unrolled.

For the dwellers in the vallies,
    A returning Spring
O'er the hills will break and beacon;
    They will go forth conquering!
When our poor, proud England
    Low and lone shall lie
On her sea-rock bound; and Tyrants
    Mock her riding by.


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