Behind the town the sun sinks down
Gilding the vane upon the spire,
While many a wall reels to its fall
Beneath the fell artillery fire.
As sinks that sun mortar and gun
Like living things leap grim and hot,
And far and wide across the tide
Spray-furrows show the flying shot.
White smoke in clouds yon earthwork shrouds
Where, steeped in battle to the lips,
The French amain pour fiery rain
On town, and walls, and English ships.
That deadly sleet smites lines and fleet,
As closes in the Autumn night,
And Aboville from head to heel
Thrills with the battle's wild delight.
At every flash oak timbers crash -
A sudden glare yon frigate dyes!
Then flames up-gush, and roar, and rush,
From deck to where her pennon flies!
Those flames on high crimson the sky
And paint their signals overhead,
And every fold of smoke is rolled
And woven in Plutonian red.
All radiant now taffrail and prow,
And hull, and cordage, beams and spars,
Thus lit she sails on fiery gales
To purple seas where float the stars.
Ages ago just such a glow
Woke Agamemnon's house to joy,
Its red and gold to Argos told
The long-expected fate of Troy.
So, on these heights, that flame delights
The Allies thundering at the wall,
Forewrit they see the land set free
And Albion's short-lived Ilium fall!
Then as the Lilies turn to red
Dipped in the battles' wine
Another picture is outspread
Where still the figures shine -
The picture of a deadly fray
Worthy the pencil of Vernet!