Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
June 18
Defeat of Napoleon
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
        
From “Childe Harold”
  The battle of Waterloo, by which Napoleon’s power was completely broken, was fought on June 18, 1815, between the French and the Allies (English and Prussian).

THERE sunk the greatest, nor the worst of men,
Whose spirit antithetically mixt
One moment of the mightiest, and again
On little objects with like firmness fixt,
Extreme in all things! hadst thou been betwixt,        5
Thy throne had still been thine, or never been;
For daring made thy rise as fall: thou seek’st
Even now to reassume the imperial mien,
And shake again the world, the Thunderer of the scene!
 
Conqueror and captive of the earth art thou!        10
She trembles at thee still, and thy wild name
Was ne’er more bruited in men’s minds than now
That thou art nothing, save the jest of Fame,
Who woo’d thee once, thy vassal, and became
The flatterer of thy fierceness, till thou wert        15
A god unto thyself; nor less the same
To the astounded kingdoms all inert,
Who deem’d thee for a time whate’er thou didst assert.
 
Oh, more or less than man—in high or low,
Battling with nations, flying from the field;        20
Now making monarch’s necks thy footstool, now
More than thy meanest soldier taught to yield:
An empire thou couldst crush, command, rebuild,
But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,
However deeply in men’s spirits skill’d,        25
Look through thine own, nor curb the lust of war,
Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.
 
Yet well thy soul hath brook’d the turning tide
With that untaught innate philosophy,
Which, be it wisdom, coldness, or deep pride,        30
Is gall and wormwood to an enemy.
When the whole host of hatred stood hard by.
To watch and mock thee shrinking, thou hast smiled
With a sedate and all-enduring eye;—
When Fortune fled her spoil’d and favorite child,        35
He stood unbow’d beneath the ills upon him piled.
 
Sager than in thy fortunes; for in them
Ambition steel’d thee on too far to show
That just habitual scorn which could contemn
Men and their thoughts; ’twere wise to feel, not so        40
To wear it ever on thy lip and brow,
And spurn the instruments thou wert to use
Till they were turn’d unto thine overthrow;
’Tis but a worthless world to win or lose;
So hath it proved to thee, and all such lot who choose.        45
 
 
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