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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/467

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433
ODE FROM THE FRENCH.

Better hadst thou still been leading
France o'er hosts of hirelings bleeding,
Than sold thyself to death and shame
For a meanly royal name;
Such as he of Naples wears,
Who thy blood-bought title bears.
Little didst thou deem, when dashing
On thy war-horse through the ranks,
Like a stream which burst its banks,
While helmets cleft, and sabres clashing,
Shone and shivered fast around thee—
Of the fate at last which found thee:
Was that haughty plume laid low
By a slave's dishonest blow?
Once—as the Moon sways o'er the tide,
It rolled in air, the warrior's guide;
Through the smoke-created night
Of the black and sulphurous fight,
The soldier raised his seeking eye
To catch that crest's ascendancy,—
And, as it onward rolling rose,
So moved his heart upon our foes.
There, where death's brief pang was quickest,
And the battle's wreck lay thickest,
Strewed beneath the advancing banner
Of the eagle's burning crest—
(There with thunder-clouds to fan her,
Who could then her wing arrest—
Victory beaming from her breast?)
While the broken line enlarging

Fell, or fled along the plain;

    or body to be bandaged."—Letter to Moore, November 4, 1815, Letters, 1899, iii. 245. See, too, for Joachim Murat (born 1771), proclaimed King of Naples and the Two Sicilies, August, 1808, ibid., note 1.]