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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.


Death of Eliza at the Battle of Minden

By Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802)

(From The Loves of the Plants)

SO stood Eliza on the wood-crowned height,

O’er Minden’s plain, spectatress of the fight.

Sought with bold eye amid the bloody strife

Her dearer self, the partner of her life;

From hill to hill the rushing host pursued,

And viewed his banner, or believed she viewed.

Pleased with the distant roar, with quicker tread

Fast by his hand one lisping boy she led;

And one fair girl amid the loud alarm

Slept on her kerchief, cradled by her arm;

While round her brows bright beams of honor dart,

And love’s warm eddies circle round her heart.

Near and more near the intrepid beauty pressed,

Saw through the driving smoke his dancing crest;

Saw on his helm, her virgin hands inwove,

Bright stars of gold and mystic knots of love;

Heard the exulting shout, “They run! they run!”

“Great God!” she cried, “he ’s safe! the battle ’s won!”

A ball now hisses through the airy tides,

(Some fury winged it, and some demon guides!)

Parts the fine looks her graceful head that deck,

Wounds her fair ear, and sinks into her neck;

The red stream, issuing from her azure veins,

Dyes her white veil, her ivory bosom stains.

“Ah me!” she cried, and, sinking on the ground,

Kissed her dear babes, regardless of the wound;

“O, cease not yet to beat, thou vital urn!

Wait, gushing life, O, wait my love’s return!”

Hoarse barks the wolf, the vulture screams from far!

The angel Pity shuns the walks of war!

“O, spare, ye war-hounds, spare their tender age;

On me, on me,” she cried, “exhaust your rage!”

Then with weak arms her weeping babes caressed,

And, sighing, hid them in her blood-stained vest.

From tent to tent the impatient warrior flies,

Fear in his heart and frenzy in his eyes;

Eliza’s name along the camp he calls,

“Eliza” echoes through the canvas walls;

Quick through the murmuring gloom his footsteps tread,

O’er groaning heaps, the dying and the dead,

Vault o’er the plain, and in the tangled wood,

Lo! dead Eliza weltering in her blood!

Soon hears his listening son the welcome sounds,

With open arms and sparkling eye he bounds:

“Speak low,” he cries, and gives his little hand,

“Eliza sleeps upon the dew-cold sand”;

Poor weeping babe with bloody fingers pressed,

And tried with pouting lips her milkless breast.

“Alas! we both with cold and hunger quake,—

Why do you weep? Mamma will soon awake.”

“She ’ll wake no more!” the hapless mourner cried.

Upturned his eyes, and clasped his hands, and sighed;

Stretched on the ground, awhile entranced he lay,

And pressed warm kisses on the lifeless clay;

And then upsprung with wild convulsive start,

And all the father kindled in his heart:

“O heavens!” he cried, “my first rash vow forgive;

These bind to earth, for these I pray to live!”

Round his chill babes he wrapped his crimson vest,

And clasped them sobbing to his aching breast.