The Sword

'Twas the battle-field, and the cold pale moon 
      Look'd down on the dead and dying,
And the wind pass'd o'er, with a dirge and a wail, 
      Where the young and the brave were lying. 

With his father's sword in his red right hand, 
      And the hostile dead around him, 
Lay a youthful chief; but his bed was the ground. 
      And the grave's icy sleep had bound him. 

A reckless rover, 'mid death and doom, 
      Pass'd a soldier, his plunder seeking : 
Careless he stept where friend and foe 
      Lay alike in their life-blood reeking. 

Drawn by the shine of the warrior's sword, 
      The soldier paused beside it ; 
He wrench'd the hand with a giant's strength, 
      But the grasp of the dead defied it. 

He loosed his hold, and his English heart 
      Took part with the dead before him, 
And he honour'd the brave who died sword in hand, 
      As with soften'd brow he leant o'er him. 

‘A soldier's death thou hast boldly died, 
      A soldiers grave won by it ; 
Before I would take that sword from thine hand. 
      My own llfe's-blood should dye It. 

Thou shalt not be left for the carrion crow, 
      Or the wolf to batten o'er thee ; 
Or the coward insult the gallant dead, 
      Who in life had trembled before thee.' 

Then dug he a grave in the crimson earth 
      Where his warrior foe was sleeping ;
And he laid him there in honour and rest, 
      With his sword in his own brave keeping.
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Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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