Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FONTENOY, by THOMAS OSBORNE DAVIS



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FONTENOY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thrice, at the huts of fontenoy, the english column failed
Last Line: Fought and won!
Variant Title(s): Battle Of Fontenoy
Subject(s): Fontenoy, Battle Of (1745) (1745); Ireland - Rebellions


THRICE at the huts of Fontenoy the English col-
umn failed,
And twice the lines of Saint Antoine the Dutch in
vain assailed;
For town and slope were filled with fort and flank-
ing battery,
And well they swept the English ranks and Dutch
auxiliary.
As vainly through De Barri's wood the British
soldiers burst,
The French artillery drove them back diminished
and dispersed.
The bloody Duke of Cumberland beheld with anx-
ious eye,
And ordered up his last reserve, his latest chance
to try.
On Fontenoy,, on Fontenoy, how fast his generals
ride!
And mustering came his chosen troops like clouds
at eventide.

Six thousand English veterans in stately column
tread;
Their cannon blaze in front and flank, Lord Hay
is at their head.
Steady they step adown the slopes, steady they
mount the hill,
Steady they load, steady they fire, moving right
onward still,
Betwixt the wood and Fontenoy, as through a
furnace-blast,
Through rampart, trench, and palisade, and bul-
lets showering fast;
And on the open plain above they rose and kept
their course,
With ready fire and grim resolve that mocked at
hostile force.
Past Fontenoy, past Fontenoy, while thinner grow
their ranks,
They break as breaks the Zuyder Zee through Hol-
land's ocean-banks.

More idly than the summer flies, French tirailleurs
rush round;
As stubble to the lava-tide, French squadrons
strew the ground;
Bombshells and grape and round-shot tore, still on
they marched and fired;
Fast from each volley grenadier and voltigeur re-
tired.
"Push on my household cavalry," King Louis
madly cried.
To death they rush, but rude their shock, not un-
avenged they died.
On through the camp the column trod -- King
Louis turned his rein.
"Not yet, my liege," Saxe interposed; "the Irish
troops remain."
And Fontenoy, famed Fontenoy, had been a
Waterloo,
Had not these exiles ready been, fresh, vehement,
and true.

"Lord Clare," he said, "you have your wish; there
are your Saxon foes!
The Marshal almost smiles to see how furiously he
goes.
How fierce the look these exiles wear, who 're wont
to be so gay!
The treasured wrongs of fifty years are in their
hearts to-day:
The treaty broken ere the ink wherewith 't was
writ could dry;
Their plundered homes, their ruined shrines, the
women's parting cry;
Their priesthood hunted down like wolves, their
country overthrown --
Each looks as if revenge for all were staked on
him alone.
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, nor ever yet else-
where,
Rushed on to fight a nobler band than these proud
exiles were.

O'Brien's voice is hoarse with joy, as, halting, he
commands:
"Fix bayonets -- charge!" Like mountain-storm
rush on those fiery bands.
Thin is the English column now, and faint their
volleys grow,
Yet mustering all the strength they have, they
make a gallant show.
They dress their ranks upon the hill to face that
battle-wind!
Their bayonets the breakers' foam, like rocks the
men behind!
One volley crashes from their line, when through
the surging smoke,
With empty guns clutched in their hands, the
headlong Irish broke.
On Fontenoy', on Fontenoy, hark to that fierce
huzza!
"Revenge! remember Limerick! dash down the
Sacsanagh!"

Like lions leaping at a fold, when mad with hun-
ger's pang,
Right up against the English line the Irish exiles
sprang;
Bright was their steel, 't is bloody now, their guns
are filled with gore;
Through scattered ranks and severed files and
trampled flags they tore.
The English strove with desperate strength,
paused, rallied, scattered, fled;
The green hillside is matted close with dying and
with dead.
Across the plain and far away passed on that
hideous wrack,
While cavalier and fantassin dash in upon their
track.
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, like eagles in the sun,
With bloody plumes the Irish stand -- the field is
fought and won!




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