Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF LEONIDAS, by GEORGE CROLY



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THE DEATH OF LEONIDAS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It was the wild midnight, a storm was in the sky
Last Line: Bring forth the self-same men?
Subject(s): Leonidas, King Of Sparta (D. 480 B.c.); Trojan War; War


IT was the wild midnight, --
A storm was on the sky;
The lightning gave its light,
And the thunder echoed by.

The torrent swept the glen,
The ocean lashed the shore;
Then rose the Spartan men,
To make their bed in gore:

Swift from the deluge ground
Three hundred took the shield;
Then, silent, gathered round
The leader of the field!

He spake no warrior word,
He bade no trumpet blow,
But the signal thunder roared,
And they rushed upon the foe.

The fiery element
Showed, with one mighty gleam,
Rampart, and flag, and tent,
Like the spectres of a dream.

All up the mountain's side,
All down the woody vale,
All by the rolling tide
Waved the Persian banners pale.

And foremost from the pass,
Among the slumbering band,
Sprang King Leonidas,
Like the lightning's living brand.

Then double darkness fell,
And the forest ceased its moan;
But there came a clash of steel,
And a distant dying groan.

Anon, a trumpet blew,
And a fiery sheet burst high,
That o'er the midnight threw
A blood-red canopy.

A host glared on the hill;
A host glared by the bay;
But the Greeks rushed onward still,
Like leopards in their play.

The air was all a yell,
And the earth was all a flame,
Where the Spartan's bloody steel
On the silken turbans came;

And still the Greek rushed on
Where the fiery torrent rolled,
Till like a rising sun
Shone Xerxes' tent of gold.

They found a royal feast,
His midnight banquet, there;
And the treasures of the East
Lay beneath the Doric spear.

Then sat to the repast
The bravest of the brave!
That feast must be their last,
That spot must be their grave.

They pledged old Sparta's name
In cups of Syrian wine,
And the warrior's deathless fame
Was sung in strains divine.

They took the rose-wreathed lyres
From eunuch and from slave,
And taught the languid wires,
The sounds that Freedom gave.

But now the morning star
Crowned OEta's twilight brow;
And the Persian horn of war
From the hills began to blow.

Up rose the glorious rank,
To Greece one cup poured high,
Then hand in hand they drank,
"To immortality!"

Fear on King Xerxes fell,
When, like spirits from the tomb,
With shout and trumpet knell,
He saw the warriors come.

But down swept all his power,
With chariot and with charge;
Down poured the arrows' shower,
Till sank the Dorian's targe.

They gathered round the tent,
With all their strength unstrung;
To Greece one look they sent,
Then on high their torches flung.

The king sat on the throne,
His captains by his side,
While the flame rushed roaring on,
And their Paean loud replied.

Thus fought the Greek of old!
Thus will he fight again!
Shall not the self-same mould
Bring forth the self-same men?




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