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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI. 1876–79.

Austria: Vienna

The Battle of Vienna

By Samuel Greene Wheeler Benjamin (1837–1914)

THE STERN besieger’s fiery balls

Had crumbled haughty Vienna’s walls,

And slow adown the leaguered town

Stalked Famine, Death, and wan Despair.

The garrison fell one by one,

And nightly was the sulphurous air

Illumined by the exploding bomb

Descending like the bolt of doom.

’Neath his pavilion Mustaphâ,

Since Fate betrayed the proud Pashâ,

Laughed at his clamorous legionaries,

“Lead on! can yonder walls defy

The valor of the Janizaries!

Command the storm!” his soldiers cry:

Reclined in state, the Grand Vizier

Dozed on, nor recked of danger near.

What sudden dread appalls the host?

Where now the Tartar’s ribald boast?

What panic moves each delhi’s soul?

Hark! Sobiesky’s lancers come!

Hark! hear ye not his cannon roll?

Each eye foresees the general doom,

And Mustaphâ, a stricken man,

Marshals in haste his bristling van.

Steel helms and bucklers caught the blaze

Of the low sun’s departing rays;

Then moonlight silvered Danube’s flood,

But war was on the twilight breeze;

Cymbal and drum-beat stirred the blood

With shrill and martial melodies,

While charger’s neigh and trumpet’s bray

Urged loudly to the mortal fray.

A lion in his wrath came on

The champion of the cross, King John.

“Charge!” thundered Poland’s hero king:

Triumphant shouts the welkin rend;

The squadrons’ clashing sabres ring

As they to victory descend.

“They fly, they fly! avenge, ye Poles,

The memory of your fathers’ souls!”

But lo! a prodigy in heaven!

The crescent moon, the maid of even,

Behind a pall of awful gloom

Now hides her soft, resplendent face,

“Is ’t not the fatal sign of doom

To all the sons of Osman’s race,

Yon dire and terrible eclipse?”

Mutters the Turk with whitening lips.

Deep anguish smote the invader’s host:

“The crescent wanes, and all is lost

When Allah helps the Christian’s need!”

Fear palsied now the Spohr’s right hand;

He turned his back, he spurred his steed,

And, flying, dropped his jewelled brand,

For like gaunt wolves in northern lands,

The Poles pursued the routed bands.

The peaceful Danube kissed the shore

With waves that blushed with human gore;

The ravens held a fest that night

On flesh of steed and flesh of man;

And when the battle turned to flight,

What spoil the victors gathered then,—

Damascus blades of price untold,

And broidered tents, and cups of gold.

Now joy was in proud Vienna’s town;

Brave Staremberg had won renown;

The sweet cathedral bells were rung

As for a May-day festival,

And Sobiesky’s fame was sung

Throughout the lordly capital.

But terror fell on all who dwell

Where Bosphor’s shores in beauty swell.