BETA

The Defence of Lucknow.

I.

Banner of England, not for a season, O banner of
Britain, hast thou
1
Floated in conquering battle or flapt to the battle-
cry !
2
Never with mightier glory than when we had rear’d
thee on high
3
Flying at top of the roofs in the ghastly siege of
Lucknow
4
Shot thro’ the staff or the halyard, but ever we raised
thee anew,
5
And ever upon the topmost roof our banner of
England blew.
6

II.

Frail were the works that defended the hold that we
held with our lives
7
Women and children among us, God help them, our
children and wives !
8
Hold it we might—and for fifteen days or for twenty
at most.
9
Never surrender, I charge you, but every man die at
his post
!’
10
Voice of the dead whom we loved, our Lawrence the
best of the brave :
11
Cold were his brows when we kiss’d him—we laid
him that night in his grave.
12
Every man die at his post !’ and there hail’d on our
houses and halls
13
Death from their rifle-bullets, and death fom their
cannon-balls,
14
Death in our innermost chamber, and death at our
slight barricade,
15
Death while we stood with the musket, and death
while we stoopt to the spade,
16
Death to the dying, and wounds to the wounded, for
often there fell
17
Striking the hospital wall, crashing thro’ it, their shot
and their shell,
18
Death—for their spies were among us, their marks-
men were told of our best,
19
So that the brute bullet broke thro’ the brain that
could think for the rest ;
20
Bullets would sing by our foreheads, and bullets
would rain at our feet
21
Fire from ten thousand at once of the rebels that
girdled us round
22
Death at the glimpse of a finger from over the
breadth of a street,
23
Death from the heights of the mosque and the palace, and death in the ground !24
Mine ? yes, a mine !  Countermine ! down, down !
and ceep thro’ the hole !
25
Keep the revolver in hand !  You can hear him—the
murderous mole.
26
Quiet, ah ! quiet—wait till the point of the pickaxe
be thro’ !
27
Click with the pick, coming nearer and nearer again
than before
28
Not let it speak, and you fire, and the dark pioneer
is no more ;
29
And ever upon the topmost roof our banner of
England blew.
30

III.

Ay, but the foe sprung his mine many times, and it
chanced on a day
31
Soon as the blast of that underground thunderclap
echo’d away,
32
Dark thro’ the smoke and the sulphur like so many
fiends in their hell
33
Cannon-shot, musket-shot, volley on volley, and yell
upon yell
34
Fiercely on all the defennces our myriad enemy fell.35
What have they done ? where is it ?  Out yonder.
Guard the Redan !
36
Storm at the Water-gate ! storm at the Bailey-gate !
storm, and it ran
37
Surging and swaying all round us, as ocean on every
side
38
Plunges and heaves at a bank that is daily drown’d
by the tide
39
So many thousands that if they be bold enough, who
shall escape ?
40
Kill or be kill’d, live or die, they shall know we are
soldiers and men !
41
Ready ! take aim at their leaders—their masses are
gapp’d with our grape
42
Backward they reel like the wave, like the wave
flinging forward again,
43
Flying and foil’d at the last by the handful they could
not subdue ;
44
And ever upon the topmost roof our banner of
England blew.
45

IV.

Handful of men as we were, we were English in
heart and in limb,
46
Strong with the strength of the race to command, to
obey, to endure,
47
Each of us fought as if hope for the garrison hung
but on him ;
48
Still—could we watch at all points ? we were every
day fewer and fewer.
49
There was a whisper among us, but only a whisper
that past :
50
Children and wives—if the tigers leap into the fold
unawares
51
Every man die at his post—and the foe may outlive
us at last
52
Better to fall by the hands that they love, than to fall
into theirs !
53
Roar upon roar in a moment two mines by the enemy
sprung
54
Clove into perilous chasms our walls and our poor
palisades.
55
Rifleman, true is your heart, but be sure that your
hand be as true !
56
Sharp is the fire of assult, better aim’d are your flank
fusillades
57
Twice do we hurl them to earth from the ladders to
which they had clung,
58
Twice from the ditch where they shelter we drive
them with hand grenades ;
59
And ever upon the topmost roof our banner of
England blew.
60

V.

Then on another wild morning another wild earth-
quake out-tore
61
Clean from our lines of defence ten or twelve good
paces or more.
62
Rifleman, high on the roof, hidden there from the
light of the sun
63
One has leapt up on the breach, crying out : ‘ Follow
me, follow me !’ —
64
Mark him—he falls ! then another, and him too, and
down goes he.
65
Had they been bold enough then, who can tell but
the traitors had won ?
66
Boardings and rafters and doors—an embrasure !
make way for the gun !
67
Now double-charge it with grape !  It is charged and
we fire, and they run.
68
Praise to our Indian brothers, and let the dark face
have his due !
69
Thanks to the kindly dark faces who fought with us,
faithful and few,
70
Fought with the bravest among us, and drove them,
and smote them, and slew,
71
That ever upon the topmost roof our banner in India
blew.
72

VI.

Men will forget what we suffer and not what we do.
We can fight ;
73
But to be soldier all day and be sentinel all thro’ the
night
74
Ever the mine and assult, our sallies, their lying
alarms.
75
Bugles and drums in the darkness, and shoutings and
soundings to arms,
76
Ever the labour of fifty that had to be done by five,77
Ever the marvel among us that one should be left
alive,
78
Ever the day with its traitorous death from the loop-holes around,79
Ever the night with its coffinless corpse to be laid in
the ground,
80
Heat like the mouth of a hell, or a deluge of cataract
skies,
81
Stench of old offal decaying, and infinite torment of
flies,
82
Thoughts of the breezes of May blowing over an
English field,
83
Cholera, scurvy, and fever, the wound that would not
be heal’d,
84
Lopping away of the limb by the pitiful-pitiless
knife,—
85
Torture and trouble in vain,—for it never could save
us a life,
86
Valour of delicate women who tended the hospital
bed,
87
Horror of women in travail among the dying and
dead,
88
Grief for our perishing children, and never a moment
for grief,
89
Toil and ineffable weariness, faltering hopes of relief,90
Havelock baffled, or beaten, or butcher’d for all that we knew91
Then day and night, day and night, coming down on
the still-shatter’d walls
92
Millions of musket-bullets, and thousands of cannon-
balls
93
But ever upon the topmost roof our banner of
England blew.
94

VII.

Hark cannonade, fusillade ! is it true what was told
by the scout ?
95
Outram and Havelock breaking their way thro’ the
fell mutineers !
96
Surely the pibroch of Europe is ringing again in our
ears !
97
All on a sudden the garrison utter a jubilant shout,98
Havelock’s glorious Highlanders answer with con-
quering cheers,
99
Forth from their holes and their hidings our women
and children come out,
100
Blessing the wholesome white faces of Havelock’s good
fusileers,
101
Kissing the war-harden’d hand of the Highlander wet
with their tears !
102
Dance to the pibroch !— saved ! we are saved !— is it
you ? is it you ?
103
Saved by the valour of Havelock, saved by the blessing
of Heaven !
104
Hold it for fifteen days ! ’ we have held it for eighty-
seven !
105
And ever aloft on the palace roof the old banner of
England blew.
106