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

Belgium: Waterloo


By From the French

Translated by Lord Byron

WE do not curse thee, Waterloo!

Though freedom’s blood thy plain bedew;

There ’t was shed, but is not sunk,—

Rising from each gory trunk,

Like the water-spout from ocean,

With a strong and growing motion,—

It soars and mingles in the air,

With that of lost Labedoyere,—

With that of him whose honored grave

Contains the “bravest of the brave.”

A crimson cloud it spreads and glows,

But shall return to whence it rose;

When ’t is full, ’t will burst asunder,—

Never yet was heard such thunder

As then shall shake the world with wonder,—

Never yet was seen such lightning,

As o’er heaven shall then be brightening!

Like the Wormwood star, foretold

By the sainted seer of old,

Showering down a fiery flood,

Turning rivers into blood.

The chief has fallen, but not by you,

Vanquishers of Waterloo!

When the soldier citizen

Swayed not o’er his fellow-men,—

Save in deeds that led them on

Where glory smiled on freedom’s son,—

Who, of all the despots banded,

With that youthful chief competed?

Who could boast o’er France defeated,

Till lone tyranny commanded?

Till, goaded by ambition’s sting,

The hero sunk into the king?

Then he fell;—so perish all,

Who would men by man enthrall!

And thou too of the snow-white plume!

Whose realm refused thee even a tomb;

Better hadst thou still been leading

France o’er hosts of hirelings bleeding,

Than sold thyself to death and shame

For a meanly royal name;

Such as he of Naples wears,

Who thy blood-bought title bears.

Little didst thou deem, when dashing

On thy war-horse through the ranks,

Like a stream which burst its banks,

While helmets cleft, and sabres clashing,

Shone and shivered fast around thee,—

Of the fate at last which found thee:

Was that haughty plume laid low

By a slave’s dishonest blow?

Once as the moon sways o’er the tide,

It rolled in air, the warrior’s guide;

Through the smoke-created night

Of the black and sulphurous fight,

The soldier raised his seeking eye

To catch that crest’s ascendency,—

And as it onward rolling rose

So moved his heart upon our foes.

There, where death’s brief pang was quickest,

And the battle’s wreck lay thickest,

Strewed beneath the advancing banner

Of the eagle’s burning crest,—

(There with thunder-clouds to fan her

Who could then her wing arrest,—

Victory beaming from her breast?)

While the broken line enlarging

Fell, or fled along the plain:

There be sure was Murat charging!

There he ne’er shall charge again!

O’er glories gone the invaders march,

Weeps triumph o’er each levelled arch,—

But let Freedom rejoice,

With her heart in her voice;

Put her hand on her sword,

Doubly shall she be adored;

France hath twice too well been taught

The “moral lesson” dearly bought,—

Her safety sits not on a throne,

With Capet or Napoleon!

But in equal rights and laws,

Hearts and hands in one great cause,—

Freedom, such as God hath given

Unto all beneath his heaven,

With their breath, and from their birth,

Though guilt would sweep it from the earth;

With a fierce and lavish hand

Scattering nations’ wealth like sand;

Pouring nations’ blood like water,

In imperial seas of slaughter!

But the heart and the mind,

And the voice of mankind,

Shall arise in communion,—

And who shall resist that proud union?

The time is past when swords subdued,—

Man may die,—the soul ’s renewed:

Even in this low world of care,

Freedom ne’er shall want an heir:

Millions breathe but to inherit

Her forever bounding spirit,—

When once more her hosts assemble,

Tyrants shall believe and tremble,—

Smile they at this idle threat?

Crimson tears will follow yet.