Page images
PDF
EPUB

But a band, the noblest band of all,

Through the rude Morgarten strait, With blazon'd streamers, and lances tall, Moved onwards in princely state.

They came, with heavy chains,

For the race despised so long. But, amidst his Alp domains,

"The herdsman's arm is strong! The sun was reddening the clouds of morn,

When they enter'd the rock defile, And shrill as a joyous hunter's horn, Their bugles rung the while;

But on the misty height,

Where the mountain people stood,
There was stillness as of night,

When storms at distance brood :
There was stillness, as of deep dead night,

And a pause—but not of fear,
While the Switzers gazed on the gathering might
Of the hostile shield and spear.

On wound those columns bright,

Between the lake and wood,
But they look'd not to the misty height,

Where the mountain people stood.
The pass was fill’d with their serried power,

All helm'd, and mail-array'd;
And their steps had sounds like a thunder shower,
In the rustling forest shade.

There were prince and crested knight,

Hemm'd in by cliff and flood,
When a shout arose from the misty height,

Where the mountain people stood.
And the mighty rocks come bounding down,

Their startled foes among,
With a joyous whirl from the summit thrown-
Oh! the herdsman's arm is strong!

They came like Lauwine hurl'd,

From Alp to Alp in play,
When the echoes shout through the snowy world

And the pines are borne away.
The larch-woods crash'd on the mountain side,

And the Switzers rush'd from high,
With a sudden charge on the flower and pride
Of the Austrian chivalry;

Like hunters of the deer,

They storm'd the narrow dell,
And first in the shock, with Uri's spear,

Was the arm of William Tell!

There was tumult in the crowded strait,

And a cry of wild dismay;
And many a warrior met his fate
From a peasant's hand that day !

And the empire's banner then,

From its place of waving free, Went down before the shepherd men,

The men of the Forest Sea.-HEMANS.

THE BATTLE OF SEMPACH.*

In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,
A living wall, a human wood;
Impregnable their front appears,
All horrent with projecting spears.
Opposed to these a scanty band
Contended for their fatherland;
Peasants, whose new found strength had broke
From manly necks the ignoble yoke;
Marshalled once more at Freedom's call,
They come to conquer or to fall.
And now the work of life and death
Hung on the passing of a breath ;
The fire of conflict burned within :
The battle trembled to begin :
Yet while the Austrians held their ground,
Point for assault was nowhere found;
Where'er the impatient Switzers gazed,
The unbroken line of lances blazed;
That line 'twere suicide to meet
And perish at their tyrant's feet.
Few were the numbers they could boast;
But every freeman was a host,
And felt as 'twere a secret known
That one should turn the scale alone.
It did depend on one indeed;
Behold him-Arnold Winhelried ;
There stands not to the roll of Fame
A hero of a nobler name.
Unmarked, he stood among the throng,
In rumination deep and long,
Till you might see, with sudden grace,
The very thought come o'er his face;
And, by the uplifting of his brow,
Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.

* In 1386, ever memorable for the heroic patriotism of Arnold.

But 'twas no sooner thought than done
The field was in a moment won !
“Make way for Liberty!” he cried ;
Then ran with arms extended wide,
As if his dearest friend to clasp;
Ten spears he swept within his grasp.
Make way for Liberty !” he cried
Their keen points crossed from side to side,
Then with them falling

down, did he
Bravely make way for Liberty.
On to the breach his comrades fly-
“Make way for Liberty !” they cry;
And through the Austrian phalanx dart,
As rushed the spears through Arnold's heart;
While instantaneous as his fall,
Before the foes—fear seized them all :
An earthquake could not overthrow
A city with a surer blow.
Thus, Switzerland again was free;
Thus Death made way for Liberty.-MONTGOMERY.

BRUCE AND THE SPIDER. King Bruce of Scotland flung himself down

In a lonely mood to think; 'Tis true he was monarch and wore a crown,

But his heart was beginning to sink.
For he had been trying to do a great deed

To make his people glad,
He had tried and tried, but couldn't succeed,

And so he became quite sad.
He flung himself down in low despair,

As grieved as man could be ;
And after a while as he pondered there,

I'll give it all up,” said he.
Now just at that moment a spider dropped,

With its silken cobweb clue,
And the king in the midst of his thinking stopped

To see what the spider would do.
'Twas a long way up to the ceiling dome,

And it hung by a rope so fine,
That how it would get to its cobweb home,

King Bruce could not divine.
It soon began to cling and crawl

Straight up with strong endeavour,
But down it came, with a slipping sprawl,

As near to the ground as ever.

Again it fell and swung below,

But again it quickly mounted,
Till up and down, now fast, now slow,

Nine brave attempts were counted.
“Sure,” cried the king, “ that foolish thing

Will strive no more to climb,
When it toils so hard to reach and cling,

And tumbles every time.”
Up again it went, inch by inch,

Higher and higher he got,
And å bold little run at the very last pinch,

Put him into his native spot.
“ Bravo, bravo !” the king cried out,

“ All honour to those who try, The spider up there defied despair,

He conquered, and why shouldn't I ?
Again King Robert roused his soul;

And history tells the tale,
That he tried once more, 'twas at Bannockburn,*
And that time he did not fail.

Adapted from ELIZA COOK.

RICHARD II.'S MISGOVERNMENT.
This rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires do soon burn out themselves.
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short.
He tires betimes, that spurs too fast betimes.
With eager feeding, food doth choke the feeder.
Light Vanity, insatiate cormorant.
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress, built by Nature for herself,
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
This nursery of wise and warlike kings,
This land of such brave souls, this dear, dear land,
Is now leas’d out like to a paltry farm.
England, bound-in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, now's bound-in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment-bonds.

SHAKSPEARE. HENRY IV.'s SOLILOQUY ON SLEEP. How many thousand of my poorest subjects Are at this hour asleep!-Sleep, gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness? Why rather, Sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber; Than in the perfumed chambers of the great, Under the canopies of costly state, And lull'd with sounds of sweetest melody? O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile, In loathsome beds; and leavest the kingly couch, A watch-case, or a common ’larum bell? Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains In cradle of the rude imperious surge; And in the visitation of the winds, Who take the ruffian billows by the top, Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them With deafening clamours in the slippery clouds, That, with the hurly, death itself awakes ? Canst thou, O partial Sleep! give thy repose To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude; And, in the calmest and the stillest night, With all appliances and means to boot, Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.-SHAKSPEARE.

* Gained in 1914,

HENRY V. TO HIS SOLDIERS.

On, on, you noblest English!
Whose blood is fetch'd from fathers of war-proof;
Fathers, that like so many Alexanders,
Have, in these parts, from morn till even fought,
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument !
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.— The game's a-foot !-
Follow your spirit: and, upon this charge,
Cry, God for Harry, England, and St. George !

SHAKSPEARE.

D

« PreviousContinue »