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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Belgium: Namur

On the Taking of Namur

By Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux (1636–1711)

Translated by John O’Kane

SAY, have Latona’s Son

And Neptune joined their powers

As for Laomedon,

To crown those crags with towers?

Around the famous site

Sambre and Meuse unite

To bar the fatal path;

A hundred throats of iron

The dreadful hills environ,

To belch out flame and death.

Ten thousand warriors wight

Within expect the foe,

Far-slaying flashes light

Their ramparts all aglow,

Along the fatal line

Deep lurks the treacherous mine,

Surcharged with latent fire,

Ready to burst in air,

The sulphurous sepulchre

Of whoso ventures nigher.


But what hath swollen the Sambre?

’Neath Gemini dismayed,

The cold floods of December

The champaign all invade.

In tears is Ceres fleeing

A prey to Boreas, seeing

Her cornfields harvest-crowned,

And ’neath the Hyades weeping

The Naiads’ brown ooze sweeping

O’er all her treasures drowned.

Rage on both war and weather,

Winds, princes, nations, showers,

Band all your clouds together,

Rank all your martial powers:

Yet Namur’s battered wall

Beneath the hand shall fall

That conquered Lille, Courtrai,

Ypres, proud Spanish Gand,

St. Omer, Besançon,

Dole, Maestricht, and Cambrai.

My word ’s fulfilled: the thunder

Bursts o’er the rocking town,

Beneath the blows in sunder

The walls are crashing down;

In dominant opposition

Mars hurtles demolition;

And in the air each shell,

First up the welkin streaming,

Then falling earthward, seeming

As though ’t would open hell.

The town’s last hope, close ranks,

Bavaria, Nassau bold!

Secure behind a river’s banks

The scene you may behold.

The dreadful glacis mark:

Behold our warriors stark,—

See, up the rocks they strain,

And Louis of the whole

In wave or fire, their soul,

Amid them press amain.

Behold, mid storms of lead

That from the ramparts fly,

The plume, that o’er his head

Attracteth every eye!

The terror-striking star,

That rules the fate of war,

And victory doth bind

Amid the battle gory,

While Mars himself and Glory

Come panting up behind.

Iberia’s great defenders

On Mehagne’s banks in sight,

Or ere the town surrenders

Go forth and dare the fight.

Beside the affrighted river,

So many warriors never

Were massed for fight before.

Go forth then! what retards you?

The universe regards you;

What! dare you not cross o’er?

Far from opposing barriers

To your uncounted ranks,

Our Luxembourg his warriors

Retireth from the banks.

What! at their sight art cold?

Where are the chiefs so bold

For fight so lately fain,

Who were from Thamis wave,

And the submissive Drave

To seek us by the Seine?

Now fell, while battle sounded,

On Namur double dread,

’Neath his last wall confounded,

Its governor hath fled.

Already steel and flame in hand

To the gates a daring band,

Their course our cohorts take,

O’er piles of weapons strewn

Carcass and brick and stone.

A spacious road they make.

’T is done: I hear the drum,

From those defenceless towers

The signal of surrender ’s come,

The fire has ceased. ’T is ours.

Abate your arrogance,

Proud enemies of France,

And bear in humble strain

To Brussels and to Liége,

The tale of Namur’s siege,

That ’neath your eyes was ta’en.