Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

Ciudad Rodrigo - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

'Who's for the breach?' they said,
At the chill dark close of a wintry day,
'For the Light Division who leads the way?'
Never a man for a moment stayed;
Never a man hung back afraid:
Forth from the ranks stepped one and all,
Keen to lead on for the shot-rent wall,
Or a place with the glorious dead.

They might not load nor cheer;
Tho' bullets were pelting wild and fast,
Hand to hand it must be at the last:
Hand to hand they must win their way;
Silent must charge through the darkness grey:
And with empty muskets and ready steel,
And clenched teeth set for the shock and reel,
They went on their wild career.

Never a shot was there
As they sped at the double upon their way,
Over the ditch with never a stay,
Raced up the slope thro' the furious fire,
With hearts that fear not nor spirits that tire,
Filled with the joy that brave men feel
In close-fought clashing of cold white steel
And battle-play fierce and fair.

Then Napier, leading them on,
With a shattered arm he staggered and fell;
But still, as he lay, 'mid the storming shell,
'On with the bayonet, on!' he said,
And on with an answering cheer they sped, -
Scaled the breach with a wild hurrah,
Reach'd the rampart and leapt the bar,
And the fight was over and done.

Thro' the cannon's thunder and peal,
Thro' spurting volley and bursting shell,
Tho' they might not fire and their leader fell,
Silent and stern and stubborn and true,
They did the deed they were told to do,
By the headlong valour that none withstand,
And the strong heart nerving a strong man's hand,
And the push of the cold white steel.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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