Cicely Fox Smith
The Charge Of The 23rd Light Dragoons At Talavera - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
O, hearts leapt up lightly, and steel flashed out ready,
When the Light Dragoons formed for combat that day,
To charge on the columns that, ordered and steady,
Lay stretched out before them in battle array.
And their spirits grew higher as their squadron swept nigher,
And swifter their stride, - when, all suddenly seen
As they charged on like thunder, - the foemen to sunder,
A swift, hidden hollow yawned cleaving between.
Perchance it were wiser to hold them, and spare them
From splendour of peril and glory of death;
But they heard in the tumult the wild bugles dare them,
None stay to draw rein, and none stood to draw breath.
For when battle is brewing and brave deeds are doing,
And English blood is aflame and alight,
O who then shall stay them and who shall gainsay them,
And who shall withhold them from sport or from fight?
And eager, as oft on some winter far morning,
When the glad-sounding horn carols out 'Gone away!'
They spurred on unheeding, the obstacle scorning:
And spurning the turf as they sped to the fray,
Their hoof-thunder shook it, full gallop they took it,
That stern steel-fringed gully before them; and soon
Seemed all the grim hollow a welter and wallow
Of fallen charger and Light Dragoon.
Scattered and spent from the din of that valley,
Up from the depth of the seething ravine,
Panting and breathless, they drew to the rally,
Still fresh for the onset, and eager, and keen.
And, ne'er drawing bridle, their scabbards swung idle,
And, sweeping whirled sabers the pathway to clear,
They met, wildly closing, the foemen opposing, -
Those horsemen that nothing could stop in career.
One line broke before them, and on all unstaying,
They flung their fierce wave on the foemen before,
And hither and thither the combat rolled swaying,
And the fight in its fury raged more and yet more.
But down to the rattle and clash of the battle
Fresh masses of foemen came swift to the fight, -
Came thronging and swarming, their line freshly forming,
And falling to onslaught to left and to right.
Then, baffled and weakened and broken and scattered,
The stern stubborn squadrons drew back from the fray,
Like a wave of the ocean whose fury is shattered;
And few rallied safe to the colours that day.
Yet honour and glory is bright in their story
So bravely who fought and so bravely who died,
For half of their number there found their last slumber
Who galloped to death in that glorious ride.
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