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THE BATTLE OF SEMPACH.
'twas when among our linden-trees
(And grey-hair'd peasants say that these
Then look'd we down to Willisow,
The land was all in flame;
With all his army came.
The Austrian nobles made their vow,
So hot their heart and bold,
And slay both young and old."
With clarion loud, and banner proud,
From Zurich on the lake,
Their onward march they make.
[1 This translation first appeared in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine for February, 1818.—Ed.]
"Now list, ye lowland nobles all— Ye seek the mountain strand,
"I rede ye, shrive ye of your sins,
Before ye farther go;
May send your souls to woe."—
"But where now shall we find a priest
"The Switzer priest' has ta'en the field,
"Right heavily upon your head
He'll lay his hand of steel;
Your absolution deal."—
'Twas on a Monday morning then,
The corn was steep'd in dew,
When the host to Sempach drew.
The stalwart men of fair Lucerne
1 All the Swiss clergy who were able to bear arms fought in this patriotic war.
The pith and core of manhood stern,
It was the Lord of Hare-castle,
And to the Duke he said, "Yon little band of brethren true
Will meet us undismay'd."—
"O Hare-castle,1 thou heart of hare!"
Fierce Oxenstern replied.— "Shalt see then how the game will fare,"
The taunted knight replied.
There was lacing then of helmets bright,
And closing ranks amain; The peaks they hew'd from their boot-points
Might wellnigh load a wain.2
And thus they to each other said,
"Yon handful down to hew Will be no boastful tale to tell,
The peasants are so few."—
1 In the original, Haasenslein, or Bare-stone.
s This seems to allude to the preposterous fashion, during the middle ages, of wearing boots with the points or peaks turned upwards, and so long, that in some cases they were fastened to the knees of the wearer with small chains. When they alighted to fight upon foot, it would seem that the Austrian gentlemen found it necessary to cut off these peaks that they might move with the necessary activity.
The gallant Swiss Confederates there
They pray'd to God aloud,
Against a swarthy cloud.
Then heart and pulse throbb'd more and more
With courage firm and high,
On the Austrian chivalry.
The Austrian Lion1 'gan to growl,
And toss his mane and tail;
Went whistling forth like hail.
Lance, pike, and halbert, mingled there,
The game was nothing sweet; The boughs of many a stately tree
Lay shiver'd at their feet.
The Austrian men-at-arms stood fast, So close their spears they laid;It chafed the gallant Winkelreid, Who to his comrades said—
"I have a virtuous wife at home, A wife and infant son;
'A pun on the Archduke's name, Leopold.
I leave them to my country's care,—
"These nobles lay their spears right thick,
And keep full firm array,
And make my brethren way."
He rush'd against the Austrian band, In desperate career,
Four lances splinter'd on his crest,
Six shiver'd in his side;
He broke their ranks, and died.
This patriot's self-devoted deed
And the four forest cantons freed
Right where his charge had made a lane,
His valiant comrades burst, With sword, and axe, and partisan,
And hack, and stab, and thrust.
The daunted Lion 'gan to whine,