James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 20

Marco Bozzaris

By Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867)

  • A noted Greek patriot. He was killed on August 20, 1823, in a successful night attack on the Turkish forces in the Greek War of Independence.

  • AT midnight, in his guarded tent,

    The Turk was dreaming of the hour

    When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent,

    Should tremble at his power.

    In dreams, through camp and court, he bore

    The trophies of a conqueror;

    In dreams his song of triumph heard;

    Then wore his monarch’s signet-ring—

    Then pressed that monarch’s throne—a king;

    As wild his thoughts, and gay of wing,

    As Eden’s garden bird.

    At midnight, in the forest shades,

    Bozzaris ranged his Suliote band—

    True as the steel of their tried blades,

    Heroes in heart and hand.

    There had the Persian’s thousands stood,

    There had the glad earth drunk their blood

    On old Platæa’s day;

    And now there breathed that haunted air

    The sons of sires who conquered there,

    With arms to strike, and soul to dare

    As quick, as far, as they.

    An hour passed on—the Turk awoke:

    That bright dream was his last;

    He woke—to hear his sentries shriek,

    “To arms! they come! the Greek! the Greek!”

    He woke—to die midst flame, and smoke,

    And shout, and groan, and sabre-stroke,

    And death-shots falling thick and fast

    As lightnings from the mountain-cloud;

    And heard, with voice as trumpet loud,

    Bozzaris cheer his band:

    “Strike—till the last armed foe expires;

    Strike—for your altars and your fires;

    Strike—for the green graves of your sires;

    God—and your native land!”

    They fought—like brave men, long and well;

    They piled that ground with Moslem slain;

    They conquered—but Bozzaris fell,

    Bleeding at every vein.

    His few surviving comrades saw

    His smile when rang their proud hurrah,

    And the red field was won;

    Then saw in death his eyelids close

    Calmly, as to a night’s repose,

    Like flowers at set of sun.

    Come to the bridal chamber, Death!

    Come to the mother’s, when she feels,

    For the first time, her first-born’s breath;

    Come when the blessed seals

    That close the pestilence are broke,

    And crowded cities wail its stroke;

    Come in consumption’s ghastly form,

    The earthquake shock, the ocean-storm;

    Come when the heart beats high and warm,

    With banquet-song, and dance and wine;

    And thou art terrible—the tear,

    The groan, the knell, the pall, the bier;

    And all we know, or dream, or fear

    Of agony, are thine.

    But to the hero, when his sword

    Has won the battle for the free,

    Thy voice sounds like a prophet’s word;

    And in its hollow tones are heard

    The thanks of millions yet to be.

    Come, when his task of fame is wrought—

    Come, with her laurel-leaf, blood-bought—

    Come in her crowning hour—and then

    Thy sunken eye’s unearthly light

    To him is welcome as the sight

    Of sky and stars to prisoned men;

    Thy grasp is welcome as the hand

    Of brother in a foreign land;

    Thy summons welcome as the cry

    That told the Indian isles were night

    To the world-seeking Genoese,

    When the land-wind, from woods of palm,

    And orange-groves, and fields of balm,

    Blew o’er the Haytian seas.

    Bozzaris! with the storied brave

    Greece nurtured in her glory’s time,

    Rest thee—there is no prouder grave,

    Even in her own proud clime.

    She wore no funeral weeds for thee,

    Nor bade the dark hearse wave its plume,

    Like torn branch from death’s leafless tree,

    In sorrow’s pomp and pageantry,

    The heartless luxury of the tomb.

    But she remembers thee as one

    Long loved, and for a season gone;

    For thee her poet’s lyre is wreathed,

    Her marble wrought, her music breathed;

    For thee she rings the birth-day bells;

    Of thee her babes’ first lisping tells;

    For thine her evening prayer is said

    At palace couch, and cottage bed;

    Her soldier, closing with the foe,

    Gives for thy sake a deadlier blow;

    His plighted maiden, when she fears

    For him, the joy of her young years,

    Thinks of thy fate, and checks her tears.

    And she, the mother of thy boys,

    Though in her eye and faded cheek

    Is read the grief she will not speak,

    The memory of her buried joys—

    And even she who gave thee birth,

    Will, by their pilgrim-circled hearth,

    Talk of thy doom without a sigh;

    For thou art Freedom’s now, and Fame’s—

    One of the few, the immortal names

    That were not born to die.