The Eve of Waterloo by Lord Byron









The Eve of Waterloo
by Lord Byron

(The battle of Waterloo occurred June 18, 1815)

There was a sound of revelry by night,

And Belgium's capital had gathered then

Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright

The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.

A thousand hearts beat happily; and when

Music arose with its voluptuous swell,

Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,

And all went merry as a marriage bell;

But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell.


Did ye not hear it?—No; 'twas but the wind,

Or the car rattling o'er the stony street:

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;

No sleep till morn, when youth and pleasure meet

To chase the glowing hours with flying feet—

But, hark!—that heavy sound breaks in once more,

As if the clouds its echo would repeat

And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!

Arm! arm! it is—it is the cannon's opening roar.


Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,

And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress,

And cheeks all pale, which but an hour ago

Blush'd at the praise of their own loveliness;

And there were sudden partings, such as press

The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs

Which ne'er might be repeated: who could guess

If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,

Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise!


And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,

The mustering squadron, and the clattering car

Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,

And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;

And the deep thunder, peal on peal afar;

And near, the beat of the alarming drum

Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;

While thronged the citizens with terror dumb,

Or whispering with white lips, "The foe! they come! they come!"


Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,

Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,

The midnight brought the signal sound of strife,

The morn the marshaling in arms,—the day

Battle's magnificently stern array!

The thunder clouds close o'er it, which when rent

The earth is covered thick with other clay,

Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,

Rider and horse—friend, foe—in one red burial blent.