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

August 15


By Francis Saltus Saltus (1849–1889)

(Born August 15, 1769)

THY breath was fire! And fire was on thy brow!

Dealing out lightnings on thy ceaseless tramp,

Thou mad’st the heads of haughty kings to bow,

When the exultant welcome of thy camp

Hailed thee in summer’s heat and winter’s damp.

Born for a day, thou Destiny didst know,

And, eager, longedst thy victories to claim!

Thy soul-star shown on Borodino’s woe,

On Jena’s corpse-strewn field, in Wagram’s flame!

Europe, o’erawed, crouched shuddering at thy name.

Hark to that echo born of crushing glooms

That o’er thy sepulcher continually flits!

It is the murmur of ten thousand tombs!

Each soldier corpse stiff in his coffin sits,

Hailing the thunders of thine Austerlitz!

Dost thou, oh giant! lead those warriors still

In other planets to the valorous strife?

Dost thou urge on thy phalanxes to kill?

And art thou doomed to lead a battling life

In other spheres, all gore and combat-rife?

Art thou by God to crush his foes ordained,

Far on the limits of the endless night?

Art thou still chief, and hast thou battles gained

With countless myriad angels in the fight?

Hast thou His sword of flame to sheathe or smite?

If so, oh! do not grieve for our sad earth,

The men that loved thee are no longer true;

They have forgotten all thy priceless worth;

Long are thy deeds lost as the years grow new,

All that they know of thee is—Waterloo!