The Battle Of The Nile.

A poem by William Lisle Bowles

Shout! for the Lord hath triumphed gloriously!
Upon the shores of that renowned land,
Where erst His mighty arm and outstretched hand
He lifted high,
And dashed, in pieces dashed the enemy;
Upon that ancient coast,
Where Pharaoh's chariot and his host
He cast into the deep,
Whilst o'er their silent pomp He bid the swoll'n sea sweep;
Upon that eastern shore,
That saw His awful arm revealed of yore,
Again hath He arisen, and opposed
His foes' defying vaunt: o'er them the deep hath closed!

Shades of mighty chiefs of yore,
Who triumphed on the self-same shore:
Ammon, who first o'er ocean's empire wide
Didst bid the bold bark stem the roaring tide;
Sesac, who from the East to farthest West
Didst rear thy pillars over realms subdued;
And thou, whose bones do rest
In the huge pyramid's dim solitude,
Beneath the uncouth stone,
Thy name and deeds unknown;
And Philip's glorious son,
With conquest flushed, for fields and cities won;
And thou, imperial Cæsar, whose sole sway
The long-disputed world at length confessed,
When on these shores thy bleeding rival lay!
Oh, could ye, starting from your long cold rest,
Burst Death's oblivious trance,
And once again with plumed pride advance,
How would ye own your fame surpassed,
And on the sand your trophies cast,
When, the storm of conflict o'er,
And ceased the burning battle's roar,
Beneath the morning's orient light,
Ye saw, with sails all swelling white,
Britain's proud fleet, to many a joyful cry,
Ride o'er the rolling surge in awful sovereignty!

For fierce Ambition fired your mind
Beside your glittering car,
Amid the thickest war,
Went Superstition, sorceress blind,
In dimly-figured robe, with scowling mien,
Half hid in jealous hood;
And Tyranny, beneath whose helm was seen
His eye suffused with blood;
And giant Pride,
That the great sun with haughty smile defied;
And Avarice, that grasped his guilty gold;
These, as the sorceress her loud sistrum rung,
Their dismal pæan sung;
And still, far off, pale Pity hung her head,
Whilst o'er the dying and the dead
The victor's brazen wheels with gory axle rolled.
Now look on him, in holy courage bold;
The asserter of his country's cause behold!
He lifts his gaze to heaven, serenely brave,
And whilst around war's fearful banners wave,
He prays: Protect us, as our cause is just;
For in thy might alone, Judge of the world, we trust!

And they are scattered, the destroyers die!
They that usurped the bloody victor's claim,
That spoke of freedom; but, behold a cry!
They, that like a wasteful flame,
Or the huge sandy pillar, that amain
Whirls 'mid the silence of the desert plain,
Deathful in their career of terror came,
And scattered ruin as they passed!
So rush they, like the simoom's horrid blast;
They sweep, and all around is wilderness!
But from thy throne on high,
Thou, God, hast heard the cry
Of nations in distress!
Britain goes forth, beneath thy might,
To quell the proud blasphemers in the fight;
And Egypt, far along her winding main,
Echoes the shout of joy, and genuine Freedom's strain!

Now let them, who thy name, O GOD! defy,
Invoke the mighty Prophet of the East;
Or deck, as erst, the mystic feast
To Ashtaroth, queen of the starry sky!
Let them, in some cavern dark,
Seek Osiris' buried ark;
Or call on Typhon, of gigantic form,
Lifting his hundred arms, and howling 'mid the storm!
Or to that grisly king
In vain their cymbals let them ring,
To him in Tophet's vale revered
(With smoke his brazen idol smeared),
Grim Moloch, in whose fuming furnace blue
The unpitying priest the shrieking infant threw,
Whilst to shrill cries, and drums' and timbrels' sound,
The frantic and unhearing troop danced round;
To him despairing let them go,
And tell their fearful tale of hideous overthrow!

Calm breathed the airs along the evening bay,
Where, all in warlike pride,
The Gallic squadron stretched its long array;
And o'er the tranquil tide
With beauteous bend the streamers waved on high
But, ah! how changed the scene ere night descends!
Hark to the shout that heaven's high concave rends!
Hark to that dying cry!
Whilst, louder yet, the cannon's roar
Resounds along the Nile's affrighted shore,
Where, from his oozy bed,
The cowering crocodile hath raised his head!
What bursting flame
Lightens the long track of the gleamy brine!
From yon proud ship it came,
That towered the leader of the hostile line!
Now loud explosion rends the midnight air!
Heard ye the last deep groaning of despair?
Heaven's fiery cope unwonted thunders fill,
Then, with one dreadful pause, earth, air, and seas are still!

But now the mingled fight
Begins its awful strife again!
Through the dun shades of night
Along the darkly-heaving main
Is seen the frequent flash;
And many a towering mast with dreadful crash
Rings falling. Is the scene of slaughter o'er?
Is the death-cry heard no more?
Lo! where the East a glimmering freckle streaks,
Slow o'er the shadowy wave the gray dawn breaks.
Behold, O Sun, the flood
Strewed with the dead, and dark with blood!
Behold, all scattered on the rocking tide,
The wrecks of haughty Gallia's pride!
But Britain's floating bulwarks, with serene
And silent pomp, amid the deathful scene
Move glorious, and more beautiful display
Their ensigns streaming to thy orient ray.

Awful Genius of the land!
Who (thy reign of glory closed)
By marble wrecks, half-hid in sand,
Hast mournfully reposed;
Who long, amid the wasteful desert wide,
Hast loved with death-like stillness to abide;
Or wrapped in tenfold gloom,
From noise of human things for ages hid,
Hast sat upon the shapeless tomb
In the forlorn and dripping pyramid;
Awake! Arise!
Though thou behold the day no more
That saw thy pride and pomp of yore;
Though, like the sounds that in the morning ray
Trembled and died away
From Memnon's statue; though, like these, the voice
That bade thy vernal plains rejoice,
The voice of Science, is no longer heard;
And all thy gorgeous state hath disappeared:
Yet hear, with triumph, and with hope again,
The shouts of joy that swell from thy forsaken main!

And, oh! might He, at whose command
Deep darkness shades a mourning land;
At whose command, bursting from night,
And flaming with redoubled light,
The Sun of Science mounts again,
And re-illumes the wide-extended plain!
Might He, from this eventful day,
Illustrious Egypt, to thy shore
Science, Freedom, Peace restore,
And bid thy crowded ports their ancient pomp display!
No more should Superstition mark,
In characters uncouth and dark,
Her dreary, monumental shrine!
No more should meek-eyed Piety
Outcast, insulted lie
Beneath the mosque, whose golden crescents shine,
But starting from her trance,
O'er Nubia's sands advance
Beyond the farthest fountains of the Nile!
The dismal Gallas should behold her smile,
And Abyssinia's inmost rocks rejoice
To hear her awful lore, yet soft consoling voice!

Hasten, O GOD! the time, when never more
Pale Pity, from her moonlight seat shall hear,
And dropping at the sound a fruitless tear,
The far-off battle's melancholy roar;
When never more Horror's portentous cry
Shall sound amid the troubled sky;
Or dark Destruction's grimly-smiling mien,
Through the red flashes of the fight be seen!
Father in heaven! our ardent hopes fulfil;
Thou speakest "Peace," and the vexed world is still!
Yet should Oppression huge arise,
And with bloody banners spread,
Upon the gasping nations tread,
Whilst he thy name defies,
Trusting in Thee alone, we hope to quell
His furious might, his purpose fell;
And as the ensigns of his baffled pride
O'er the seas are scattered wide,
We will take up a joyous strain and cry
Shout! for the Lord hath triumphed gloriously!

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