Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Missolonghi
By Lydia H. Sigourney (1791–1865)
 
FAMINE hath worn them pale, that noble band;—
    Yet round the long beleaguer’d wall,
    With wasted frame, and iron hand,
    Like watching skeletons they stand,
        To conquer or to fall.        5
 
Hark!—Hark! the war-cry. Swells the shout
    From wild Arabia’s wandering rout,
    From turbid Nilus’ swarthy brood,
    From Ibrahim’s host who thirst for blood,
    ’T is answer’d from the echoing skies,        10
        Sons of Miltiades, arise!—
 
    Aged men, with temples gray!—
    Why do ye haste to the battle fray?—
    Home to the couch of ease, and pray.—
    But ah! I read on those brows of gloom,        15
    That your sons have found a gory tomb,
    And ye with despair and grief opprest,
    Would strike ere ye share their clay-cold rest.—
    With features pale, yet sternly wrought
    To all the agony of thought,        20
    Yon widow’d mothers mount the tower,
    To guard the wall in danger’s hour:—
    Fast by their side in mute distress,
    Their little sons unwavering press,
    Taught from their cradle-bed to know        25
    The bitter tutelage of wo,
    No idle fears in their bosoms glow,
But pride and wrath in their dark eyes glance,
As they lift their martyr’d father’s lance.
 
  Yet more!—Yet more!—At beat of drum        30
        With wildly flowing hair,
  Helle’s beauteous maidens come,
        The iron strife to dare.—
      Sadly sweet from those lips of rose,
      The death-song of Bozzaris flows,        35
      It is your dirge, ye turban’d foes!—
  Rise, soul of Pindar! strike the shadowy lyre,
  Start from your sculptured tombs, ye sons of fire!
Snatch, snatch those gentle forms from war’s alarms,
And throw your adamantine shield around their shrinking charms.        40
 
    Louder swells the battle-cry;
    God of Christians! from the sky
    Behold the Turk’s accursed host
    Come rushing in.—’T is lost! ’T is lost!—
          Ye bold defenders, die!—        45
O thou, who sang’st of Ilion’s walls the fate,
Unseal thy blinded orbs, thine own are desolate.
 
        The stifled sob of mighty souls
          Rises on the glowing air,
        And the vow of vengeance rolls,        50
          Mingled with the dying prayer:
    “Now, by the spirits of the brave,
    Sires, who rode on glory’s wave,
    By red Scio’s wrongs and groans,
    By Ipsara’s unburied bones,        55
    Our foes beneath these reeking stones,
        Shall find a grave.”
 
    Earth heaves, as if she gorged again
    Usurping Korah’s rebel train,
    She heaves, with blast more wild and loud,        60
    Than when with trump of thunders proud,
    The electric flame subdues the cloud,
  Torn and dismember’d frames are thrown on high,
  And then the oppressor and oppress’d in equal silence lie.
 
    Come, jewell’d Sultan, from thine hall of state!        65
        Exult o’er Missolonghi’s fall,
      With flashing eye, and step elate
    The blood-pools count around her ruin’d wall.—
        Seek’st thou thus with glances vain
        The remnant of thy Moslem train?—        70
        Hither they came, with haughty brow,
        They conquer’d here,—where are they now?
Ask the hoarse vulture with her new-flesh’d beak,
            Bid the gaunt watch-dog speak,
Who bay’d so long around his murder’d master’s door,—        75
          They, with shriek and ban can tell
          The burial-place of the infidel,
Go! bind thy turban round thy brow of shame,
And hurl the mutter’d curse at thy false prophet’s name.
 
  Ancient and beautiful!—who stand’st alone        80
  In the dire crusade, while with hearts of stone
    Thy sister nations close the leaden eye
          Regardless of thine agony.
Such friends had He, who once with bursting pore,
On sad Gethsemane a lost world’s burden bore.—        85
        Leave, leave the sacred steep
        Where thy lone muses weep,
        Forth from thy sculptured halls,
        Thy pilgrim-haunted walls,
      Thy classic fountains’ crystal flood,        90
Go!—angel-strengthen’d to the field of blood.
Raise thy white arm,—unbind thy wreathed hair,
And God’s dread name upon thy breastplate wear,
Stand in His might, till the pure cross arise
O’er the proud minaret, and woo propitious skies.        95
 
 
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