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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: Waterloo

The Dance of Death

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

NIGHT and morning were at meeting

Over Waterloo:

Cocks had sung their earliest greeting,

Faint and low they crew,

For no paly beam yet shone

On the heights of Mount Saint John;

Tempest-clouds prolonged the sway

Of timeless darkness over day;

Whirlwind, thunder-clap, and shower

Marked it a predestined hour.

Broad and frequent through the night

Flashed the sheets of levin-light:

Muskets, glancing lightnings back,

Showed the dreary bivouac

Where the soldier lay,

Chill and stiff, and drenched with rain,

Wishing dawn of morn again,

Though death should come with day.

’T is at such a tide and hour,

Wizard, witch, and fiend have power,

And ghastly forms through mist and shower,

Gleam on the gifted ken;

And then the affrighted prophet’s ear

Drinks whispers strange of fate and fear,

Presaging death and ruin near

Among the sons of men;—

Apart from Albyn’s war-array,

’T was then gray Allan sleepless lay;

Gray Allan, who, for many a day,

Had followed stout and stern,

Where through battle’s rout and reel,

Storm of shot and hedge of steel,

Led the grandson of Lochiel,

Valiant Fassiefern.

Through steel and shot he leads no more,

Low-laid mid friends’ and foemen’s gore,—

But long his native lake’s wild shore,

And Sunart rough, and high Ardgower,

And Morven long shall tell,

And proud Ben Nevis hear with awe,

How, upon bloody Quatre-Bras,

Brave Cameron heard the wild hurra

Of conquest as he fell.

Lone on the outskirts of the host,

The weary sentinel held post,

And heard, through darkness far aloof,

The frequent clang of courser’s hoof,

Where held the cloaked patrol their course;

And spurred ’gainst storm the swerving horse;

But there are sounds in Allan’s ear,

Patrol nor sentinel may hear,

And sights before his eye aghast

Invisible to them have passed,

When down the destined plain

’Twixt Britain and the bands of France,

Wild as marsh-born meteors glance,

Strange phantoms wheeled a revel dance,

And doomed the future slain.

Such forms were seen, such sounds were heard,

When Scotland’s James his march prepared

For Flodden’s fatal plain;

Such, when he drew his ruthless sword,

As choosers of the slain, adored

The yet unchristened Dane.

An indistinct and phantom band,

They wheeled their ring-dance hand in hand,

With gesture wild and dread;

The seer, who watched them ride the storm,

Saw through their faint and shadowy form

The lightnings flash more red;

And still their ghastly roundelay

Was of the coming battle-fray

And of the destined dead.