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THE SURPRISE OF ANTIOCH, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Mournfully beamed the pale moonlight
Last Line: The traitor's head away!
Subject(s): Blood; Christianity; Crusades; Fights; Swords


I.

MOURNFULLY beamed the pale moonlight,
Casting its rays on the hauberk bright
Of many a belted lord and knight,
Who forth from the camp were stealing;
It shone on all things far and near,
It glanced on every lance and spear,
From the first in the van to the last in the rear,
Each armed form revealing.
For many a weary long-drawn day,
The Christian camp 'fore Antioch lay;
The troops had neither food nor pay,
And murmured long and loud!
The Turks were starving fast, 'tis true,
But they themselves were starving too,
Their numbers were reduced to few,
Their pride and strength were bowed!

II.

Baghasihan defied their might,
He dared the Christians to the fight;
He curs'd and swore—a fearful sight!
Swore by the Prince of Sin:—
"When Famine fell has done its worst,
"The Christians then the gates may burst,
"But may myself—my soul—be curst,
"If e'er I let them in!"
What Valour could not, Treachery did:
The Emir little knew that 'mid
His followers a snake lay hid,
That danger was anigh!
Phirouz by name, Armenian born,
Writhing beneath deserved scorn,
Had sworn that with to-morrow's morn
The Emir proud should die!

III.

Fiercely muttered the traitor knave
As he clutched the hilt of his trusty glaive—
"The Emir proud has dug his grave,
"Within three hours he falls."
Then the traitor mounted his watch-tower lone,
The song of the wind was a fitful moan,
But now it rose to a howling groan,
As it swept around the walls!
Mournfully beamed the pale moonlight,
Casting its rays on the hauberk bright
Of many a belted lord and knight,
Who forth from the camp were stealing;
It shone on all things far and near,
It glanced on every lance and spear,
From the first in the van to the last in the rear,
Each armed form revealing!

IV.

Higher rose the wind, and higher,
Clouded, too, the moon's pale fire,
And the Christian band drew nigher
To the walls of Antioch!
Nearer still the Christians drew,
And the winds a tempest blew,
And the moon with sicklier hue,
Beamed on devoted Antioch!
Soon, 'neath Antioch's fated walls,
The Christian chief, Bohemund, calls
"Phirouz! Phirouz!"—and there falls
A hide-made ladder stout!
Shrieking, yelling, round the tower,
Rides the Storm-Fiend in his power,
Makes the ill-clad sentinels cower,
Puts them to the rout!

V.

In some niche, each cowardly Turk
Shelters from the ills that lurk
In the Storm-Fiend's visage murk,
To watchful duty blind.
Now are oped the gates of heaven!
Now the tallest tower is riven!
By thunderbolts the stones are driven,
Like hailstones in the wind!
Now crash on crash, and peal on peal,
Fatal to doomed Antioch's weal,—
The thunder drowns the clash of steel,
And clanging of their arms!
Too eager he to scale the walls,
The ladder breaks, Bohemund falls;
The crash his comrades brave appals,
And e'en himself alarms!

VI.

A moment still they stand, and then,
Bohemund raging, springs again,
As a lion from his den,
Furious in his power!
Godfrey, Duke of Flanders, now,
Raven plume and sombre brow,
Follows him; and soon, I trow,
All are in the tower!
Now has Hell let loose its powers!
Now are rocked the mighty towers!
And the bending heaven showers
A deluge over Antioch!
As a demon o'er his slaves—
As a ghoul o'er dead men's graves—
So the Storm-Fiend shrieks and raves,
Round the roofs of Antioch!

VII.

Sudden, borne upon the blast,
Rings a trumpet loud and fast,
Tells them that the time is past,
That their comrades wait.
Down the steps, a living torrent,
Sword in hand and closed borrente,
To the Turks—oh, sight abhorrent!
Rush they to the gate.
Soon are oped the portals wide,—
And, as bursts a swollen tide,
And dam and dyke, and all beside,
In rush'd the invaders!
They swept the streets with the whirlwind's might,
Destroying all that met their sight!
They spared neither woman nor child that night,
Those bloodthirsty Crusaders!

VIII.

The Emir has fled to the mountains away,
But the foe 's on his track—and, at break of day,
Through the mountain passes, there takes his way
A man with a gory head!
The storm hath subsided, the heavens are clear,
The path is easy, and Antioch near;
His breast knows naught of care or fear,
For the living or the dead!—
"Ha!"—he starts, in deep amaze—
Who be they that meet his gaze?
The lesser, flames a living blaze
Of flashing steel and gold.
The other glooms upon the sight,
Sable mail and giant height,
Drooping plume, and brow like night,
So dark and cold!

IX.

"The first is Bohemund, I know,
"But, thanks to God, a friend, not foe;—
"And who 's the other—time will show,"
And boldly he advanced.
Bohemund stopped, and him surprised:
"Ha!—how camest thou here?" he cries:
"From whence that head, Sir Prince of Lies?"
The other darkly glanced.
"Baghasihan's, great Prince!—I claim reward!"
The Dark Plume sternly drew his sword:
"Kneel down," said Bohemund, "and be a lord!"
He could not but obey.
Duke Godfrey raised his sword on high,
And, cold and stern, said, "Traitor—die!"
Then, as from lightning stroke, did fly
The traitor's head away!





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