Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

The Last Redoubt - Poem by Alfred Austin

Kacelyevo's slope still felt
The cannon's bolt and the rifles' pelt;
For a last redoubt up the hill remained,
By the Russ yet held, by the Turk not gained.

Mehemet Ali stroked his beard;
His lips were clinched and his look was weird;
Round him were ranks of his ragged folk,
Their faces blackened with blood and smoke.

``Clear me the Muscovite out!'' he cried,
Then the name of ``Allah!'' resounded wide,
And the rifles were clutched and the bayonets lowered,
And on to the last redoubt they poured.

One fell, and a second quickly stopped
The gap that he left when he reeled and dropped;
The second,-a third straight filled his place;
The third,-and a fourth kept up the race.

Many a fez in the mud was crushed,
Many a throat that cheered was hushed,
Many a heart that sought the crest
Found Allah's throne and a houri's breast.

Over their corpses the living sprang,
And the ridge with their musket-rattle rang,
Till the faces that lined the last redoubt
Could see their faces and hear their shout.

In the redoubt a fair form towered,
That cheered up the brave and chid the coward;
Brandishing blade with a gallant air,
His head erect and his temples bare.

``Fly! they are on us!'' his men implored;
But he waved them on with his waving sword.
``It cannot be held; 'tis no shame to go!''
But he stood with his face set hard to the foe.

Then clung they about him, and tugged, and knelt.
He drew a pistol out from his belt,
And fired it blank at the first that set
Foot on the edge of the parapet.

Over, that first one toppled; but on
Clambered the rest till their bayonets shone,
As hurriedly fled his men dismayed,
Not a bayonet's length from the length of his blade.

``Yield!'' But aloft his steel he flashed,
And down on their steel it ringing clashed;
Then back he reeled with a bladeless hilt,
His honour full, but his life-blood spilt.

Mehemet Ali came and saw
The riddled breast and the tender jaw.
``Make him a bier of your arms,'' he said,
``And daintily bury this dainty dead!''

They lifted him up from the dabbled ground;
His limbs were shapely, and soft, and round.
No down on his lip, on his cheek no shade:-
``Bismillah!'' they cried, ``'tis an Infidel maid!''

``Dig her a grave where she stood and fell,
'Gainst the jackal's scratch and the vulture's smell.
Did the Muscovite men like their maidens fight,
In their lines we had scarcely supped to-night.''

So a deeper trench 'mong the trenches there
Was dug, for the form as brave as fair;
And none, till the Judgment trump and shout,
Shall drive her out of the Last Redoubt.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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