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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Battle of Waterloo
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
From ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’

  THERE was a sound of revelry by night,
    And Belgium’s capital had gathered then
  Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
    The lamps shone o’er fair women and brave men;
    A thousand hearts beat happily; and when        5
  Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
    Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
  And all went merry as a marriage-bell;
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
 
  Did ye not hear it?—No; ’twas but the wind,        10
    Or the car rattling o’er the stony street;
  On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
    No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
    To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet.
  But hark! that heavy sound breaks in once more,        15
    As if the clouds its echo would repeat,
  And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!
Arm! arm! it is—it is—the cannon’s opening roar!
 
  Within a windowed niche of that high hall
    Sat Brunswick’s fated chieftain; he did hear        20
  That sound the first amidst the festival,
    And caught its tone with Death’s prophetic ear;
    And when they smiled because he deemed it near,
  His heart more truly knew that peal too well,
    Which stretched his father on a bloody bier,        25
  And roused the vengeance blood alone could quell:
He rushed into the field, and foremost fighting, fell.
 
  Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
    And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress,
  And cheeks all pale, which but an hour ago        30
    Blushed at the praise of their own loveliness:
    And there were sudden partings, such as press
  The life from out young hearts; and choking sighs,
    Which ne’er might be repeated: who could guess
  If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,        35
Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise!
 
  And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,
    The mustering squadron, and the clattering car,
  Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,
    And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;        40
    And the deep thunder peal on peal afar;
  And near, the beat of the alarming drum
    Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;
  While thronged the citizens with terror dumb,
Or whispering with white lips—“The foe! They come! they come!”        45
 
  And wild and high the “Cameron’s gathering” rose!
    The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn’s hills
  Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes:
    How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills
    Savage and shrill! But with the breath which fills        50
  Their mountain pipe, so fill the mountaineers
    With the fierce native daring which instills
  The stirring memory of a thousand years,
And Evan’s, Donald’s fame rings in each clansman’s ears!
 
  And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,        55
    Dewy with nature’s tear-drops, as they pass,
  Grieving, if aught inanimate e’er grieves,
    Over the unreturning brave—alas!
    Ere evening to be trodden like the grass
  Which now beneath them, but above shall grow        60
    In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
  Of living valor, rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall molder cold and low.
 
  Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
    Last eve in Beauty’s circle proudly gay,        65
  The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
    The morn the marshaling in arms—the day
    Battle’s magnificently stern array!
  The thunder-clouds close o’er it, which when rent,
    The earth is covered thick with other clay,        70
  Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
Rider and horse—friend, foe—in one red burial blent!
 
 
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