Francis Turner Palgrave


August 13: 1704

      Oft hast thou acted thy part,
      My country, worthily thee!
      Lifted up often thy load
      Atlantean, enormous, with glee:--
  For on thee the burden is laid to uphold
  World-justice; to keep the balance of states;
  On thee the long cry of the tyrant-oppress'd,
  The oppress'd in the name of liberty, waits:--
      Ready, aye ready, the blade
      In its day to draw forth, unafraid;
      Thou dost not blench from thy fate!
By thy high heart, only, secure; by thy magnanimity, great.

      E'en so it was on the morn
      When France with Spain, in one realm
      Welded, one thunderbolt, stood,
      With one stroke the world to o'erwhelm.
  --They have pass'd the great stream, they have stretch'd their white
  Above the protecting morass and the dell,
  Blenheim to Lutzingen, where the long wood
  In summer-thick leafage rounds o'er the fell:
      --England! in nine-fold advance
      Cast thy red flood upon France;
      Over marsh over beck ye must go,
Wholly together! or, Danube to Rhine, all slides to the foe!

      As the lava thrusts onward its wall,
      One mass down the valley they tramp;
      Fascine-fill the marsh and the stream;
      Like hornets they swarm up the ramp,
  Lancing a breach through the long palisade,
  Where the rival swarms of the stubborn foe,
  While the sun goes high and goes down o'er the fight,
  Sting them back, blow answering blow:--
      O life-blood lavish as rain
      On war's red Aceldama plain!
      While the volleying death-rattle rings,
And the peasant pays for the pride and the fury-ambition of kings!

      And as those of Achaia and Troia
      By the camp on the sand, so they
      In the aether-amber of evening
      Kept even score in the fray;
  Rank against rank, man match'd with man,
  In backward, forward, struggle enlaced,
  Grappled and moor'd to the ground where they stood
  As wrestlers wrestling, as lovers embraced:--
      And the lightnings insatiable fly,
      As the lull of the tempest is nigh,
      And each host in its agony reels,
And the musket falls hot from the hand, enflamed by the death that it

      But, as when through the vale the rain-clouds
      Darker and heavier flow,
      Above them the dominant summit
      Stands clad in calmness and snow;
  So thou, great Chief, awaiting the turn
  Of the purple tide:--And the moment has come!
  And the signal-word flies out with a smile,
  And they charge the foe in his fastness, home:--
      As one long wave when the wind
      Urges an ocean behind,
      One line, they sweep on the foe,
And France from our battle recoils, and Victory edges the blow.

      As a rock by blue lightning divided
      Down the hillside scatters its course,
      So in twain their army is parted
      By the sabres sabring in force:
  They have striven enough for honour! . . . and now
  Crumble and shatter, and sheer o'er the bank
  Where torrent Danube hisses and swirls
  Slant and hurry in rankless rank:--
      There are sixty thousand the morn
      'Gainst the Lions marching in scorn;
      But twenty, when even is here,
Broken and brave and at bay, the Lilied banner uprear.

      --So be it!--All honour to him
      Who snatch'd the world, in his day,
      From an overmastering King,
      A colossal imperial sway!
  Calm adamantine endurant chief,
  Fit forerunner of him, whose crowning stroke,
  Rousing his Guards on the Flandrian plain,
  Unvassall'd Europe from despot yoke!
      He who from Ganges to Rhine
      Traced o'er the world his red line
      Irresistible; while in the breast
Reign'd devotedness utter, and self for England suppress'd!

      O names that enhearten the soul,
      Blenheim and Waterloo!
      In no vain worship of glory
      The poet turns him to you!
  O sung by worthier song than mine,
  If the day of a nation's weakness rise,
  Of the little counsels that dare not dare,
  Of a land that no more on herself relies,--
      O breath of our great ones that were,
      Burn out this taint in the air!
      The old heart of England restore,
Till the blood of the heroes awake, and shout in her bosom once more!

      --Morning is fresh on the field
      Where the war-sick champions lie,
      By the wreckage of stiffening dead,
      The anguish that yearns but to die.
  Ah note of human agony heard
  The paean of victory over and through!
  Ah voice of duty and justice stern
  That, at e'en this price, commands them to do!
      And a vision of Glory goes by,
      Veil'd head and remorseful eye,
      A triumph of Death!--And they cried
'Only less dark than defeat is the morning of conquest';--and sigh'd.

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