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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/245

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MAZEPPA.





I.

'Twas after dread Pultowa's day,[1]
When Fortune left the royal Swede—
Around a slaughtered army lay,
No more to combat and to bleed.
The power and glory of the war,
Faithless as their vain votaries, men,
Had passed to the triumphant Czar,
And Moscow's walls were safe again—
Until a day more dark and drear,[2]
And a more memorable year,10
Should give to slaughter and to shame
A mightier host and haughtier name;
A greater wreck, a deeper fall,
A shock to one—a thunderbolt to all.


II.

Such was the hazard of the die;

The wounded Charles was taught to fly[3]
  1. [The Battle of Poltáva on the Vórskla took place July 8, 1709. "The Swedish troops (under Rehnskjöld) numbered only 12,500 men.... The Russian army was four times as numerous.... The Swedes seemed at first to get the advantage,... but everywhere they were overpowered and surrounded—beaten in detail; and though for two hours they fought with the fierceness of despair, they were forced either to surrender or to flee.... Over 2800 officers and men were taken prisoners."—Peter the Great, by Eugene Schuyler, 1884, ii. 148, 149.]
  2. [Napoleon began his retreat from Moscow, October 15, 1812. He was defeated at Vitepsk, November 14; Krasnoi, November 16-18; and at Beresina, November 25-29, 1812.]
  3. ["It happened ... that during the operations of June 27-28,