Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/Corporal Pietro Micca
CORPORAL PIETRO MICCA.
(TIME: SIEGE OF TURIN BY THE FRENCH, 1706).
Hard by the river Cerva, where Piedmont’s Alps look down
On Andorno Cacciorna, near Biella’s lonely town,
Was born Piétro Micca—there I heard this story told,
How he fired the mine at Turin in the troublous times of old.
Without fair Turin’s bastions the hosts of France were seen;
Within were Piedmont’s bravest hearts and Savoy’s Prince Eugene;
Blood was shed that day like water by Turin’s ’leaguered wall,
But Andorno’s little corporal was bravest of them all!
Strong are the walls of Turin—but the French a breach have made;
On come their Enfans Perdus—’tis time our mine was laid;
Like tigers onwards rushing to the breach, with tuck of drum,
The gallant Grenadiers of France at last indeed have come!
The mine’s well laid—no heavier charge ‘neath Turin’s wall hath been;
“Too late! too late!” in frenzy cries our gallant Prince Eugene;
“No time have we to spring it—the French are at our wall—
Their foremost, ere that mine ye sprung, would be amongst ye all!”
Then pale grew bold bronzed faces—men spoke with ‘bated breath:
“To spring that mine to friend and foes alike is certain death!”
Then out spoke Corporal Micca, a sturdy pioneer,
“I’ll fire the charge myself,” quoth he, “God help my children dear!”
“Sir,” said he to his captain, “let all retire, I pray;
You’ll take this message to our duke—from Corporal Micca, say,
Our noble Duke of Savoy, I only ask, will be
A father to the fatherless when weeping sore for me!”
Thus thinking of his village-home, he scarce could speak for tears;
His eyes flashed grandly through them, when he heard the Grenadiers,
As, like some Alpine avalanche, to the breach o’erhead they roll;
Quoth he, “Retire, my comrades—and pray God rest my soul!”
His comrades have departed—their measured footfalls fell
On Micca’s ears within that mine like to his parting knell;
The mine is fired—the mine has sprung with one dread thunder-roar!
He and twelve hundred foemen will fight again no more!
In Andorno Cacciorna green is yet the hero’s fame;
His cottage still is standing—a descendant of his name
Unto me, a weary wand’rer, with flushing cheek she told,
How Corporal Micca fired the mine in the troublous times of old!
W. B. B. Stevens.
- The mountain town, Biella, which lies on the River Cerva, has always been proud of being the birth-place of Piétro Micca, though he was really born at Andorno Cacciorna, a hamlet a few miles from the town itself.—Count C. Arrivabene’s “Italy Under Victor-Emmanuel.”
- The “forlorn hope,” or storming party, is so called in the French army.