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

March 8

The Battle of Alexandria

By James Montgomery (1771–1884)

  • The battle of Alexandria was fought by the British against the French on March 8, 1801, and resulted in a victory for the former.

  • HARP of Mennon! sweetly strung

    To the music of the spheres;

    While the hero’s dirge is sung,

    Breathe enchantment to our ears.

    As the sun’s descending beams,

    Glancing o’er thy feeling wire,

    Kindle every chord that gleams,

    Like a ray of heavenly fire,

    Let thy numbers, soft and slow,

    O’er the plain with carnage spread,

    Soothe the dying while they flow

    To the memory of the dead.

    Bright as Beauty, newly born,

    Blushing at her maiden charms;

    Fresh from ocean rose the Morn,

    When the trumpet blew to arms.

    Terrible soon grew the light

    On the Egyptian battle-plain,

    As the darkness of that night

    When the eldest born was slain.

    Lashed to madness by the wind,

    As the Red Sea surges roar,

    Leave a gloomy gulf behind,

    And devour the shrinking shore;

    Thus, with overwhelming pride,

    Gallia’s brightest, boldest boast,

    In a deep and dreadful tide,

    Rolled upon the British host.

    Dauntless these their station held,

    Though with unextinguished ire

    Gallia’s legions thrice repelled,

    Thrice returned through blood and fire.

    Thus, above the storms of time,

    Towering to the sacred spheres,

    Stand the Pyramids sublime,—

    Rocks amid the floods of years.

    Now the veteran chief drew nigh;

    Conquest towering on his crest,

    Valour beaming from his eye,

    Pity bleeding in his breast.

    Britain saw him thus advance

    In her guardian angel’s form;

    But he lowered on hostile France,

    Like the demon of the storm.

    On the whirlwind of the war

    High he rode in vengeance dire;

    To his friends a leading star,

    To his foes consuming fire.

    Then the mighty poured their breath,

    Slaughter feasted on the brave!

    ’Twas the carnival of death;

    ’Twas the vintage of the grave.

    Charged with Abercrombie’s doom,

    Lightning winged a cruel ball;

    ’Twas the herald of the tomb,

    And the hero felt the call,—

    Felt, and raised his arm on high;

    Victory well the signal knew,

    Darted from his awful eye,

    And the force of France o’er threw.

    But the horrors of that fight

    Were the weeping muse to tell,

    Oh, ’twould cleave the womb of night,

    And awake the dead that fell!

    Gashed with honourable scars,

    Low in Glory’s lap they lie;

    Though they fell, they fell like stars,

    Streaming splendour through the sky.