The Battle.

The dawning sunlight beams1
O’er Morgarten’s hills of snow !2
’Tis reflected back by a thousand streams ;3
But brighter yet in lurid gleams4
From the valley stretch’d below.5
On the mountain’s hoary brow,6
By the tombs of their fathers dead,7
How many a Switzer’s holy vow8
Hath bound him to shed his life’s blood now,9
Where his sainted sires have bled !10
Fiercely the Austrian foe11
Rolls, like the coming tide12
As deep, as surely, and as slow,13
His myriads o’er the plains below,14
And up the mountain side.15
But mark, upon the steep16
Of Morgarten’s loftiest height,17
A dusky spot is seen to sweep18
(Like darksome dreams o’er the soul of sleep) 19
On its snowy breast of white.20
It stays its meteor course21
O’er the Austrian tyrant’s path ;22
And a distant murmur, deep and hoarse,23
Tells to the foul invading force24
Helvetia’s gathering wrath.25
Deep in Morgarten’s snow26
The heavy horsemen sank ;27
And many a gallant steed lay low,28
And, struggling in his dying throe,29
Broke the disorder’d rank.30
’Twas then that from the height31
That dark spot burst in flame32
Like thunderbolt across the night,33
As swift, as deadly, and as bright,34
Morgarten’s heroes came !35
On through the van they dash36
The pierced battalions reel !37
Then, rapid as a lightning flash,38
’Mid trumpet clang and weapon clash,39
Upon the flanks they wheel !40
Vain though the battle-cry41
Rung high among the foe42
Though many a steel was glancing high,43
And the flower of Switzer chivalry44
Lay stretch’d upon the snow !45
For far upon the plain46
A dust-cloud marks the way47
Of the coward hearts, whose blood should stain48
The snow, where, trophies grim, remain49
Their dead lord and his warrior train50
Of that disastrous day.51
Yet the shout of victory52
Rings feebly o’er the hill,53
For the patriot hearts which that morn beat high,54
For vengeance and for liberty,55
Chill’d in the strife of that dreadful day,56
Upon the heath lie still !57