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 protege; 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 commonplace
On great occasions, such as an attack
On cities, as hath been the present case):
Up Johnson came, with hundreds at his back,
Exclaiming; — 'Juan! Juan! On, boy! brace
Your arm, and I 'll bet Moscow to a dollar
That you and I will win St. George's collar.
'The Seraskier is knock'd 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
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 choose
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 rubles 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 everywhere 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
In 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 crime 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 demigods
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.