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Poem by Francis Turner Palgrave


Torres Vedras


      1810

As who, while erst the Achaians wall'd the shore,
  Stood Atlas-like before,
A granite face against the Trojan sea
  Of foes who seethed and foam'd,
From that stern rock refused incessantly;

So He, in his colossal lines, astride
  From sea to river-side,
Alhandra past Aruda to the Towers,
  Our one true man of men
Frown'd back bold France and all the Imperial powers.

For when that Eagle, towering in his might
  Beyond the bounds of Right,
O'ercanopied Europe with his rushing wings,
  And all the world was prone
Before him as a God, a King of Kings;

When Freedom to one isle, her ancient shrine,
  O'er the free favouring brine
Fled, as a girl by lustful war and shame
  Discloister'd from her home,
Barefoot, with glowing eyes, and cheeks on flame,

And call'd aloud, and bade the realm awake
  To arms for Freedom's sake:
--Yet,--for the land had rusted long in rest,
  The nerves of war unstrung,
Faint thoughts or rash alternate in her breast,

While purblind party-strife with venomous spite
  Made plausible wrong seem right,--
O then for that unselfish hero-chief
  Tender and true, and lost
At Trafalgar,--or him, whose patriot grief

Died with the prayer for England, as he died,
  In vain we might have cried!
But this one pillar rose, and bore the war
  Upon himself alone;
Supreme o'er Fortune and her idle star.

For not by might but mind, by skill, not chance,
  He headed stubborn France
From Tagus back by Douro to Garonne;
  And on the last, worst, field,
The crown of all his hundred victories won,

World-calming Waterloo!--Then, laying by
  War's fearful enginery,
In each state-tempest mann'd the wearying helm;
  E'en through life's winter-years
Serving with all his strength the ungrateful realm.

O firm and foursquare mind!  O solid will
  Fix'd, inexpugnable
By crowns or censures! only bent to do
  The day's work in the day;--
Fame with her idiot yelp might come, or go!

O breast that dared with Nature's patience wait
  Till the slow wheels of Fate
Struck the consummate hour; in leash the while
  Reining his eager bands,
The prey in view,--with that foreseeing smile!

And when for blood on Salamanca ridge
  Morn broke, or Orthez' bridge,
He read the ground, and his stern squadrons moved
  And placed with artist-skill,
Red counters in the perilous game they loved,

Impassive, iron, he and they!--and then
  With eagle-keener ken
Glanced through the field, the crisis-instant knew,
  And through the gap of war
His thundering legions on their victory threw.

Not iron, he, but adamant!  Diamond-strong,
  And diamond-clear of wrong:
For truth he struck right out, whate'er befall!
  Above the fear of fear:
Duty for duty's sake his all-in-all.



Francis Turner Palgrave


Francis Turner Palgrave's other poems:
  1. A Home in the Palace
  2. Alfred The Great
  3. Blenheim
  4. In the Valley of the Grande Chartreuse
  5. Elizabeth at Tilbury


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