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The Cossack's Charge by F. A. Durivage

 

The following verses refer to the fate of a small detachment of the Imperial army, on their retreat from Moscow.

I. Night on the boundless waste! And the snow-flakes wildly driven, A shroud on the face of earth, And a frown on the face of heaven! Is it the tempest's howl That sweeps o'er moor and glen? Or is it the deep drum that times The march of martial men? II. Against the storm they move, With manly port and tread, And thy glorious engles, France, Are waving overhead. With features proud and stern The serried warriors come, While ever in their van is heard The deep sepulchral drum. III. And some are there who fought On Egypt's burning sand, And met the savage Austrian At Lodi, hand to hand, Who saw their eagles fly Above Marengo's plain, And proudly marched to victory O'er dying men and slain. IV. From Moscow's scorching flame, From the Kremlin's fallen walls, The remnant of her bravest brave, A tearful nation calls. Yet proudly come they back, As if from victory won, For the spell words breathed by each platoon, Are France! Napoleon! V. The conscsipt dreams of home — A cottage by the Seine — The lips that smiled upon him once, He seems to press again. Once more he joins the dance, With Julie hand in hand, As the sailor in his fever-dreams, Appears to tread the land. VI. "Halt!" Is't a cloud that flings Its shadow o'er the snow — A shifting cloud, that moves as oft As storm-gusts wildly blow? But hark! a sound — a shout Arises from afar; It is no tempest-voice — it is The Cossack's wild hurrah! VII. Through wreaths of blinding snow They marked, those men of France, The well-known Cossack steed, The well-known Cossack lance. Halt! at the chief's command, The advancing steps are staid, Promptly as in the Champ de Mars, Of old, upon parade. VIII. "Fix bayonets!" At once Is heard the crash of steel — They form the hollow square — At a word — the front ranks kneel There, in the biting cold, Equal to either fate, The brave, devoted regiment, The Cossack's charge await. IX. The Hetman waves his blade — On dash the Cossack horse — No volley from the hollow square Arrests their headlong course. No chieftain's rallying shout, His troop to action calls — But heavily, without a groan, The front rank slowly falls. X. The Hetman reins his steed With a wild and troubled air — What need of Cossack's levelled lance? The hand of death is there! The valiant were no more — From the soil that foemen trod — From the tempest and the battle, Sped their stormy souls to God.
 
 
 

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