Dark spirit! who through every age
Hast cast a baleful gloom;
Stern lord of strife and civil rage,
The dungeon and the tomb!
What homage should men pay to thee,
Spirit of woe and anarchy?
Yet there are those who in thy train
Can feel a fierce delight;
Who rush, exulting, to the plain,
And triumph in the fight,
Where the red banner floats afar
Along the crimson tide of war.
Who is the knight on sable steed,
That comes with thundering tread?
Dark warrior, slack thy furious speed,
Nor trample on the dead:
A youthful chief before thee lies,
Struggling in life's last agonies.
Oh pause one moment in thy course,
Those lineaments to trace;
Dost thou not feel a strange remorse,
Whilst gazing on that face,
Where grace and manly beauty meet,
To die beneath thy courser's feet?
Those sunny tresses scattered wide,
And soiled with dust and blood,
Were once a mother's fondest pride,
When at her knee he stood,
A rosy, playful, laughing boy,
Her lonely heart's sole hope and joy.
But youth a glowing vision brought,
And whispered glory's name,
Renown, with every burning thought
Linked to ambition, came:
Like a young war-horse in his might,
He panted for the desperate fight.
For civil discord rent the land,
His warrior sire, afar,
Against his sovereign raised the brand,
The leader of the war:
By honour fired the stripling draws
His weapon in the royal cause.
Stretched bleeding on the battle-field
His first, last strife is done;
No more his hand the sword shall wield,
His eyes behold the sun,
Or his pale lips repeat the cry,
The thrilling shout of victory!--
He struggles yet--the strife is o'er--
The soul hath winged its flight,
Again beholds its native shore,
A spirit robed in light.
What now avail his mother's cares--
Her silent tears--her nightly prayers?
On that young soldier's prostrate form
The warrior grimly smiled,
As if he viewed in secret scorn
That face so fair and mild;
Why springs he to the fatal plain
To gaze upon that form again?
Why does his eye in frenzy roll?
Why is his clenched hand raised?
What thought quick rushed across his soul,
When on that boy he gazed?
His quivering lip and swollen brow
His mental agonies avow.
Can sorrow touch that iron heart,
So long to mercy steeled?
From those fierce eyes the big drops start,
He sinks upon the field.
Night closes round, the strife is done,
That warrior sleeps beside his son!