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All was so quick, that it might seem
A flash of lightning, or a dream.
While yet the smoke the deed conceals,
Bertram his ready charger wheels;
But floundered on the pavement floor
The steed, and down the rider bore,
And bursting in the headlong sway,
The faithless saddle-girths gave way.
'T was while he toiled him to be freed,
And with the rein to raise the steed,
That from amazement's iron trance
All Wycliffe's soldiers waked at once.
Sword, halberd, musket-but, their blows
Hailed upon Bertram as he rose;
A score of pikes, with each a wound,
Bore down and pinned him to the ground;
But still his struggling force he rears,
'Gainst hacking brands and stabbing spears;
Thrice from assailants shook him free,
Once gained his feet, and twice his knee.
By ten-fold odds oppressed, at length,
Despite his struggles and his strength,
He took a hundred mortal wounds,
As mute as fox 'mongst mangling hounds;
And when he died, his parting groan
Had more of laughter than of moan!
They gazed, as when a lion dies,
And hunters scarcely trust their eyes,
But bend their weapons on the slain,
Lest the grim king should rouse again!
Then blow and insult some renewed,
And from the trunk the head had hewed,
But Basil's voice the deed forbade ;
A mantle o'er the corse he laid :-
"Fell as he was in act and mind,
He left no bolder heart behind :
Then give him, for a soldier meet,
A soldier's cloak for winding-sheet."
16. THE LOVE OF COUNTRY. — Sir Walter Scott.
BREATHES there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my own, my native land"?
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand ?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well:
For him no minstrel raptures swell!
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.
17. THE BARON'S LAST BANQUET.- Albert G. Greene.
O'ER a low couch the setting sun had thrown its latest ray,
Where, in his last strong agony, a dying warrior lay,
The stern old Baron Rudiger, whose frame had ne'er been bent
By wasting pain, till time and toil its iron strength had spent.
"They come around me here, and say my days of life are o'er, -
That I shall mount my noble steed and lead my band no more;
They come, and, to my beard, they dare to tell me now that I,
Their own liege lord and master born, that I-ha! ha!-must die.
"And what is death? I've dared him oft, before the Paynim spear; Think he 's entered at my gate ye has come to seek me here? I've met him, faced him, scorned
him, when the fight was raging
I'll try his might, I'll brave his power! — defy, and fear him not!
"Ho! sound the tocsin from my tower, and fire the culverin; Bid each retainer arm with speed; call every vassal in.
Up with my banner on the wall, the banquet-board prepare, —
Throw wide the portal of my hall, and bring my armor there!"
An hundred hands were busy then the banquet forth was spread,
And rung the heavy oaken floor with many a martial tread;
While from the rich, dark tracery, along the vaulted wall,
Lights gleamed on harness, plume and spear, o'er the proud old Gothic
Fast hurrying through the outer gate, the mailed retainers poured, On through the portal's frowning arch, and thronged around the board; While at its head, within his dark, carved, oaken chair of state, Armed cap-à-pie, stern Rudiger, with girded falchion, sate.
"Fill every beaker up, my men! - pour forth the cheering wine! There's life and strength in every drop, - thanksgiving to the vine! Are ye all there, my vassals true? - mine eyes are waxing dim: Fill round, my tried and fearless ones, each goblet to the brim!
"Ye're there, but yet I see you not!-draw forth each trusty sword, And let me hear your faithful steel clash once around my board! I hear it faintly; -- louder yet! What clogs my heavy breath? Up, all! - and shout for Rudiger, Defiance unto death!'"
Bowl rang to bowl, steel clanged to steel, and rose a deafening cry,
That made the torches flare around, and shook the flags on high:
"Ho! cravens! do ye fear him? Slaves! traitors! have ye flown?
Ho! cowards, have ye left me to meet him here alone?
"But I defy him! - let him come!" Down rang the massy cup, While from its sheath the ready blade came flashing half-way up; And, with the black and heavy plumes scarce trembling on his head, There, in his dark, carved, oaken chair, old Rudiger sat dead!
18. "HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS FROM GHENT TO AIX," 16→ -Robert Browning.
I SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
"Good speed!" cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew ;
"Speed!" echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride for stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland, a whit.
"T was moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
At Düffeld, 't was morning as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with, "Yet there is time!"
At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland, at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye's black intelligence, ever that glance
O'er its white edge at m, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.
By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, "
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault 's not in her,
We'll remember at Aix "* - for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongrés, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And "Gallop," gasped Joris, "for Aix is in sight!"
"How they'll greet us!"—and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.
Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sate with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground,
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.
19. THE SOLDIER FROM BINGEN. - Mrs. Norton.
A SOLDIER of the Legion lay dying in Algiers,
There was lack of woman's nursing, there was dearth of woman's tears;
But a comrade stood beside him, while the life-blood ebbed away,
And bent with pitying glance to hear each word he had to say.
The dying soldier faltered, as he took that comrade's hand,
And he said: "I never more shall see my own
- my native land!
Take a message and a token to the distant friends of mine,
For I was born at BINGEN - at Bingen on the Rhine!
*The r in this word is not sounded.
"Tell my brothers and companions, when they meet and crowd around,
To hear my mournful story, in the pleasant vineyard ground,
That we fought the battle bravely, and when the day was done,
Full many a corse lay ghastly pale, beneath the setting sun;
And midst the dead and dying were some grown old in wars,
The death-wound on their gallant breasts, the last of many scars!
But some were young, and suddenly beheld Life's morn decline,
And one had come from Bingen-fair Bingen on the Rhine!
“Tell my mother that her other sons shall comfort her old age, For I was still a truant bird, that thought his home a cage; For my father was a soldier, and, even when a child,
My heart leaped forth to hear him tell of struggles fierce and wild; And when he died, and left us to divide his scanty hoard,
I let them take whate'er they would, but kept my father's sword! And with boyish love I hung it where the bright light used to
On the cottage wall at Bingen - calm Bingen on the Rhine!
"Tell my sisters not to weep for me, and sob with drooping head, When the troops come marching home again, with glad and gallant
But to look upon them proudly, with a calm and steadfast eye,
For their brother was a soldier, too, and not afraid to die!
And if a comrade seek her love, I ask her in my name
To listen to him kindly, without regret and shame;
And to hang the old sword in its place (my father's sword and mine),
For the honor of old Bingen - dear Bingen on the Rhine!
- not a sister,
"There's another, in happy days gone by, You'd have known her by the merriment that sparkled in her eye; Too innocent for coquetry, too fond for idle scorning,
O! friend, I fear the lightest heart makes sometimes heaviest mourn
Tell her the last night of my life-(for, ere the moon be risen,
My body will be out of pain, my soul be out of prison),
I dreamed I stood with her, and saw the yellow sunlight shine
On the vine-clad hills of Bingen fair Bingen on the Rhine!
"I saw the blue Rhine sweep along, I heard, or seemed to hear, The German songs we used to sing, in chorus sweet and clear; And down the pleasant river, and up the slanting hill,
The echoing chorus sounded, through the evening calm and still;
And her glad blue eyes were on me, as we passed, with friendly talk,
Down many a path beloved of yore, and well remembered walk;
And her little hand lay lightly, confidingly, in mine,-
But we'll meet no more at Bingen - loved Bingen on the Rhine!"