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Inured to hunters he was found at bay,
And they must kill, they cannot snare the prey.
Stern, unambitious, silent, he had been
Henceforth a calm spectator of life's scene;
But dragg'd again upon the arena, stood
A leader not unequal to the feud;
In voice-mien--gesture-savage nature spoke,
And from his eye the gladiator broke.
What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life? 910
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield ?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall ?
In this the struggle was the same with all;
Save that distemper'd passions lent their force 915
In bitterness that banish'd all remorse.
None sued, for Mercy knew her cry was vain,
The captive died upon the battle-slain:
In either cause, one rage alone possest
The empire of the alternate victor's breast; 920
And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deem'd few were slain, while more remain’d to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reap'd the famish'd land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread, 925
And Carnage smiled upon her daily dead.
XI. Fresh with the nerve the new-born impulse strung, The first success to Lara's numbers clung: But that vain victory hath ruin'd all, They form no longer to their leader's call;
930 In blind confusion on the foe they press, And think to snatch is to secure success. The lust of booty, and the thirst of hate, Lure on the broken brigands to their fate; In vain he doth whate'er a chief may do, 935 To check the headlong fury of that crew; In vain their stubborn ardour he would tame, The hand that kindles cannot quench the flame; The wary foe alone hath turn'd their mood And shown their rashness to that erring brood: 940 The feign'd retreat, the nightly ambuscade, The daily harass, and the fight delay'd, The long privation of the hoped supply, The ten tless rest beneath the humid sky, The stubborn wall that mocks the leaguer's art, 945 And palls the patience of his bafiled heart, Of these they had not deem'd: the battle-day They could encounter as a veteran may; But more preferr'd the fury of the strife, And present death to hourly suffering life: And famine wrings, and fever sweeps away His numbers melting fast from their array;
Intemperate triumph fades to discontent,
And Lara's soul alone seems still unbent:
But few remain to aid his voice and hand, 955
And thousands dwindled to a scanty band:
Desperate, though few, the last and best remain'd
To mourn the discipline they late disdain'd.
One hope survives, the frontier is not far,
And thence they may escape from native war; 960
And bear within them to the neighbouring state
An exile's sorrows, or an outlaw's hate:
Hard is the task their father land to quit,
But harder still to perish or submit.
It is resolved-they march-consenting Night 965
Guides with her star their dim and torchless flight;
Already they perceive its tranquil beam
Sleep on the surface of the barrier stream;
Already they descry—Is yon the bank?
Away! 'tis lined with many a hostile rank. 970
Return or fly!What glitters in the rear ?
'Tis Otho's banner--the pursuer's spear !
Are those the shepherds' fires upon the height ?
Alas! they blaze too widely for the flight:
Cut off from hope, and compass’d in the toil, 975
Less blood perchance hath bought a richer spoil !
A moment's pause, 'tis but to breathe their band,
Or shall they onward press, or here withstand?
It matters little-if they charge the foes Who by the border-stream their march oppose, 980 Some few, perchance, may break and pass the line, However link'd to baffle such design. “ The charge be ours! to wait for their assault “Were fate well worthy of a coward's halt.” Forth flies each sabre, reined is every steed,
985 And the next word shall scarce outstrip the deed: In the next tone of Lara's gathering breath How many shall but hear the voice of death!
His blade is bared, in him there is an air
As deep, but far too tranquil for despair ;
A something of indifference more than then
Becomes the bravest, if they feel for men-
He turn'd his eye on Kaled, ever near,
And still too faithful to betray one fear;
Perchance 'twas but the moon's dim twilight threw 995
Along his aspect an unwonted hue
Of mournful paleness, whose deep tint exprest
The truth, and not the terror of his breast.
This Lara mark'd, and laid his hand on his :
It trembled not in such an hour as this; 1000
His lip was silent, scarcely beat his heart,
His eye alone proclaim’d, “ We will not part!
“Thy band may perish, or thy friends may flee,
" Farewell to life, but not adieu to thee!"
The word hath pass'd his lips, and onward driven, 1005
Pours the link'd band through ranks asunder riven;
Well has each steed obey'd the armed heel,
And flash the scimitars, and rings the steel;
Outnumber'd not outbraved, they still oppose
Despair to daring, and a front to foes;
1010 And blood is mingled with the dashing stream, Which runs all redly till the morning beam.
Commanding, aiding, animating all,
Where foe appear'd to press, or friend to fall,
Cheers Lara's voice,and waves or strikes his steel, 1015
Inspiring hope, himself had ceased to feel.
None fled, for well they knew that flight were vain;
But those that waver turn to smite again,
While yet they find the firmest of the foe
Recoil before their leader's look and blow : 1020
Now girt with numbers, now almost alone,
He foils their ranks, or reunites his own;
Himself he spared not—once they seem'd to fly-
Now was the time, he waved his hand on high,
And shook-why sudden droops that plumed crest?
The shaft is sped--the arrow's in his breast!
That fatal gesture left the unguarded side,
And Death hath stricken down yon arm of pride.
The word of triumph fainted from his tongue;
That hand, so raised, how droopingly it hung! 1030