The Night before the Battle

Miss Vardill

The enclosed versification of an English volunteer’s last thoughts before the Battle of Lutzen is respectfully offered to the Editors of the Attic Chest.

May 25th 1813


Farewell! the dim watchfires are quench’d, and I go
To win a proud grave from the conquering foe!
Thro’ torrents of blood and o’er hills of the slain
The star of Smolensk shall light us again!
But ’tis not the heart-cheering clarion I hear,
It is not the night-wind which sighs in my ear:
A glimmering hand beckons far thro’ the gloom,
A voice from the sepulchre whispers my doom!


Ye hills of green Morven! your minstrel no more
To you his song of wild melody pour!
Or haunt the smooth banks of your soft-gliding stream
Once bright as his visions and pure as their theme!
Sweet, sweet were the flow’rs which its margin o’erspread,
Yet cold and in silence the rivulet fled:
And thus while the blossoms of fancy were gay
My tide of false fortune stole darkly away!


Boy! fill the rich bowl — let its nectar refine
The last bitter drop of the life I resign!
One draught to the joys of our childhood is due,
One cup to the hearts that are tender and true!
To her who strays oft in our valley unseen
To seek the last print of our feet on the green;
And sighing, still warbles our best belov’ed lay,
Or blesses the moon which lends light to our way!


Fill, boy, fill it high! let thy heart’s glow exhale
Thy tears, as the sun drinks the dew from the vale!
Think oft, when the death-volley rolls on the blast,
The toils and the pangs of thy master are past!
But thou shalt return to the lov’d ingle-side
And tell of this night with an old soldier’s pride;
Thy deeds — may the lip of thy dear one employ,
While thine shall grow rich with the kisses of joy.


But stay till the tigers of slaughter are fled,
Till night lends her shroud to the dying and dead;
Then let not the hand of the plunderer wrong
The breast whose last throbbings to thee shall belong!
Nor dare from my mouldering side to remove
The sword of my sire, or the pledge of my love — 
No; close to my bosom its treasures unfold,
And blend them in dust with the heart they consol’d.


When lone on his threshold my father shall stand,
And mourn the lost aid of my long-banish’d hand,
Then tell him thy faith and my honour supplied
The balm to my wounds which a father denied!
But seek not the cot on the flow’r-sprinkled burn — 
Ah! shun the mild eye which awaits my return!
Nor whisper how far from my Emmeline’s breast
Unknown and unshrouded forever I rest!


Yet tell her the tears by her tenderness shed
Shall cherish the wreath on her warrior’s head:
The gale of cold honour his laurel may wave,
But only love’s dew keeps it green on his grave!