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6786Childe Harold canto 3 verse 17--

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  • Nancy Mayer
    Jun 16, 2014
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      Stop!  --  for thy tread is on an Empire's dust!
      An Earthquake's spoil is sepulchred below!
      Is the spot mark'd with no colossal bust?
      Nor column trophied for triumphal show?
      None; but the moral's truth tells simpler so,
      As the ground was before, thus let it be; --				150
      How that red rain hath made the harvest grow!
      And is this all the world has gained by thee,
      Thou first and last of fields! king-making Victory?
      And Harold stands upon this place of skulls,
      The grave of France, the deadly Waterloo;
      How in an hour the power which gave annuls
      Its gifts, transferring fame as fleeting too!
      In `pride of place' here last the eagle flew,
      Then tore with bloody talon the rent plain,
      Pierced by the shaft of banded nations through;				160
      Ambition's life and labours all were vain;
      He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.
      Fit retribution! Gaul may champ the bit
      And foam in fetters;  --  but is Earth more free?
      Did nations combat to make One submit;
      Or league to teach all kings true sovereignty?
      What! shall reviving Thraldom again be
      The patch'd-up idol of enlighten'd days?
      Shall we, who struck the Lion down, shall we
      Pay the Wolf homage? proffering lowly gaze				170
      And servile knees to thrones?  No; prove before ye praise!
      If not, o'er one fallen despot boast no more!
      In vain fair cheeks were furrow'd with hot tears
      For Europe's flowers long rooted up before
      The trampler of her vineyards; in vain years
      Of death, depopulation, bondage, fears,
      Have all been borne, and broken by the accord
      Of roused-up millions: all that most endears
      Glory, is when the myrtle wreathes a sword
      Such as Harmodius drew on Athens' tyrant lord.				180
      There was a sound of revelry by night,
      And Belgium's capital had gather'd 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
      Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
      Soft eyes look'd 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				190
      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
      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 window'd niche of that high hall
      Sate Brunswick's fated chieftain; he did hear				200
      That sound the first amidst the festival,
      And caught its tone with Death's prophetic ear;
      And when they smiled because he deem'd it near,
      His heart more truly knew that peal too well
      Which stretch'd his father on a bloody bier,
      And roused the vengeance blood alone could quell:
      He rush'd 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				210
      Blush'd at the praise of their 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,
      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;				220
      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 throng'd the citizens with terror dumb,
      Or whispering, with white lips -- `the foe! they come! they come!'
      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			230
      Their mountain-pipe, so fill the mountaineers
      With the fierce native daring which instils
      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,
      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				240
      In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
      Of living valour, rolling on the foe
      And burning with high hope shall moulder cold and low.
      Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
      Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,
      The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
      The morn the marshalling in arms, -- the day
      Battle's magnificently-stern array!
      The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which when rent
      The earth is cover'd thick with other clay,				250
      Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent,
      Rider and horse, -- friend, foe, -- in one red burial blent!
      Their praise is hymn'd by loftier harps than mine;
      Yet one I would select from that proud throng,
      Partly because they blend me with his line,
      And partly that I did his sire some wrong,
      And partly that bright names will hallow song;
      And his was of the bravest, and when shower'd
      The death-bolts deadliest the thinn'd files along,
      Even where the thickest of war's tempest lower'd,			260
      They reach'd no nobler breast than thine, young, gallant Howard!
      There have been tears and breaking hearts for thee,
      And mine were nothing, had I such to give;
      But when I stood beneath the fresh green tree,
      Which living waves where thou didst cease to live,
      And saw around me the wide field revive
      With fruits and fertile promise, and the Spring
      Come forth her work of gladness to contrive,
      With all her reckless birds upon the wing,
      I turn'd from all she brought to those she could not bring.		270
      I turn'd to thee, to thousands, of whom each
      And one as all a ghastly gap did make
      In his own kind and kindred, whom to teach
      Forgetfulness were mercy for their sake;
      The Archangel's trump, not Glory's, must awake
      Those whom they thirst for; though the sound of Fame
      May for a moment soothe, it cannot slake
      The fever of vain longing, and the name
      So honour'd but assumes a stronger, bitterer claim.
      They mourn, but smile at length; and smiling, mourn:			280
      The tree will wither long before it fall;
      The hull drives on, though mast and sail be torn;
      The roof-tree sinks, but moulders on the hall
      In massy hoariness; the ruin'd wall
      Stands when its wind-worn battlements are gone;
      The bars survive the captive they enthrall;
      The day drags through though storms keep out the sun;
      And thus the heart will break, yet brokenly live on:
      Even as a broken mirror, which the glass
      In every fragment multiplies; and makes					290
      A thousand images of one that was,
      The same, and still the more, the more it breaks;
      And thus the heart will do which not forsakes,
      Living in shatter'd guise, and still, and cold,
      And bloodless, with its sleepless sorrow aches,
      Yet withers on till all without is old,
      Showing no visible sign, for such things are untold.
      There is a very life in our despair,
      Vitality of poison,  --  a quick root
      Which feeds these deadly branches; for it were				300
      As nothing did we die; but Life will suit
      Itself to Sorrow's most detested fruit,
      Like to the apples on the Dead Sea's shore,
      All ashes to the taste: Did man compute
      Existence by enjoyment, and count o'er
      Such hours 'gainst years of life,  --  say, would he name threescore?
      The Psalmist number'd out the years of man:
      They are enough; and if thy tale be true,
      Thou, who didst grudge him even that fleeting span,
      More than enough, thou fatal Waterloo!					310
      Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
      Their children's lips shall echo them, and say  --
      `Here, where the sword united nations drew,
      Our countrymen were warring on that day!'
      And this is much, and all which will not pass away.
      There sunk the greatest, nor the worst of men,
      Whose spirit antithetically mixt
      One moment of the mightiest, and again
      On little objects with like firmness fixt,
      Extreme in all things! hadst thou been betwixt,				320
      Thy throne had still been thine, or never been;
      For daring made thy rise as fall: thou seek'st
      Even now to re-assume the imperial mien,
      And shake again the world, the Thunderer of the scene!
      Conqueror and captive of the earth art thou!
      She trembles at thee still, and thy wild name
      Was ne'er more bruited in men's minds than now
      That thou art nothing, save the jest of Fame,
      Who woo'd thee once, thy vassal, and became
      The flatterer of thy fierceness, till thou wert				330
      A god unto thyself; nor less the same
      To the astounded kingdoms all inert,
      Who deem'd thee for a time whate'er thou didst assert.
      Oh, more or less than man  --  in high or low,
      Battling with nations, flying from the field;
      Now making monarchs' necks thy footstool, now
      More than thy meanest soldier taught to yield:
      An empire thou couldst crush, command, rebuild,
      But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,
      However deeply in men's spirits skill'd,				340
      Look through thine own, nor curb the lust of war,
      Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.
      Yet well thy soul hath brook'd the turning tide
      With that untaught innate philosophy,
      Which, be it wisdom, coldness, or deep pride,
      Is gall and wormwood to an enemy.
      When the whole host of hatred stood hard by,
      To watch and mock thee shrinking, thou hast smiled
      With a sedate and all-enduring eye; --
      When Fortune fled her spoil'd and favourite child,			350
      He stood unbow'd beneath the ills upon him piled.
      Sager than in thy fortunes: for in them
      Ambition steel'd thee on too far to show
      That just habitual scorn, which could contemn
      Men and their thoughts; 'twas wise to feel, not so
      To wear it ever on thy lip and brow,
      And spurn the instruments thou wert to use
      Till they were turn'd unto thine overthrow;
      'Tis but a worthless world to win or lose;
      So hath it proved to thee, and all such lot who choose.			360
      If, like a tower upon a headlong rock,
      Thou hadst been made to stand or fall alone,
      Such scorn of man had help'd to brave the shock;
      But men's thoughts were the steps which paved thy throne,
      Their admiration thy best weapon shone;
      The part of Philip's son was thine, not then
      (Unless aside thy purple had been thrown)
      Like stern Diogenes to mock at men;
      For sceptred cynics earth were far too wide a den.
      But quiet to quick bosoms is a hell,					370
      And there hath been thy bane; there is a fire
      And motion of the soul which will not dwell
      In its own narrow being, but aspire
      Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
      And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore,
      Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
      Of aught but rest; a fever at the core,
      Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore.
      This makes the madmen who have made men mad
      By their contagion; Conquerors and Kings,				380
      Founders of sects and systems, to whom add
      Sophists, Bards, Statesmen, all unquiet things
      Which stir too strongly the soul's secret springs,
      And are themselves the fools to those they fool;
      Envied, yet how unenviable! what stings
      Are theirs! One breast laid open were a school
      Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule:
      Their breath is agitation, and their life
      A storm whereon they ride, to sink at last,
      And yet so nursed and bigotted to strife,				390
      That should their days, surviving perils past,
      Melt to calm twilight, they feel overcast
      With sorrow and supineness, and so die;
      Even as a flame unfed, which runs to waste
      With its own flickering, or a sword laid by,
      Which eats into itself, and rusts ingloriously.
      He who ascends to mountain-tops, shall find
      The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow.
      He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
      Must look down on the hate of those below.				400
      Though high above the sun of glory glow,
      And far beneath the earth and ocean spread,
      Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow
      Contending tempests on his naked head,
      And thus reward the toils which to those summits led.
      Away with these! true Wisdom's world will be
      Within its own creation, or in thine,
      Maternal Nature! for who teems like thee,
      Thus on the banks of thy majestic Rhine?
      There Harold gazes on a work divine,					410
      A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
      Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine
      And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
      From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.
      And there they stand, as stands a lofty mind,
      Worn, but unstooping to the baser crowd,
      All tenantless, save to the crannying wind,
      Or holding dark communion with the cloud.
      There was a day when they were young and proud,
      Banners on high, and battles pass'd below;				420
      But they who fought are in a bloody shroud,
      And those which waved are shredless dust ere now,
      And the bleak battlements shall bear no future blow.
      Beneath these battlements, within those walls,
      Power dwelt amidst her passions; in proud state
      Each robber chief upheld his armed halls,
      Doing his evil will, nor less elate
      Than mightier heroes of a longer date.
      What want these outlaws conquerors should have?
      But History's purchased page to call them great?			430
      A wider space, an ornamented grave?
      Their hopes were not less warm, their souls were full as brave.
      In their baronial feuds and single fields,
      What deeds of prowess unrecorded died!
      And Love, which lent a blazon to their shields,
      With emblems well devised by amorous pride,
      Through all the mail of iron hearts would glide;
      But still their flame was fierceness, and drew on
      Keen contest and destruction near allied,
      And many a tower for some fair mischief won,				440
      Saw the discolour'd Rhine beneath its ruin run.
      But thou, exulting and abounding river!
      Making thy waves a blessing as they flow
      Through banks whose beauty would endure for ever
      Could man but leave thy bright creation so,
      Nor its fair promise from the surface mow
      With the sharp scythe of conflict,  --  then to see
      Thy valley of sweet waters, were to know
      Earth paved like Heaven; and to seem such to me,
      Even now what wants thy stream?  --  that it should Lethe be.		450
      A thousand battles have assail'd thy banks,
      But these and half their fame have pass'd away,
      And Slaughter heap'd on high his weltering ranks;
      Their very graves are gone, and what are they?
      Thy tide wash'd down the blood of yesterday,
      And all was stainless, and on thy clear stream
      Glass'd with its dancing light the sunny ray;
      But o'er the blacken'd memory's blighting dream
      Thy waves would vainly roll, all sweeping as they seem.