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POEMS

BY

WINTHROP MACKWORTH PRAED.

THE EVE OF BATTLE.

“It is not yet near day. Come, go with me;
Under our tents I'll play the eavesdropper."

Shakspeare.

The night comes on, and o'er the field
The moon shines bright on helm and shield;
But there are many on that plain
That shall not see her light again ;
She looks serene on countless bands
Of mailed breasts and steel-bound hands;
And shows a thousand faces there
Of courage high, and dark despair,
All mingled as the legions lie
Wrapt in their dreams of victory.
A lowering sound of doubt and fear
Breaks sudden on the startled ear,
And hands are clench’d, and cheeks are pale,
And from bright blade and ringing mail

A thousand hands, with busy toil,
Clean off each ancient stain or soil ;
Or spots of blood, where truth may read
For every drop a guilty deed.

Survey the crowds who there await,
In various mood, the shock of fate;
Who burn to meet, or strive to shun,
The dangers of to-morrow's sun.
Look on the husband's anxious tears,
The hero's hopes, the coward's fears,
The vices that e'en here are found,
The follies that are hovering round;
And learn that (treat it as you will)
Our life must be a mockery still.
Alas! the same caprices reign
In courtly ha'l, or tented plain ;
And the same follies are reveal'd
In ball-room, and in battle-field.

Turn to yon open tent, and see Where, drunk with youth and Burgundy, Reclines, his midnight revel o’er, The beau of battle, Theodore. Before him, on his desk, he lays The billet-doux of other days; And while he reads, his fancy lingers On those white hands and witching fingers That traced the darling signaturesThe “ Yours till death,” and “Truly yours:

And as by turns they meet his eye,
He looks, and laughs, and throws them by,
Until, perchance, some magic name
Lights up a spark of former flame;
And then he ponders, in his trance,
On Mary's love-inspiring glance,
On Chloe's eye of glittening fire,
And Laura's look of fond desire.
Poor Theodore! if valiant breast,
And open heart, and song, and jest,
And laughing lip, and auburn hair,
And vow sent up by lady fair,
Can save a youthful warrior's life,-
Thou fall’st not in to-morrow's strife.

Look yonder !—on the dewy sward Tom Wittol lies—a brother bard; He lies and ponders on the stars, On virtue, genius, and the wars ; On dark ravines, and woody dells, On mirth and muses, shot and shells; On black mustachios, and White Surrey, On rhyme and sabres-death and Murray; Until at last his fancy glows As if it felt to-morrow's blows; Anticipation fires his brain With fights unfought, unslaughtered slain; And on the fray that is to be Comes forth a Dirge or Elegy;

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