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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 Field of Waterloo

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

FAIR Brussels, thou art far behind,

Though, lingering on the morning wind,

We yet may hear the hour

Pealed over orchard and canal,

With voice prolonged, and measured fall,

From proud Saint Michael’s tower.

Thy wood, dark Soignies, holds us now,

Where the tall beeches’ glossy bough

For many a league around,

With birch and darksome oak between,

Spreads deep and far a pathless screen

Of tangled forest-ground.

Stems planted close by stems defy

The adventurous foot,—the curious eye

For access seeks in vain!

And the brown tapestry of leaves,

Strewed on the blighted ground, receives

Nor sun, nor air, nor rain.

No opening glade dawns on our way,

No streamlet, glancing to the ray,

Our woodland path has crossed;

And the straight causeway which we tread

Prolongs a line of dull arcade,

Unvarying through the unvaried shade,

Until in distance lost.

A brighter, livelier scene succeeds;

In groups the scattering wood recedes,

Hedgerows, and huts, and sunny meads,

And cornfields glance between;

The peasant, at his labor blithe,

Plies the hooked staff and shortened scythe;

But when these ears were green,

Placed close within destruction’s scope,

Full little was that rustic’s hope

Their ripening to have seen!

And lo! a hamlet and its fane:

Let not the gazer with disdain

Their architecture view;

For yonder rude ungraceful shrine

And disproportioned spire are thine,

Immortal Waterloo!


Ay, look again,—that line so black

And trampled marks the bivouac,

Yon deep-graved ruts, the artillery’s track,

So often lost and won;

And close beside, the hardened mud

Still shows where, fetlock-deep in blood,

The fierce dragoon, through battle’s flood,

Dashed the hot war-horse on.

These spots of excavation tell

The ravage of the bursting shell,—

And feel’st thou not the tainted steam,

That reeks against the sultry beam,

From yonder trenched mound?

The pestilential fumes declare

That Carnage has replenished there

Her garner-house profound.


Pale Brussels! then what thoughts were thine,

When ceaseless from the distant line

Continued thunders came!

Each burgher held his breath to hear

These forerunners of havoc near,

Of rapine and of flame.

What ghastly sights were thine to meet,

When rolling through thy stately street,

The wounded show their mangled plight

In token of the unfinished fight,

And from each anguish-laden wain

The blood-drops laid thy dust like rain!

How often in the distant drum

Heard’st thou the fell invader come,

While Ruin, shouting to his band,

Shook high her torch and gory brand!—

Cheer thee, fair city! from yon stand,

Impatient, still his outstretched hand

Points to his prey in vain,

While maddening in his eager mood,

And all unwont to be withstood

He fires the fight again.


On came the whirlwind,—like the last

But fiercest sweep of tempest blast,—

On came the whirlwind,—steel gleams broke

Like lightning through the rolling smoke.

The war was waked anew;

Three hundred cannon-mouths roared loud,

And from their throats, with flash and cloud,

Their showers of iron threw.

Beneath their fire, in full career,

Rushed on the ponderous cuirassier,

The lancer couched his ruthless spear,

And hurrying as to havoc near,

The cohorts’ eagles flew.

In one dark torrent, broad and strong,

The advancing onset rolled along,

Forth harbingered by fierce acclaim,

That from the shroud of smoke and flame

Pealed wildly the imperial name.


Farewell, sad field! whose blighted face

Wears desolation’s withering trace;

Long shall my memory retain

Thy shattered huts and trampled grain,

With every mark of martial wrong,

That scathe thy towers, fair Hougoumont!

Yet though thy garden’s green arcade

The marksman’s fatal post was made,

Though on thy shattered beeches fell

The blended rage of shot and shell,

Though from thy blackened portals torn,

Their fall thy blighted fruit-trees mourn,

Has not such havoc bought a name

Immortal in the rolls of fame?

Yes,—Agincourt may be forgot,

And Cressy be an unknown spot,

And Blenheim’s name be new;

But still in story and in song,

For many an age remembered long,

Shall live the towers of Hougoumont,

And field of Waterloo.