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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/676

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[CANTO IV.
THE ISLAND.

They hailed him to surrender—no reply;
Their arms were poised, and glittered in the sky.290
They hailed again—no answer; yet once more
They offered quarter louder than before.
The echoes only, from the rock's rebound,
Took their last farewell of the dying sound.
Then flashed the flint, and blazed the volleying flame,
And the smoke rose between them and their aim,
While the rock rattled with the bullets' knell,
Which pealed in vain, and flattened as they fell;
Then flew the only answer to be given
By those who had lost all hope in earth or heaven.300
After the first fierce peal as they pulled nigher,
They heard the voice of Christian shout, "Now, fire!"
And ere the word upon the echo died,
Two fell; the rest assailed the rock's rough side,
And, furious at the madness of their foes,
Disdained all further efforts, save to close.
But steep the crag, and all without a path,
Each step opposed a bastion to their wrath,
While, placed 'midst clefts the least accessible,
Which Christian's eye was trained to mark full well,310
The three maintained a strife which must not yield,
In spots where eagles might have chosen to build.
Their every shot told; while the assailant fell,
Dashed on the shingles like the limpet shell;
But still enough survived, and mounted still,
Scattering their numbers here and there, until
Surrounded and commanded, though not nigh
Enough for seizure, near enough to die,
The desperate trio held aloof their fate
But by a thread, like sharks who have gorged the bait;
Yet to the very last they battled well,321
And not a groan informed their foes who fell.
Christian died last—twice wounded; and once more
Mercy was offered when they saw his gore;
Too late for life, but not too late to die,[1]
With, though a hostile hand, to close his eye.

A limb was broken, and he drooped along
  1. Too late it might be still at least to die.—[MS. D. erased.]