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CANTO THE EIGHTH.(1)
(1) [This Canto is almost entirely filled with the taking of Ismail by storm. It would be absurd to attempt, in prose, even a feeble outline of the varied horrors which marked that celebrated scene of ruthless and indiscriminate carnage; the noble writer has depicted them with all that vivid and appalling fidelity, which, on such a theme, might be expected from his powerful muse; and, if any thing can add to the shuddering sensation we experience in reading these terrific details, it is the consideration, that poetry, in this instance, instead of dealing in fiction, must necessarily relate a tale that falls short of the truth. - CAMPBELL.]
CANTO THE EIGHTH.
Oh blood and thunder! and oh blood and wounds!
These are but vulgar oaths, as you may deem, Too gentle reader ! and most shocking sounds :
And so they are; yet thus is Glory's dream Unriddled, and as my true Muse expounds
At present such things, since they are her theme, So be they her inspirers! Call them Mars, Bellona, what you will — they mean but wars.
All was prepared — the fire, the sword, the men
To wield them in their terrible array. The army,
like a lion from his den, March'd forth with nerve and sinews bent to slay, A human Hydra, issuing from its fen
To breathe destruction on its winding way, Whose heads were heroes, which cut off in vain Immediately in others grew again.
History can only take things in the gross ;
But could we know them in detail, perchance In balancing the profit and the loss,
War's merit it by no means might enhance, To waste so much gold for a little dross,
As hath been done, mere conquest to advance. The drying up a single tear has more Of honest fame, than shedding seas of gore.
And why? --because it brings self-approbation;
Whereas the other, after all its glare,
Which (it may be) has not much left to spare, A higher title, or a loftier station,
Though they may make Corruption gape or stare, Yet, in the end, except in Freedom's battles, Are nothing but a child of Murder's rattles.
And such they are and such they will be found:
Not so Leonidas and Washington, Whose every battle-field is holy ground,
Which breathes of nations saved, not worlds undone. How sweetly on the ear such echoes sound !
While the mere victor's may appal or stun The servile and the vain, such names will be A watchword till the future shall be free.