Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto VIII


O blood and thunder! and oh blood and wounds!
  These are but vulgar oaths, as you may deem,
Too gentle reader! and most shocking sounds:
  And so they are; yet thus is Glory's dream
Unriddled, and as my true Muse expounds
  At present such things, since they are her theme,
So be they her inspirers! Call them Mars,
Bellona, what you will — they mean but wars.

All was prepared — the fire, the sword, the men
  To wield them in their terrible array.
The army, like a lion from his den,
  March'd forth with nerve and sinews bent to slay, —
A human Hydra, issuing from its fen
  To breathe destruction on its winding way,
Whose heads were heroes, which cut off in vain
Immediately in others grew again.

History can only take things in the gross;
  But could we know them in detail, perchance
In balancing the profit and the loss,
  War's merit it by no means might enhance,
To waste so much gold for a little dross,
  As hath been done, mere conquest to advance.
The drying up a single tear has more
Of honest fame, than shedding seas of gore.

And why? — because it brings self-approbation;
  Whereas the other, after all its glare,
Shouts, bridges, arches, pensions from a nation,
  Which (it may be) has not much left to spare,
A higher title, or a loftier station,
  Though they may make Corruption gape or stare,
Yet, in the end, except in Freedom's battles,
Are nothing but a child of Murder's rattles.

And such they are — and such they will be found:
  Not so Leonidas and Washington,
Whose every battle-field is holy ground,
  Which breathes of nations saved, not worlds undone.
How sweetly on the ear such echoes sound!
  While the mere victor's may appal or stun
The servile and the vain, such names will be
A watchword till the future shall be free.

The night was dark, and the thick mist allow'd
  Nought to be seen save the artillery's flame,
Which arch'd the horizon like a fiery cloud,
  And in the Danube's waters shone the same —
A mirror'd hell! the volleying roar, and loud
  Long booming of each peal on peal, o'ercame
The ear far more than thunder; for Heaven's flashes
Spare, or smite rarely — man's make millions ashes!

The column order'd on the assault scarce pass'd
  Beyond the Russian batteries a few toises,
When up the bristling Moslem rose at last,
  Answering the Christian thunders with like voices:
Then one vast fire, air, earth, and stream embraced,
  Which rock'd as 't were beneath the mighty noises;
While the whole rampart blazed like Etna, when
The restless Titan hiccups in his den.

And one enormous shout of 'Allah!' rose
  In the same moment, loud as even the roar
Of war's most mortal engines, to their foes
  Hurling defiance: city, stream, and shore
Resounded 'Allah!' and the clouds which close
  With thick'ning canopy the conflict o'er,
Vibrate to the Eternal name. Hark! through
All sounds it pierceth 'Allah! Allah! Hu!'

The columns were in movement one and all,
  But of the portion which attack'd by water,
Thicker than leaves the lives began to fall,
  Though led by Arseniew, that great son of slaughter,
As brave as ever faced both bomb and ball.
  'Carnage' (so Wordsworth tells you) 'is God's daughter:'
If he speak truth, she is Christ's sister, and
Just now behaved as in the Holy Land.

The Prince de Ligne was wounded in the knee;
  Count Chapeau-Bras, too, had a ball between
His cap and head, which proves the head to be
  Aristocratic as was ever seen,
Because it then received no injury
  More than the cap; in fact, the ball could mean
No harm unto a right legitimate head:
'Ashes to ashes' — why not lead to lead?

Also the General Markow, Brigadier,
  Insisting on removal of the prince
Amidst some groaning thousands dying near, —
  All common fellows, who might writhe and wince,
And shriek for water into a deaf ear, —
  The General Markow, who could thus evince
His sympathy for rank, by the same token,
To teach him greater, had his own leg broken.

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