The Battle.

What see I on this barren strand ?—1
A burning sky, a burning sand,2
A shipless sea, a lifeless land !3
Yet Time ! thou old destroyer, Time,4
Thou’st seen it earth’s most glorious clime,5
All throne and temple—all sublime.6
Of earth’s wild drama wildest stage ;7
Of mind’s first flight, war’s darkest rage,8
The Soldier, and the Archimage !9
Then sank its sun in midnight gloom ;10
Its life was treasured in the tomb.11
Egypt was all—the Catacomb !12
Yet on that strand was Europe freed !13
The world beheld that battle bleed ;14
And mighty England did the deed.15
’Twas eve ; and on the horizon pale,16
Like cloud on cloud, uprose the sail ;17
And warrior-echoes fill’d the gale.18
There, squadron’d on the sunset tide,19
With day’s last gold and amber dyed,20
Came Britain’s sea-kings in their pride.21
Splendid the thronging pomp swept on,22
To cannon-fire and trumpet tone ;23
Each war-ship like a floating throne.24
Who led them on ?  A deathless name,25
That through their bosoms shot like flame26
Nelson ! the noblest son of fame !27
Startled, yet stern, the Frenchman’s line28
Saw in the sun the red-cross shine,29
And felt it Ruin’s judgment-sign.30
Then blazed the gun—then burst the shell,31
Then thick the muskets’ fire-shower fell,32
And all was thunder, shout, and yell !33
’Tis night—the peal comes long and loud,34
Each thunderer roaring from his cloud35
Each wrapp’d in his own sulphurous shroud.36
’Tis midnight ; but athwart the haze,37
What startling splendour blasts the gaze ?38
Huge L’Orient ! thine that fatal blaze.39
Round mast and flag the flame-wreaths soar ;40
Red rolls the surge, like molten ore :41
Starts into spectral light the shore.42
The anchors part. No more she clings43
To shore or sand. Afar she springs,44
The whirlwind and the flame her wings.45
The fight is hush’d at once ! no sound46
Bursts from the brazen ramparts round :47
The Briton’s heart his hand has bound.48
But, where the desert meets the glare,49
Ring on the melancholy air50
Howls of a mighty host’s despair.51
There, by the corpse-strewn waters stood,52
In the mind’s more than solitude,53
The Man of glory and of blood !54
Napoleon : no ! great homicide !55
A wilder sand, a wilder tide,56
Must give the moral of thy pride.57
The magazine’s fired !— One horrid roar58
Bursts round the sky, the sea, the shore.59
L’Orient—thy last, fierce fight is o’er.60
Down darts she, through the whirlpool, down ;61
To leave the shoals of Egypt strown62
With wealth of many a shrine and throne.63
Morn rose in beauty. Broadly roll’d64
The red-cross flag its victor fold.65
Fallen Tricolor, thy tale was told !66
All calm, that lovely light beneath,67
The sabre slumber’d in its sheath,68
The cannon held its fiery breath.69
Though Britain’s blood was pour’d like rain,70
Not one bright drop was shed in vain-71
The combat shiver’d Europe’s chain !72
Where is that combat’s victor ? Gone,73
His fame was like a star, alone !74
He will’d to conquer—and ’twas done.75
One bolder deed was yet untried76
A vassal world his flag defied :77
He smote it at a blow—and died !78