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On came the whirlwind-like the last
Three hundred cannon-mouths roar'd loud,
The cohorts' eagles flew.
In one dark torrent, broad and strong,
But on the British heart were lost
Till from their line scarce spears' lengths three,
Helmet, and plume, and panoply,--
As when they practise to display
Then down went helm and lance,
Wheel'd full against their staggering flanks,
Then to the musket-knell succeeds
The clash of swords- the neigh of steeds-
2 ["I heard the broadswords' deadly clang,
As if an hundred anvils rang!"
Lady of the Lake.]
1 A private soldier of the 95th regiment compared the sound which took place immediately upon the British cavalry mingling with those of the enemy, to "a thousand tinkers at work mending pots and kettles.”
Then, WELLINGTON! thy piercing eye
This crisis caught of destiny
The British host had stood
That morn 'gainst charge of sword and lance'
O Thou, whose inauspicious aim
Or will thy chosen brook to feel
[The cuirassiers continued their dreadful onset, and rode up to the squares in the full confidence, apparently, of sweeping every thing before the impetuosity of their charge. Their onset and reception was like a furious ocean pouring itself against a chain of insulated rocks. The British squares stood unmoved, and never gave fire until the cavalry were within ten yards, when men rolled one way, horses galloped another, and the cuirassiers were in every instance driven back.” — Life of Bonaparte, vol. viii. p. 487.]
"No persuasion or authority could prevail upon the French troops to stand the shock of the bayonet. The Imperial Guards, in particular, hardly stood till the British were within thirty yards of them, although the French author, already quoted, has put into their mouths the magnanimous sentiment, "The Guards never yield-they die." The same author has covered the plateau, or eminence, of St. Jean, which formed the British position, with redoubts and intrenchments which never had an existence. As the narrative, which is in many respects curious, was written by an eyewitness, he was probably deceived by the appearance of a road and ditch which run along part of the hill. It may be also mentioned, in criticising this work, that the writer mentions the
Or dost thou turn thine eye
Or dwells not in thy memory still,
For empire enterprised—
He stood the cast his rashness play'd,
Chateau of Hougomont to have been carried by the French, although it was resolutely and successfully defended during the whole action. The enemy, indeed, possessed themselves of the wood by which it is surrounded, and at length set fire to the house itself; but the British (a detachment of the Guards, under the command of Colonel Macdonnell, and afterwards of Colonel Home) made good the garden, and thus preserved, by their desperate resistance, the post which covered the return of the Duke of Wellington's right flank.
Dug his red grave with his own blade,
But if revolves thy fainter thought
To gild the military fame.
Which thou, for life, in traffic tame
Shall future ages tell this tale
["When the engagement was ended, it evidently appeared with what undaunted spirit and resolution Catiline's army had been fired; for the body of every one was found on that very spot which, during the battle, he had occupied; those only excepted who were forced from their posts by the Prætorian cohort; and even they, though they fell a little out of their ranks, were all wounded before. Catiline himself was found, far from his own men, amidst the dead bodies of the enemy, breathing a little, with an air of that fierceness still in his face which he had when alive. Finally, in all his army, there was not so much as one free citizen taken prisoner, either in the engagement or in flight; for they spared their own lives as little as those of the enemy. The army of the republic obtained the victory, indeed, but it was neither a cheap nor a joyful one, for their bravest men were either slain in battle or dangerously wounded. As there were many, too, who went to view the field, either out of curiosity or a desire of plunder, in turning over the dead bodies, some found a friend, some a relation, and some a guest; others there were likewise who discovered their enemies; so that, through the whole army, there appeared a mixture of gladness and sorrow, joy and mourning.”—Sallust.]