Nolan halted where the squadrons,
Stood impatient of delay,
Out he drew his brief dispatches,
Which their leader quickly snatches,
At a glance their meaning catches;
They are ordered to the fray!
All that morning they had waited--
As their frowning faces showed,
Horses stamping, riders fretting,
And their teeth together setting;
Not a single sword-blade wetting
As the battle ebbed and flowed.
Now the fevered spell is broken,
Every man feels twice as large,
Every heart is fiercely leaping,
As a lion roused from sleeping,
For they know they will be sweeping
In a moment to the charge.
Brightly gleam six hundred sabres,
And the brazen trumpets ring;
Steeds are gathered, spurs are driven,
And the heavens widely riven
With a mad shout upward given,
Scaring vultures on the wing.
Stern its meaning; was not Gallia
Looking down on Albion's sons?
In each mind this thought implanted,
Undismayed and all undaunted,
By the battle-fiends enchanted,
They ride down upon the guns.
Onward! On! the chargers trample;
Quicker falls each iron heel!
And the headlong pace grows faster;
Noble steed and noble master,
Rushing on to red disaster,
Where the heavy cannons peal.
In the van rides Captain Nolan;
Soldier stout he was and brave!
And his shining sabre flashes,
As upon the foe he dashes:
God! his face turns white as ashes,
He has ridden to his grave!
Down he fell, prone from his saddle,
Without motion, without breath,
Never more a trump to waken--
He the very first one taken,
From the bough so sorely shaken,
In the vintage-time of Death.
In a moment, in a twinkling,
He was gathered to his rest;
In the time for which he'd waited--
With his gallant heart elated--
Down went Nolan, decorated
With a death wound on his breast.
Comrades still are onward charging,
He is lying on the sod:
Onward still their steeds are rushing
Where the shot and shell are crushing;
From his corpse the blood is gushing,
And his soul is with his God.
As they spur on, what strange visions
Flit across each rider's brain!
Thoughts of maidens fair, of mothers,
Friends and sisters, wives and brothers,
Blent with images of others,
Whom they ne'er shall see again.
Onward still the squadrons thunder--
Knightly hearts were their's and brave,
Men and horses without number
All the furrowed ground encumber--
Falling fast to their last slumber--
Bloody slumber! bloody grave!
Of that charge at Balaklava--
In its chivalry sublime--
Vivid, grand, historic pages
Shall descend to future ages;
Poets, painters, hoary sages
Shall record it for all time;
Telling how those English horsemen
Rode the Russian gunners down;
How with ranks all torn and shattered;
How with helmets hacked and battered;
How with sword arms blood-bespattered;
They won honor and renown.
'Twas "not war," but it was splendid
As a dream of old romance;
Thinking which their Gallic neighbors
Thrilled to watch them at their labors,
Hewing red graves with their sabres
In that wonderful advance.
Down went many a gallant soldier;
Down went many a stout dragoon;
Lying grim, and stark, and gory,
On the crimson field of glory,
Leaving us a noble story
And their white-cliffed home a boon.
Full of hopes and aspirations
Were their hearts at dawn of day;
Now, with forms all rent and broken,
Bearing each some frightful token
Of a scene ne'er to be spoken,
In their silent sleep they lay.
Here a noble charger stiffens,
There his rider grasps the hilt
Of his sabre lying bloody
By his side, upon the muddy,
Trampled ground, which darkly ruddy
Shows the blood that he has spilt.
And to-night the moon shall shudder
As she looks down on the moor,
Where the dead of hostile races
Slumber, slaughtered in their places;
All their rigid ghastly faces
Spattered hideously with gore.
And the sleepers! ah, the sleepers
Make a Westminster that day;
'Mid the seething battle's lava!
And each man who fell shall have a
Which shall never fade away.