Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Spain, &c.
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV.  1876–79.
 
Belgium: Namur
On the Taking of Namur
Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux (1636–1711)
 
Translated by John O’Kane

SAY, have Latona’s Son
And Neptune joined their powers
As for Laomedon,
To crown those crags with towers?
Around the famous site        5
Sambre and Meuse unite
To bar the fatal path;
A hundred throats of iron
The dreadful hills environ,
To belch out flame and death.        10
 
Ten thousand warriors wight
Within expect the foe,
Far-slaying flashes light
Their ramparts all aglow,
Along the fatal line        15
Deep lurks the treacherous mine,
Surcharged with latent fire,
Ready to burst in air,
The sulphurous sepulchre
Of whoso ventures nigher.
*        *        *        *        *
        20
But what hath swollen the Sambre?
’Neath Gemini dismayed,
The cold floods of December
The champaign all invade.
In tears is Ceres fleeing        25
A prey to Boreas, seeing
Her cornfields harvest-crowned,
And ’neath the Hyades weeping
The Naiads’ brown ooze sweeping
O’er all her treasures drowned.        30
 
Rage on both war and weather,
Winds, princes, nations, showers,
Band all your clouds together,
Rank all your martial powers:
Yet Namur’s battered wall        35
Beneath the hand shall fall
That conquered Lille, Courtrai,
Ypres, proud Spanish Gand,
St. Omer, Besançon,
Dole, Maestricht, and Cambrai.        40
 
My word ’s fulfilled: the thunder
Bursts o’er the rocking town,
Beneath the blows in sunder
The walls are crashing down;
In dominant opposition        45
Mars hurtles demolition;
And in the air each shell,
First up the welkin streaming,
Then falling earthward, seeming
As though ’t would open hell.        50
 
The town’s last hope, close ranks,
Bavaria, Nassau bold!
Secure behind a river’s banks
The scene you may behold.
The dreadful glacis mark:        55
Behold our warriors stark,—
See, up the rocks they strain,
And Louis of the whole
In wave or fire, their soul,
Amid them press amain.        60
 
Behold, mid storms of lead
That from the ramparts fly,
The plume, that o’er his head
Attracteth every eye!
The terror-striking star,        65
That rules the fate of war,
And victory doth bind
Amid the battle gory,
While Mars himself and Glory
Come panting up behind.        70
 
Iberia’s great defenders
On Mehagne’s banks in sight,
Or ere the town surrenders
Go forth and dare the fight.
Beside the affrighted river,        75
So many warriors never
Were massed for fight before.
Go forth then! what retards you?
The universe regards you;
What! dare you not cross o’er?        80
 
Far from opposing barriers
To your uncounted ranks,
Our Luxembourg his warriors
Retireth from the banks.
What! at their sight art cold?        85
Where are the chiefs so bold
For fight so lately fain,
Who were from Thamis wave,
And the submissive Drave
To seek us by the Seine?        90
 
Now fell, while battle sounded,
On Namur double dread,
’Neath his last wall confounded,
Its governor hath fled.
Already steel and flame in hand        95
To the gates a daring band,
Their course our cohorts take,
O’er piles of weapons strewn
Carcass and brick and stone.
A spacious road they make.        100
 
’T is done: I hear the drum,
From those defenceless towers
The signal of surrender ’s come,
The fire has ceased. ’T is ours.
Abate your arrogance,        105
Proud enemies of France,
And bear in humble strain
To Brussels and to Liége,
The tale of Namur’s siege,
That ’neath your eyes was ta’en.
*        *        *        *        *
        110
 
 
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