Thermopylæ and Cannæ
Were glorious fields of yore,
Leonidas and Hannibal
Right famous evermore;
But we can claim a nobler name,
A field more glorious too,
The chief who thus achieved for us
Let others boast of Cæsar's host,
Led on by Cæsar's skill,
And how fierce Attila could rout,
And Alaric could kill,-
But now - right well, O hear me tell
What British troops can do,
When marshall'd by a Wellington
To win a Waterloo!
Oh for a Pindar's harp to tune
The triumphs of that day!
Oh for a Homer's pictured words
To paint the fearful fray!-
Alas, my tongue and harp illstrung,
In feeble tones and few,
Hath little, yet right good-will,
To sing of Waterloo.
Then gather round, my comrades,
And hear a soldier tell
How full of honour was the day
When - every man did well!
And though a soldier's speech be rough,
His heart is hot and true,
While thus he tells of Wellington
At hard-fought Waterloo.
Sublimely calm, our Iron Duke,
A lion in his lair,
Waited and watched with sleepless eye
To see what France would dare;
Nor deigned to stir from Brussels
Until he surely knew
The foe was rushing on his fate
At chosen Waterloo.
What? should the hunter waste his strength,
Nor hold his good hounds back,
Before he knows they near the foes
And open the track!
No : let 'surprise' blight Frenchman's eyes,
For truly they shall rue
The giant skill that, stern and still,
Drew them to Waterloo!
Hotly the couriers gallop up
To Richmond's festive scene,-
Alone, alone the chieftain stood
Undaunted and serene;
Ready, ready,- staunch and steady,-
And forth the orders flew
That marched us off to Quatre Bras
And whelming Waterloo.
Begin, begin with Quatre Bras,
That twinborn field of fame,
Where many a gallant deed was done
By many a gallant name;
That battle-field, which seem'd to yield
An earnest and review
Of all that British courage dared
And did at Waterloo.
We heard from far old Blucher's guns,
At Ligny's blazing street,
And hurried on to Weimar's aid,
Right glad the foe to meet;
A score of miles to Quatre Bras;
But still to arms we stood,
And cheerly rush'd, without a pause,
To win the Boissy wood:
Then, just like cowards, three to one,
Before we could deploy,
To crush us, Ney and Excelmans
Flew down with fiendish joy;
But stout we stood in hollow squares,
And fought, and kept the ground,
While lancer spears and cuirassiers
Were charging us all round!
Ay, ay, my men, we battled then
Like wolves and bears at bay,
And thousands there among the dead
With sable Brunswick lay:
And back to back in that attack
The Ninety-second fought,-
And 'steadily' the Twenty-eighth
Behaved as Britons ought.
Then up came Maitland with the Guards,
Hurrah! they clear the wood;
But still the furious Frenchmen charged,
And still we stoutly stood,
Till gentle night drew on, and that
Drew off the treacherous Ney,
For when the morning dimly broke
- The fox had stole away!
Thus much, my lads, for Quatre Bras;
And now for Waterloo,
Where skill and courage did it all,
With God's good help in view!
For we were beardless raw recruits,
And they, more numerous far,
Were fierce mustachioed mighty men,
The veterans of war.
The God of battles helped us soon,
As godless France drew nigh,
- It was great eighteenth of June,
The sun was getting high,-
And suddenly two hundred guns
At once with thundering throats
Peal'd out their dreadful overture
In deep volcano notes!
Then, by ten thousands, horse and foot,
Came on the foaming Gaul,
And still with bristling front we stood
As solid as a wall:
And stout Macdonnell's Hougoumont,
The centre of the van,
Was storm'd and storm'd and storm'd - in vain,
- He held it like a man!
O who can count the myriad deeds
That hundreds did in fight?
Ponsonby falls, and Picton bleeds,
And - both are quench'd in night:
And many a hero subaltern,
And hero private too,
Beat Ajax and Achilles both
In winning Waterloo!
What shall I say on that dread day
Of Ferrier and his band?
Ten times he chased the foes away,
And charged them sword in hand;
Six of those ten he led his men
With blood upon his brow,-
And weakly in the eleventh died
To live in glory now!
Or, give a stave to Shaw the brave,
- In death the hero sleeps,-
Hemm'd by a score, he knock'd them o'er,
And hewed them down in heaps;
Till, wearied out, the lion stout,
Beset as by a pack
Of hungry hounds, fell full of wounds,
But none upon his back!
And Halkett then before his men
Dash'd forward and made prize
(While both the lines for wonderment
Could scarce believe their eyes)
Of a gaily plumed French general
Haranguing his array!
- But Halkett caught him, speech and all,
And bore him right away!
Thee too, De Lancey, generous chief,
For thee a niche be found,-
Wounded to death, he scorn'd relief
Whilst others bled around:
And D'Oyley and Fitzgerald died,
Just as the day was won,-
And Gordon by his general's side -
The side of Wellington!
And Somerset and Uxbridge then
Gave each a limb to death;
Curzon and Canning cheer'd their men
With their last dying breath;
And gallant Miller, stricken sore,
With fainting utterance cries,
'Bring me my colours! wave them o'er
Your colonel till he dies!'
Then furious wax'd the Emperor
That Britons wouldn't run,
'Les bêtes, pourquoi ne fuient-ils pas?
Et donc, ce Vellington?'
But 'Vellington' still holds his own
For eight red hours and more,
Why comes not Marshal Blucher down?
- Ha! - there's his cannons' roar,-
'Up, Guards, and at them! Chargel!'-
Like forked lightning passes,
And lance and bayonet and sword
Rush on in glittering masses!
Back, back, the surging columns roll
In terrified dismay,
And onward shout against the rout
The conquerors of the day!
O now the tide of battle,
Is turn'd to seas of blood,
When case and grape-shot rattle
Among the multitude,
And Fates led on by Furies,
Destroy the flying host,
And Chaos, mated with Despair,
Makes all the lost most lost!
Woe, woe! thou caitiff-hero,
Thou Emperor - and slave,
Why didst not thou, too, nobly bleed
With those devoted brave?
No, no,- the recreant's thought was self,
And 'Sauve qui peut!' his cry,
And verily at Waterloo
Did Great Napoleon die!
He died to fame, while yet his name
Was on ten thousand tongues,
That trusted him, and pray'd to him,
And - cursed him for their wrongs!
O noble souls! Imperial Guard,
chief been but true,
Ye would have stood and stopp'd the rout
At crushing Waterloo!
Still as they fled from Wellington
To Blucher's arms they flew;
These two made up the Quatre Bras
To clutch a Waterloo!
Ha! Blucher's Prussian vengeance
Was fully sated then,
When hated France upon the field
Left forty thousand men.
Thus, comrades, hath a soldier told
What Wellington's calm skill,
When help'd by troops of British mould
And God's Almighty will,
Against a Veteran triple force,
On battle-field can do :-
Then, three times three for Wellington,
The Prince of Waterloo!