Home  »  Poetry of Byron  »  The Assault

Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

II. Descriptive and Narrative

The Assault

(Siege of Corinth, Stanza 22–27.)

LIGHTLY and brightly breaks away

The Morning from her mantle grey,

And the Noon will look on a sultry day.

Hark to the trump, and the drum,

And the mournful sound of the barbarous horn,

And the flap of the banners, that flit as they’re borne,

And the neigh of the steed, and the multitude’s hum,

And the clash, and the shout, “They come! they come!”

The horsetails are pluck’d from the ground, and the sword

From its sheath; and they form, and but wait for the word.

Tartar, and Spahi, and Turcoman,

Strike your tents, and throng to the van;

Mount ye, spur ye, skirr the plain,

That the fugitive may flee in vain,

When he breaks from the town; and none escape,

Aged or young, in the Christian shape;

While your fellows on foot, in a fiery mass,

Bloodstain the breach through which they pass.

The steeds are all bridled, and snort to the rein;

Curved is each neck, and flowing each mane;

White is the foam of their champ on the bit:

The spears are uplifted; the matches are lit;

The cannon are pointed, and ready to roar,

And crush the wall they have crumbled before:

Forms in his phalanx each Janizar;

Alp at their head; his right arm is bare,

So is the blade of his scimitar;

The khan and the pachas are all at their post;

The vizier himself at the head of the host.

When the culverin’s signal is fired, then on;

Leave not in Corinth a living one—

A priest at her altars, a chief in her halls,

A hearth in her mansions, a stone on her walls.

God and the prophet—Alla Hu!

Up to the skies with that wild halloo!

“There the breach lies for passage, the ladder to scale;

And your hands on your sabres, and how should ye fail?

He who first downs with the red cross may crave

His heart’s dearest wish; let him ask it, and have!”

Thus utter’d Coumourgi, the dauntless vizier;

The reply was the brandish of sabre and spear,

And the shout of fierce thousands in joyous ire:—

Silence—hark to the signal—fire!


The rampart is won, and the spoil begun,

And all but the after carnage done.

But here and there, where ’vantage ground

Against the foe may still be found,

Desperate groups of twelve or ten

Make a pause, and turn again—

With banded backs against the wall

Fiercely stand, or fighting fall.

There stood an old man—his hairs were white,

But his veteran arm was full of might:

So gallantly bore he the brunt of the fray,

The dead before him, on that day,

In a semicircle lay;

Still he combated unwounded,

Though retreating, unsurrounded.

Many a scar of former fight

Lurk’d beneath his corslet bright;

But of every wound his body bore,

Each and all had been ta’en before:

Though aged, he was so iron of limb,

Few of our youth could cope with him.

Still the old man stood erect,

And Alp’s career a moment check’d.

“Yield thee, Minotti; quarter take,

For thine own, thy daughter’s sake.”

“Never, renegado, never!

Though the life of thy gift would last for ever.”

“Francesca!—Oh, my promised bride!

Must she too perish by thy pride?”

“She is safe.”—“Where? where?”—“In heaven;

From whence thy traitor soul is driven—

Far from thee, and undefiled.”

Grimly then Minotti smiled,

As he saw Alp staggering bow

Before his words, as with a blow.

“Oh God! when died she?”—“Yesternight—

Nor weep I for her spirit’s flight:

None of my pure race shall be

Slaves to Mahomet and thee—

Come on!”—That challenge is in vain—

Alp’s already with the slain!

While Minotti’s words were wreaking

More revenge in bitter speaking

Than his falchion’s point had found

Had the time allow’d to wound,

From within the neighbouring porch

Of a long defended church,

Where the last and desperate few

Would the failing fight renew,

The sharp shot dash’d Alp to the ground.

Ere an eye could view the wound

That crash’d through the brain of the infidel,

Round he spun, and down he fell.