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Tell saw the crowd, the lifted cap,
The tyrant's angry frown ; And heralds shouted in his ear,
“ Bow down, ye slaves, bow down!”
Stern Gesler marked the peasant's mien,
And watched to see him fall;
Than Tell before them all.
“My knee shall bend,” he calmly said,
“ To God, and God alone : My life is in the Austrian's hand,
My conscience is my own.”
“ Seize him, ye guards !” the ruler cried,
While passion choked his breath; “ He mocks my power, he braves my lord,
He dies the traitor's death.
Yet wait: the Swiss are marksmen true,
So all the world doth say;
We'll try their skill to-day.”,
Hard by a spreading lime-tree stood,
To this the youth was bound; They placed an apple on his head ;
He looked in wonder round.
“ The fault is mine, if fault there be,"
Cried Tell, in accents wild ; “On manhood let your vengeance fall,
But spare, oh, spare my child !”,
" I will not harm the pretty boy,”
Said Gesler, tauntingly; “ If blood of his shall stain the ground,
Yours will the murder be.
“ Draw tight your bow, my cunning man,
Your straightest arrow take;
Your liberty the stake.”
A mingled noise of wrath and grief
Was heard among the crowd ; The men they muttered curses deep,
The women wept aloud.
Full fifty paces from his child,
His cross-bow in his hand,
Tell firmly took his stand.
Sure, full enough of pain and woe
This crowded earth has been; But never since the curse began,
So sad a sight was seen.
The noble boy stood bravely up,
His cheek unblanched with fear: “Shoot straight,” he cried, “thine aim is sure,
It will not fail thee here."
“ Heaven bless thee now,” the parent said,
“ Thy courage shames me quite;" Then to his ear the shaft he drew,
And watched its whizzing flight.
66 'Tis done ! 'tis done !—the child is safe !”
Shouted the multitude ; “ Man tramples on his brother man,
But God is ever good.”
For, sure enough, the arrow went
As by an angel guided;
The apple fell divided!
“ 'Twas bravely done,” the ruler said,
“My plighted word I keep; 'Twas bravely done by sire and son
Go home and feed your sheep.”
“ No thanks I give thee for thy boon,”
The peasant coldly said : “ To God alone my praise is due,
And duly shall be paid.
" Yet kaow, proud man, thy fate was near :
Had I but missed my aim,
Thy parting hour the same !
“ For, see! a second shaft was here,
If harm my boy befell :
My first has sped so well.”
God helped the right, God spared the sin ;
He brings the proud to shame ; He guards the weak against the strong,
Praise to his holy name!
OTHER WRITINGS:- The Forest Sanctuary; The Vespers of Palermo
(a tragedy); and many smaller pieces.
In the battle of the Nile, which was fought A.D. 1798. Casabianca, a boy about thirteen years old, the son of the Admiral of the French ship "L'Orient,” remained at his post after the ship had taken fire, and would not leave without his father's permission. The flames at last reached the powder, and he perished.
HE buy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
Shone round him o'er the dead.
As born to rule the storm-
A proud though childlike form.
The flames rolled on. He would not go
Without his father's word;
His voice no longer heard.
If yet my task is done !”
Unconscious of his son.