Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
February 8
The Battle of Eylau
By Isaac McLellan (1806–1899)
 
          The battle of Eylau was an indecisive action fought on Feb. 8 between the French under Napoleon and the Russians and Prussians under Bennigsen and Lestocq. The loss on each side amounted to about 18,000.

FAST and furious falls the snow;
Shrilly the bleak tempests blow,
With a sound of wailing woe,
        O’er the soil;
Where the watch-fires blaze around,        5
Thick the warriors strew the ground,
Each in weary slumber bound,
        Worn with toil.
 
Harken to the cannon-blast!
Drums are beating fierce and fast;        10
Fierce and fast the trumpets cast
        Warning call.
Form the battle’s stern parade,
Charge the musket, draw the blade;
Square and column stand arrayed,        15
        One and all.
 
On they rush in stern career,
Dragoon and swart cuirassier;
Hussar-lance and Cossack-spear
        Clanging meet!        20
Now the grenadier of France
Sinks beneath the Imperial lance;
Now the Prussian horse advance,
        Now retreat.
 
Davoust, with his line of steel,        25
Storms their squadrons till they reel,
While his ceaseless cannon-peal
        Rends the sky.
’Gainst that crush of iron hail
Naught may Russia’s ranks avail;        30
Like the torn leaves in the gale,
        See, they fly!
 
Through the battle’s smoky gloom
Shineth Murat’s snowy plume;
Fast his cohorts to their doom        35
        Spur the way.
Platoff, with his desert horde,
Is upon them with the sword;
Deep his Tartar-spears have gored
        Their array.        40
 
With his thousands, Augereau
Paints with blood the virgin snow;
Low in war’s red overthrow
        Sleep they on!
Helm and breastplate they have lost,        45
Spoils that long shall be the boast
Of the savage-bearded host
        Of the Don.
 
Charge, Napoleon! Where be those
At Marengo quelled thy foes;        50
Crowning thee at Jena’s close
        Conqueror?
At this hour of deadly need
Faintly thy old guardsmen bleed;
Vain dies cuirassier and steed,        55
        Drenched with gore.
 
Sad the frosty moonbeam shone
O’er the snows with corpses strown,
Where the frightful shriek and groan
        Rose amain:        60
Loud the night-wind rang their knell;
Fast the flaky horrors fell,
Hiding in their snowy cell
        Heaps of slain!
 
Many a year hath passed and fled        65
O’er that harvest of the dead;
On thy rock the Chief hath sped,
        St. Helene!
Still the Polish peasant shows
The round hillocks of the foes,        70
Where the long grass rankly grows,
        Darkly green.
 
 
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