Gerald Massey: My Lyrical Life XV.

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WAR-WAITS.
____________


LIKE Children, peering from some distant nook,
What time the soldiers pass with pealing strains
And bannered pomp to battle far ablaze,
We peered into the passing scenes of War,—
Its crowning heaven aglow with starry hopes:
Its crowded hell of red and writing pain,
With hearts that ached and burned, as kindled cheeks
Flamed up with reddening shame or bloom of pride;
And told the story as the deeds were done.

 


 
NEW YEAR'S EVE IN EXILE.


The Flower and Chivalry of many lands,
Doomed Watchers of their own Lands from afar;
Warriors of Freedom, who for heritage
Bore on their brows a sign as cursed as Cain's;
Betrothed to Martyrdom as to a Bride,
Had met together, a strange Company,
But Brothers who were battling for one Cause.
They were heroic Souls who had lain life's all
On Freedom's hungry Altar, and gone forth
Clad in the spirit of self-sacrifice,
To roam a thankless world with homeless hearts,—
Men who had tossed on Danger's wildest waves,
For whom a radiant Victory ever shone,
Like Hero on her Watch-tower with her torch,
Lighting her Lover through the shadow of death,—
Men who had broken Battle's burning lines,
And dealt death with their hands, life with their
        looks,
And in the last stern charge of desperate valour
On Death's scythe dashed with force that turned
        its edge.
Some were but Youths, yet with such manhood
        flushed,
By eager leaps to reach a lordlier life,
They had attained the old heroic stature.
Some had grown gray with battle, some with
        years,
And there were ancient Sorrows grand as kings
Of an old peerless line. Great silent Griefs
And Sufferings crowned for immortality!

Earnest as fire they sate, and reverent
As though a God were present in their midst;
Stern, but serene and hopeful, earnest, brave,
As Cromwell's Ironsides on a battle-eve;
Each individual life as clenched and knit,
As though beneath their robes their fingers
        clutched
The weapon sworn to strike a Tyrant down,
That would not flash except to light his fall.

And in their midst Mazzini rose to speak
The kindling thought that fused them all as one.
And O, but hearts flew out, like Freedom's bird,
To flap their wings above the flag of war.
And fierce looks flashed, and prayers went up to
        God
In Fiery Chariots of their fervent souls;
Stern eyes were veiled with noble tears to see
That Exile by the hounds of torture tracked;
Who, while they tore his stricken life, still drank
His cup of trembling, smiling very calm.

Dilating as the Prophet's soul of flame
Lightened within him, all his aspect burned
With an unearthly fire: he was caught up
The Mount Transfiguration, with eyes fixed
Far-off, intense as though he talked with God,
He stood there gazing down the unseen time
Like some hoar Hill that loftily o'erlooks
The mists of night, and rises with bare brow
To catch the unrisen Morn. While all the
        plains
Below were darkling, he already sunned
Him in the glory of the coming day.
And his words swept their yielding, springing
        hearts,
As strong winds take a field of billowing corn.
"The merry bells are jubilant To-night 
Through all the land of Exile; blithe wine laughs 
Its bubbling laughter,—winking gem-like eyes, 
And leaps up in the beaker like red lips 
Whose kisses storm the inner gates of bliss. 
But not with mirth, and song, and dainty feast, 
We meet to hold our solemn festival. 
We wait the wine of Freedom: when it runs, 
We shall wax merry too,—perchance grow drunken— 
They keep it ripening to such mellow age! 
And we shall banquet like Immortals fed 
By Hebe's hand at the Ambrosial feasts
.

"The New Year flashes on us sadly-grand,
Leaps in our midst with ringing armour on,
Strikes a mail'd hand in ours, and bids us arm
Ere the first trumpet sound the onset hour.
Dense darkness lies on Europe's winter-world.
Stealthy and grim the Bear comes creeping forth,
Out of the North, and all the Peoples sleep
By Freedom's smouldering watch-fire: there is none
To snatch the brand, and dash it in his face.
Old England sleeps, and still the Bear steals on.
Ah! she forgetteth how, in the old years,
The great hearts of her glorious Commonwealth
Sent thunder-throbbings through the lands, and gave
        them
Such a new pulse of nobler life: and when
Their sumless Venture wrecked, and o'er them rolled
The wormwood waters of defeat and death,
How in their pleading hands they held the Babe
And Orphan Liberty, and bade her rear it
For love of them, and for its own dear sake.
Old England halts behind the nations now.
Dim is her Beacon Despots paled to see
Burn on them through the dark, like God's stern eye.
Her battle-armour rusteth on her walls,
And the once mighty arm that struck such blows
For Right and Freedom, droopeth listless now.
A dry-rot eats her life: her God is Mammon!
God Mars no longer leaps into her heart,
As in a Chariot driving down to battle.
Her ancient fame and valour have become
A tale that's told us of forgotten times—
Some fabled Kraken slumbering in its sea!
O! for the voice of Milton once again,
To make the lion-eyes lighten, and her heart
As tremblingly alive as is a Star,
Till in her naked strength majestical
She walked the sun-road of her glorious way
.

"But England sleeps—the Ruin still rolls on.
Earth crouches 'neath the shuddering wings of Fear.
Silent, and very calm, Freedom lies hushed,
And listens like a panting thing pursued,
Heark'ning, heart-stifled, for the stealthiest tread
Of One that hunts like Tarquin for Lucrece.
'Tis midnight now, and all the creeping things,
And Birds of Darkness, ply their ghastly work:
Life gropes and stumbles among gaping graves,
And Freedom's worshippers fall headless, while
They bend to give their hearts up at her shrine!
But God's in heaven, and yet the day shall dawn—
Break from the dark upon her golden wings,
Her quickening splendours rend and burn the gloom,
Her living tides of glory burst, and foam,
And hurry along the darksome streets of night.
Cloud after cloud shall light a rainbow-roof,
And build a Triumph-Arch for conquering Day
To flash her beauty—trail her grandeurs through,
And take the world in her white arms of light.
And Earth shall fling aside her mask of gloom,
And lift her tearful face.   O there will be
Blood on it thick as dews!   The Children's blood
Splashed in the Mother's face!   And there must be
A red sunrise of retribution yet!
A mighty Future is about to break
The hush o' the world—the waiting gloom in heaven
.

"The New Year cometh with a magic key,
To ope some radiant chamber in Time's palace.
Our Martyrs have not sown such seed in vain!
Beneath old Winter's snows a world of hope
Lies ripening, and shall richly run to flowers,
When Earth shall kindle as a countenance
Alive with love, and all the soul alight!
O come, thou Spring of God, and at thy voice
The balmy blood shall beat in bud and leaf!
And come, thou mellow rain, fall on it warm,
And fondle it with kisses, drop rich tears;
And blow, thou sweet Spring-wind, and make it stir
With secret rapture—budding tenderly,
With all the glory of its folded bloom,
And all its fragrance striving for the light.
God, what a Spring and Harvest yet shall crown
The dark, dern Deluge of Calamity!
Then come, thou grand New Year, in silence come
Across the white snows, and the winter-land.
Come, great Deliverer, call the peoples up,—
Up from the Egypt of their slavery!
Ring out the death-knell of old Tyranny—
'Tis rotten ripe, the heart of half the world
Doth beat and burst to hurry it into hell.
Stride o'er the Present, grand as some huge wave
Should rise and rush o'er Panama at a leap,
And make two Seas one perfect world of waters.
So link our great Past to a nobler Future,
And set our new world singing on its way
.

"A little while and England must awake!
She has but swooned beneath the kiss of Peace,
And languished in her long voluptuous dream,
While weed-like creatures crept along her path.
Where leaped of old proud waves of glorious life,
The sluggish channels choke 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 stretched o'er half the earth,
Came freezing round her watchfire's dying flame,
While spirit-finger-pointings signalled her,
And spirit-rustlings stirred the air in vain.
A fire of 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 guarded in her 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 through Battle's bloody gap
Where Nations fell; and like a Cyclop's eye
Its one idea lit it to the prey:
While pale Expediency paltered for
The peaceful chance of being eaten last
.

"A little while and England will awake,
Like Sternness stripped for strife: Grim-wooing War
Reflect his terrible beauty in her face;
Her heart will dance to a strain of loftier life,
On fire to bring the death-strokes hand to hand.
For God will call His Chosen once again,
And the Old Guard of Freedom take the field.
Rejoicing in the glory of her strength,
Like some proud cataract she will shout for the

        strife,
And hurl her hurrying waves of valour down:
The glorious shudder of intrepid blood
Will hurtle through her veins, and Victory's voice
Cry 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 through the deluge of a warring world.
A little while and we shall yet return
Each to his Fatherland like kings to conquest.
Light breaks there, in the East, 'twill soon be day,
And we shall see that God through all the dark
Did combat for us with the visor down.
Fight on, you faithful, Heaven's glooming look
Frowns only on the wrong.   This dark shall break
In resurrection hour! The chariot-wheels
Of coming Vengeance spin too swift for sight:
The Nemesis of Nations only waits,
Until the glass of Destiny runs out,
To wake the Murderers with her whip of fire,
Caught by the hair in sudden hands of Hell;
While in a ruddy rain old Earth laughs up
.

"O, we shall see a sight ere England's Sun
Goes down behind her hills of gathered gold!
When Spring's young hopes seem dead and her

        sweet buds
Are in the dust, our Autumn-fruitage comes!
The time of times, the year of years is nigh.
But no more Words!   Like Weeds they sap the

        soul
Of richness that should fill the fruit of deeds.
Henceforth let lips be dumb, as Bravery—
Her parley done—had shut the gates to ope not
Save for the shouts that chariot Victory forth.
We are all ready!   We have waited long!
God strikes the hour, and let the trumpet ring
."

1853-4

 

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ENGLAND GOES TO BATTLE.


NOW, glory to our England,
    She arises, calm and grand,
The ancient spirit in her eyes,—
    The good sword in her hand!
Our royal right on battle ground
    Was aye to bear the brunt:
Ho! brave heart! with one passionate
        bound,
    Take the old place in front!
Now, glory to our England,
    As she rises, calm and grand,
The ancient spirit in her eyes—
    The good sword in her hand!

Who would not fight for England?
    Who would not fling a life
I' the ring to meet a Tyrant's gage,
    And glory in the strife?
Her stem is thorny, but doth burst
    A glorious Rose a-top!
And shall our proud Rose wither? First
    We'll drain life's dearest drop!
Who would not fight for England?
    Who would not fling a life
I' the ring, to meet a Tyrant's gage,
    And glory in the strife?

To battle goes our England,
As gallant and as gay
As Lover to the Altar, on
A merry marriage-day.
A weary night she stood to watch
The clouds of dawn up-rolled;
And her young heroes strain to match
The valour of the old.
To battle goes our England,
As gallant and as gay
As Lover to the Altar, on
A merry marriage-day.

Now, fair befall our England,
On her proud and perilous road:
And woe and wail to those who make
Her foot-prints red with blood!
Up with our Red-cross banner,—roll
A thunder-peal of drums!
Fight on there, every valiant soul,
Have courage! England comes!
Now, fair befall our England,
On her proud and perilous road:
And woe and wail to those who make
Her foot-prints red with blood!

Now, victory to our England!
And where'er she lifts her hand
In Freedom's fight, to rescue Right,
God bless the dear Old Land!
And when the Storm hath passed away,
In glory and in calm,
May she sit down i' the green o' the day,
And sing her peaceful psalm.
Now, victory to our England!
And where'er she lifts her hand
In Freedom's fight, to rescue Right,
God bless the dear Old Land!

 

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TROOPS LEAVING EDINBURGH.


FOR Freedom's battle march Auld Scotland's men,
And Edinburgh streets are piled with life to-day.
High on her crags the royal City sits,
To watch 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;
While the Sea flashes in the sun, our Shield,
So rich in record of heroic names!
But the old Castle standeth still and stern,
As some scarred Chief who sends his boys to battle:
Hath done so many a time as staidly calm.

The gay Hussars come riding through 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—
The wave of Beauty's hand—meed of her eyes—
The kisses blown from dainty finger-tips—
The banners with old battle-memories stirred—
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 our gallant fellows march afield;
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,
Or with tight lips hold in the bursting heart;
And weeping Wives lift up the Little Ones.
The sun sets in their faces, life grows gray,
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 reached toward God's Gate
        Beautiful.
Our Britain bright'ning through the battle-smoke
Has touched them with her glory's lovelier light.
And though their darlings fall, and though they die
In this death-grapple in the dark with Wrong;
The memory of their proud deeds shall not 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 o' the soul.

 

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DOWN IN AUSTRALIA.


QUAFF a cup, and send a cheer up for the Old
                Land!
            We have heard the Reapers shout,
            For the Harvest going out,
With the smoke of battle closing round the bold
                Land;
            And our Message shall be hurled
            Ringing right across the world,
There are true hearts beating for you in the Gold
                Land.

We are with you in your battles, brave and bold
                Land!
            For the old ancestral tree
            Striketh root beneath the sea,
And it beareth fruit of Freedom in the Gold Land!
            We shall come, too, if you call,
            We shall Fight on if you fall;
Shakspeare's land shall never be a bought and sold
                Land.

The standard of the Lord wave o'er the Old
                Land!
            For the waiting world holds breath
            While she treads the den of Death,
With the peaceful sleeve stripped up from her bare
                bold hand;
            And her rose in blood must bloom
            On the bosom, and the tomb
Of her many Heroes fallen for the Old Land.

O, a terror to the Tyrant is that bold Land!
            He remembers how she stood,
            With her raiment rolled in blood,
When the tide of battle burst upon the Old Land;
            And he looks with darkened face,
            For he knows the hero race
Strike the Harp of Freedom—draw her Sword with
                bold hand.

Let thy glorious voice be heard, thou great and
                bold Land!
            Speak the one victorious word,
            And fair Freedom's wandered Bird
Shall wing back with leaf of promise from the Old Land;
            And the people shall come out
            From their prison with a shout
For the spring that greeneth in the Future's Gold
                Land.

When the smoke of Battle rises from the Old
                Land,
            You shall see the Tyrant down!
            You shall see her lifted crown
Wears another peerless jewel won with bold hand:
            She shall thresh her foes like corn,
            They shall eat the bread of scorn;
We will sing her song of triumph in the Gold
                Land.

Quaff a cup, and send a cheer up for the Old Land!
            We have heard the Reapers shout,
            For the Harvest going out,
Seen the smoke of battle closing round the bold Land;
            And our answer shall be hurled
            Ringing right across the world,—
All true hearts are beating for you in the Gold
                Land.

 

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FRANCE AND ENGLAND.


LIKE a stern old friend, War grimly comes
    To the temple of peaceful Life;
With the well-known nod of his beckoning plumes,
    He hurries us into the strife.
And we meet once more, in the fields of fate,
    With our chivalrous Enemy,
Who knows, by the grip of our hands in hate,
    What the strength of our love may be.

We have dashed together like waves and rocks!
    We have fought till our shirts grew red!
We have met in the shuddering battle-shocks,
    Where none but the freed soul fled!
Now side by side, in the fields of fate,
    And shoulder to shoulder, are we;
And we know, by the grip of our hands in hate,
    What the strength of our love may be.

Then gather ye, gather to battle, ye Braves,
    In the might of your old renown!
And follow ye, follow ye, over the waves,
    Where Liberty's sun went down!
By the bivouac-fire, in the battle-shower,
    Remember your destiny grand,
To set in the thrones of their future power
    The peoples of many a land!

Till the last fettered nation that calls us is free,
    Let us fall upon Tyranny's horde!
Italy, Poland, and Hungary, see,
    With their praying hands seek for a Sword.
Till the Storm-God is roused in each suffering land,
    Let us keep the war-standard unfurled!
And till Freedom and Faith shall go hand-in-hand,
    Let us march through the welcoming world.

 

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AFTER ALMA.


OUR old War-banners on the wind
    Were waving merrily o'er them;
The hope of half the world behind—
    The sullen Foe before them!
They trod 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 kindled 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 flushed,
    In valour's ruddy riot
But Yesterday! how are ye hushed
    Beneath the smile of Quiet!
For us they poured their blood like wine,
    From life's ripe-gathered clusters;
And far through History's night shall shine
    Their deeds with starriest 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:
Where to their grave-mounds Love might
        come,
    And sit, and sing their praises.
But soothly sweet shall be their rest
    Where Victory's hands have crowned
        them
To Earth our Mother's bosom pressed,
    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 path to 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 like 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 matched 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 brave 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?

 

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BEFORE SEBASTOPOL.


AT last we grip the Tyrant!  Now
    There's not a heart so lowly
But burns to strike a battle-blow,
    And win a cause so holy!
The Brave look fearless in the eyes
    Of Death, nor cry him quarter;
And grand promotion waits them, Boys,
    Who fall by land or water!

To-day the ancient valour starts;
    The Spirit of old story
Shall flash from out heroic hearts,
    And kindle England's glory.
Wild voices wail across the sea,—
    They cry from many a woe-land,—
Revenge! remember Sinope!
    Revenge! remember Poland!

We seek the bed of Death, to win
    Fair Freedom's dream of beauty,
Or wrest her from the Tyrant, in
    The loving arms of duty.
Then gaily through the ocean-foam
    Will sail our nobler Argo,
And proudly to our Island-home
    Shall bear the precious cargo.

Think how their happy eyes will brim
    To greet us on the beaches,
With blissful looks of love that swim
    Through long luxurious reaches!
They watch us now from out the West,
    But all too proud to sorrow
For us who rest on Victory's breast,
    Or wear her wreath to-morrow.

Now, Soldiers, up to conquest stride,
    Let not one spirit falter:
For Victory is your plighted Bride,
    The breach your solemn altar!
Through all this bloody Cemet'ry
    Behold what seed lies sleeping;
God! but thy sun should stand while we
    Our harvest-field are reaping!

Now, Sailors, fight your Ships to-day
    As Grenville fought the Spaniard!
If Battle's bloodiest game they play,
    Have at them grip-and-poniard.
One thrilling shout for England, Ho!
    Then, naked for the fight, men,
Dash in like fire upon the foe,
    And God defend the Right, men!

 

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SCARLETT'S THREE HUNDRED.


TO horse, trot, gallop, and out with each blade!
To-day, Lads, we ride on a dare-devil raid
For death, or a halo that never shall fade.
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

An Army o'erhanging us, in the death-hush
Massed, like an Avalanche crowded to crush;
Up at them, pierce them, ere on us they rush!
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

Stick to old Scarlett, Lads! See how he goes
In for a near-sighted look at our foes:
Faster, men, faster, or singly he'll close!
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

Chariots of fire in the dark of death stand,
With crowns for the foremost who fall for their
            land:
My God, what a time ere we get hand to hand!
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

O the lightning of life! O the thunder of steeds!
Saddles are emptied, but nobody heeds;
All fighting to follow where Elliott leads.
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

Spring too now, wedge through now, and cleave
            crest and crown;
All one as a mowing-machine, cut them down!
For each foe round you strewn now a wreath of renown.
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

There's fear in their faces; they shrink from the
            shock;
They will open the door, only loud enough knock;
Keep turning the key, lest we stick in the lock!
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

Well done! Soul and steel alike trusty and true!
By Thousands they faced our invincible Few;
Like sand in a sieve you have riddled them through.
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

Charge back! Once again we must ride the
            Death-ride,
Torn, tattered, but smiling with something of
            pride:
Charge home; out of Hell; gory-grim; glorified!
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

One cheer for the living! One cheer for the dead!
One cheer for the deed on that hill-side red!
The glory is gathered for England's proud head!
                    Dear England for Ever, Hurrah!

 

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OUR HEROES.


WE blessed them for the Battle, who but marched
            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 gave 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,
We would give our living remnant, we would follow
            one and all!

We speak a few weak words; but, the great hearts
            gone to God,
They have fought with their Swords—they passed
            over red-wet-shod!
While we sat at home, brave laurels for our Land
            they died 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,—
Rather weep we were not with our England's
            noble Chivalry.

 

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INKERMAN.


'TWAS Midnight ere our Guns' loud laugh at their
            wild work did cease,
And by the smouldering fires of War we lit the
            pipe of peace.
At Four, a burst of Bells went up through Night's
            Cathedral dark,
It seemed so like our Sabbath Chimes, we could but
            wake, and hark!
So like the Bells that call to prayer in the dear
            land far away;
Their music floated on the air, and kissed us—to
            betray.
Our Camp lay on the rainy hill, all silent as a
            cloud,
Its very heart of life stood still i' the Mist that
            brought its shroud;
For Death was walking in the dark, and smiled
            His smile to see
How all was ranged and ready for a sumptuous
            jubilee.

O wily are the Russians, and they came up through
            the mirk—
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 up the hill-side
            crept.
In the Ruins of the Valley do the Birds of Carnage
            stir?
A creaking in the gloom like wheels! feet trample
            —bullets whir—
By 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 leaped 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 little
            Host—
All for the peak of peril pushed—each for the
            fieriest post!
Thorough mist, and thorough mire, and o'er the hill-
            brow scowling grim,
As is the frown of Slaughter when he dreams his
            dreadful dream.
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.

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
            felt 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 in lightnings from
            the hill:
And there he stood superb, through 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
            legions came—
The Cannon's tongues of quick red fire licked 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 through the air, and round the hills, there
            ran a wrack sublime
As though Eternity were crashing on the shores
            of Time.
On Bayonets and Swords the smile of conscious
            victory shone,
As down to death we dashed 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, and we hurled them
            back to Hell.

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 'twere River Pleasaunce, did our fellows
            take that flood,
A royal throbbing in the pulse that beat voluptuous
            blood:
The Guards went down to the fight in gray that's
            growing gory red—
See! 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—
The Red-Caps crest the hill! 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!
We charge the foe together, all abreast, and hand
            to hand!
He caught a shadowy glimpse across the smoke of
            Alma's fray
Of the Destroying Angel that shall blast 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 reaped upon
            the misty plain!
We cut them down by thunder-strokes, and piled
            the shocks of slain:
The hill-side like a vintage ran, and reeled Death's
            harvest-wain.
We had hungry hundreds gone to sup in Paradiset
            hat 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 foemen dead, ere
            they lay down and died.

We gathered round the tent-fire in the evening
            cold and gray,
And thought of those who ranked with us in
            Battle's rough 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 stopped 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
            through the dark!
The Martyrs stir in their red graves, the rusted
            armour rings
Adown the long aisles of the dead, where lie the
            warrior Kings.
To the proud Mother England came the radiant
            Victory
With Laurels red, and a bitter cup like some last
            agony.
She took the cup, she drank it up, she raised her
            laurelled brow:
Her sorrow seemed like solemn joy, she looked so
            noble now.
The dim divine of distance died—the purpled Past
            grew wan,
As came that crowning Glory o'er the heights of
            Inkerman.

 

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NICHOLAS AND THE BRITISH LION.


CZAR Nicholas called to North and South,
    "Come, see the World's great show! 
I will thrust my head in the Lion's mouth," 
    And he laughed, "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 leaped up to his shaggiest height;
    The lord of a bloody feast!
Now hold, now hold, thou desperate man,
    Or thy braggart cheek may pale;
Terror is towering up in his mane,
    And Vengeance tugs at his tail.

Like a statue of Satan, Nick, alas! stood,
    And 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 will 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 clenched 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:
There was lightning of hell in the Lion's eyes;
    His looks communed with Death!
The Giant's heart melts like snow in his mouth,
    His voice is a Woman's wail;
Avengers knock at the door of his life,
    In that lash of the Lion's tail.

A low, dread sound, as from underground,
    Makes ready 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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A WAR WINTER'S-NIGHT IN ENGLAND.


WILD is the wintry weather!
    Dark is the night, and cold!
Closely we crowd together,
    For warmth in the family fold.
A mute and mighty Shadow flies
    Across the land on wings of Gloom!
And through 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,
    Beacon-like holding our hearts up higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

Oh, talk of Britain's glory;—
    Oh, 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 spirits within us like steeds of War!
    Beacon-like holding our hearts 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, Beacon-like, hold our hearts up higher,
For those who are fighting afar.

We thrill to the Clarion's clangour,
    We 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,
    Beacon-like holding our hearts 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 far afield!
Look! how the Tyrant's hills they climb,
    To hurl our gage in his grim hold!
The Titans of the earlier time,
    Though larger-limbed, were smaller-souled!
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;
    Beacon-like holding our hearts 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 through 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,
    Beacon-like holding our hearts 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, never!
So many a goodly, gallant crest
    That waved to victory, low for ever!
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!
    Beacon-like holding our hearts 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
    Crowned, by its Bride, the Sea!
And they shall rest in 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,
    When we, Beacon-like, held our hearts up higher,
For those who were fighting afar.

 

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THE MARTYRS' HILL.


        SITTING in her sorrow lone,
        Still our Mother makes her moan
For the Lost; and to the Martyrs' Hill her
                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 stretched for help that came not as
                    they sank in silence low:
        Our dear, heroic 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 lost 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 soldiers think, as they grapple with
                    the foe,
        Of our perished, 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.

 

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OUR ENGLISH NIGHTINGALE.


"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, dear Nightingale,
    With 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, our Nightingale,
    And weary warrior souls
Are caught up into Slumber's heaven,
    And lapped in Love's warm folds.

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

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

Day after 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, through 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 merry greenwood 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.

 

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CATHCART'S HILL.


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, the bravest of the
            Brave.

A wind of death was waving, like a flame, the
            Warrior's plume!
Stern in his shroud of fire, the Foe glared from his
            burning tomb!
Victory's shouts were ringing as they flashed 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, the bravest of the
            Brave!

Bear them to that grave in a solemn march and
            slow,
Let Music talk in tears o'er the lost ones lying
            low;
They will sleep calm and deep when the battle-
            bugles blow;
And ye shall build their monument when next ye
            meet the Foe!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, the bravest of the
            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 'twas
            centuries ago.
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, the bravest of the
            Brave!

Bury them on Cathcart's Hill,—their glory from
            its crest
Shall flame, a Terror to the North, a Watch-fire to the
            West!
Cross their hands and lay their brands upon the
            martial breast,
They have won the proud "Well done," lay them
            down to their rest.
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, 'tis a famous grave!
Bury them on Cathcart's Hill, the bravest of the
            Brave!


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