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However this may be, 't is pretty sure
The Russian officer for life was lamed,
For the Turk's teeth stuck faster than a skewer, And left him 'midst the invalid and maim'd: The regimental surgeon could not cure
His patient, and perhaps was to be blamed More than the head of the inveterate foe, Which was cut off, and scarce even then let go,
But then the fact 's a fact-and 't is the part
Of a true poet to escape from fiction
Whene'er he can; for there is little art
In leaving verse more free from the restriction
Of truth than prose, unless to suit the mart
For what is sometimes call'd poetic diction,
And that outrageous appetite for lies
Which Satan angles with for souls like flies.
The city 's taken, but not render'd!—No!
There's not a Moslem that hath yielded sword:
The blood may gush out, as the Danube's flow
Rolls by the city wall; but deed nor word
Acknowledge aught of dread, of death, or foe :
In vain the yell of victory is roar'd
By the advancing Muscovite-the groan
Of the last foe is echoed by his own.
The bayonet pierces and the sabre cleaves,
And human lives are lavish'd every where,
As the year closing whirls the scarlet leaves
When the stripp'd forest bows to the bleak air,
And groans; and thus the peopled city grieves,
Shorn of its best and loveliest, and left bare ;
But still it falls with vast and awful splinters,
As oaks blown down with all their thousand winters.
It is an awful topic-but 't is not
My cue for any time to be terrific :
For, chequer'd as is seen our human lot
With good, and bad, and worse, alike prolific
Of melancholy merriment, to quote
Too much of one sort would be soporific ;-
Without, or with, offence to friends or foes,
I sketch your world exactly as it goes.
And one good action in the midst of crimes
Is "quite refreshing"-in the affected phrase
Of these ambrosial pharisaic times,
With all their pretty milk-and-water ways,—
And may serve therefore to bedew these rhymes,
A little scorch'd at present with the blaze
Of conquest and its consequences, which
Make epic poesy so rare and rich.
Upon a taken bastion, where there lay
Thousands of slaughter'd men, a yet warm group
Of murder'd women, who had found their way
To this vain refuge, made the good heart droop
And shudder ;-while, as beautiful as May,
A female child of ten years tried to stoop
And hide her little palpitating breast
Amidst the bodies lull'd in bloody rest.
Two villanous Cossacks pursued the child
With flashing eyes and weapons: match'd with them, The rudest brute that roams Siberia's wild
Has feelings pure and polish'd as a gem,
The bear is civilized, the wolf is mild;
And whom for this at last must we condemn ? Their natures, or their sovereigns, who employ All arts to teach their subjects to destroy?
Their sabres glitter'd o'er her little head,
Whence her fair hair rose twining with affright, Her hidden face was plunged amidst the dead: When Juan caught a glimpse of this sad sight, I shall not exactly say what he said,
Because it might not solace "ears polite ;" But what he did, was to lay on their backs,— The readiest way of reasoning with Cossacks.
One's hip he slash'd, and split the other's shoulder,
And drove them with their brutal yells to seek
If there might be chirurgeons who could solder
The wounds they richly merited, and shriek
Their baffled rage and pain; while waxing colder
As he turn'd o'er each pale and gory cheek,
Don Juan raised his little captive from
The heap a moment more had made her tomb.
And she was chill as they, and on her face
A slender streak of blood announced how near
Her fate had been to that of all her race;
For the same blow which laid her mother here,
Had scarr❜d her brow, and left its crimson trace
As the last link with all she had held dear;
But else unhurt, she open'd her large eyes,
And gazed on Juan with a wild surprise.
Just at this instant, while their eyes were fix'd
Upon each other, with dilated glance,
In Juan's look, pain, pleasure, hope, fear, mix'd
With joy to save, and dread of some mischance
Unto his protégée; while hers, transfix'd
With infant terrors, glared as from a trance,
A pure, transparent, pale, yet radiant face,
Like to a lighted alabaster vase ;
Up came John Johnson--(I will not say "Jack,"
For that were vulgar, cold, and common-place
On great occasions, such as an attack ·
On cities, as hath been the present case)—
Up Johnson came, with hundreds at his back,
"Juan! Juan! On, boy! brace
Your arm, and I'll bet Moscow to a dollar,
That you and I will win Saint George's collar.
upon the head,
But the stone bastion still remains, wherein
The old pacha sits among some hundreds dead,
Smoking his pipe quite calmly 'midst the din
Of our artillery and his own, 't is said :
"The seraskier is knock'd
Our kill'd, already piled up to the chin,
Lie round the battery; but still it batters,
And grape in volleys, like a vineyard, scatters.
"Then up with me !"—But Juan answer'd, “Look
Upon this child-I saved her-must not leave
Her life to chance; but point me out some nook
Of safety, where she less may shrink and grieve,
And I am with you."-Whereon Johnson took
A glance around-and shrugg'd-and twitch'd his sleeve And black silk neckcloth-and replied, "You 're right; Poor thing! what 's to be done? I'm puzzled quite."
Said Juan- "Whatsoever is to be
Done, I'll not quit her till she seems secure
Of present life a good deal more than we."-
Quoth Johnson-" Neither will I quite ensure ;
But at the least you may die gloriously."
Juan replied " At least I will endure
Whate'er is to be borne-but not resign
This child, who is parentless, and therefore mine."
Johnson said " Juan, we 've no time to lose ;
The child's a pretty child-a very pretty-
I never saw such eyes-but hark! now chuse
Between your fame and feelings, pride and pity;
Hark! how the roar increases !—no excuse
Will serve when there is plunder in a city ;-
I should be loth to march without you, but,
By God! we 'll be too late for the first cut."
But Juan was immovable; until
Johnson, who really loved him in his way,
Pick'd out amongst his followers with some skill
Such as he thought the least given up to prey;
And swearing if the infant came to ill
That they should all be shot on the next day,
But if she were deliver'd safe and sound,
They should at least have fifty roubles round,
And all allowances besides of plunder
In fair proportion with their comrades ;—then Juan consented to march on through thunder, Which thinn'd at every step their ranks of men: And yet the rest rush'd eagerly-no wonder, For they were heated by the hope of gain, A thing which happens every where each day— No hero trusteth wholly to half-pay.
And such is victory, and such is man!
At least nine-tenths of what we call so -God
May have another name for half we scan
As human beings, or his ways are odd.
But to our subject. A brave Tartar khan,-
Or "sultan," as the author (to whose nod
prose I bend my humble verse) doth call
This chieftain-somehow would not yield at all:
But flank'd by five brave sons (such is polygamy,
That she spawns warriors by the score, where none
Are prosecuted for that false crine bigamy),
He never would believe the city won
While courage clung but to a single twig.-Am I
Describing Priam's, Peleus', or Jove's son?
Neither, but a good, plain, old, temperate man,
Who fought with his five children in the van.
To take him was the point. The truly brave,
When they behold the brave oppress'd with odds,
Are touch'd with a desire to shield and save ;-
A mixture of wild beasts and demi-gods
Are they now furious as the sweeping wave,
Now moved with pity: even as sometimes nods
The rugged tree unto the summer wind,
Compassion breathes along the savage mind.
But he would not be taken, and replied
To all the propositions of surrender
By mowing christians down on every side,
As obstinate as Swedish Charles at Bender.
His five brave boys no less the foe defied:
Whereon the Russian pathos grew less tender,
As being a virtue, like terrestrial patience,
Apt to wear out on trifling provocations.
And spite of Johnson and of Juan, who
Expended all their eastern phraseology
In begging him, for God's sake, just to show
So much less fight as might form an apology
For them in saving such a desperate foe-
He hew'd away, like doctors of theology
When they dispute with sceptics; and with curses
Struck at his friends, as babies beat their nurses.
Nay, he had wounded, though but slightly, both
Juan and Johnson, whereupon they fell-
The first with sighs, the second with an oath
Upon his angry sultanship, pell-mell,
And all around were grown exceeding wroth
At such a pertinacious infidel,
And pour'd upon him and his sons like rain,
Which they resisted like a sandy plain