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THE EVE BEFORE WATERLOO (From “Childe Harold,” Canto III.)

LORD BYRON

THERE was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gathered 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 looked 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 !

10 Did ye not hear it?-No; 'twas but the wind,

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 !
15 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 windowed niche of that high hall
20 Sate Brunswick's fated chieftain; he did hear

That sound the first amidst the festival,
And caught its tone with Death's prophetic ear;
And when they smiled because he deemed it near,

His heart more truly knew that peal too well 25 Which stretched his father on a bloody bier,

And roused the vengeance blood alone could quell; He rushed 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

30

Blushed at the praise of their own 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 35 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, 40

And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;
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 thronged the citizens with terror dumb, 45 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,
50 Savage and shrill! But with the breath which fills

Their mountain pipe, so fill the mountaineers
With the fierce native daring which instills

The stirring memory of a thousand years,
And Evan's, Donald's fame rings in each clansman's ears!

55 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
60 Which now beneath them, but above shall grow

In its next verdure, when this fiery mass

Of living valor, rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall molder cold and low

Last noon beheld them full of lusty life, 65 Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay;

The midnight brought the signal sound of strife-
The morn, the marshaling in arms—the day,
Battle's magnificently stern array !

The thunderclouds close o’er it, which when rent 70 The earth is covered thick with other clay,

Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent, Rider and horse-friend, foe-in one red burial blent !

HELPS TO STUDY

Historical: On the evening of June 15, 1815, the Duchess of Richmond gave a ball at Brussels. Wellington's officers, at his request, were present, his purpose being to conceal the near approach of battle. Napoleon, the leader of the French army, was the military genius of the age; Wellington, the leader of the English forces, had, Tennyson tells us, gained a hundred fights nor ever lost an English gun.” These two great generals now met for the first time. The event was of supreme interest to all the world. The engagement that followed next day was fought at Quatre Bras; the great battle of Waterloo took place June 18th, Sunday. Read Thackeray's “Vanity Fair” for description of this night in Brussels. This is a great martial poem—the greatest inspired by this event.

Note the movement of the poem. The revelry, the beauty and the chivalry, the music and the merry-making, the alarm, the hurrying to and fro, the gathering tears, the mounting in hot haste, the whispering with white lips, the Scotch music, the green leaves of Ardennes, the closing

scene.

Notes and Questions

Find Belgium's capital on your

map; also Waterloo, twelve miles

away. What does the first stanza tell? The

second stanza ? Note the differences between the

fourth and fifth stanzas. The sixth stanza describes the Scot

tish martial music—What purpose does this stanza serve in the poem?

Which lines do you like best? Why?
Which is the most beautiful stanza ?
What words seem to be especially

appropriate?
Note the rhythm and the change in

movement.
Cameron's Gathering" - The
Cameron Highlander's call to

arms.
"Lochiel'-Donald Cameron of

Lochiel was a famous highland

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15

The mountains look on Marathon

And Marathon looks on the sea ;
And musing there an hour alone,

I dreamed that Greece might still be free:
For, standing on the Persian's grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

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