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

February 8

The Battle of Eylau

By Isaac McLellan (1806–1899)

  • The battle of Eylau was an indecisive action fought on Feb. 8 between the French under Napoleon and the Russians and Prussians under Bennigsen and Lestocq. The loss on each side amounted to about 18,000.

  • FAST and furious falls the snow;

    Shrilly the bleak tempests blow,

    With a sound of wailing woe,

    O’er the soil;

    Where the watch-fires blaze around,

    Thick the warriors strew the ground,

    Each in weary slumber bound,

    Worn with toil.

    Harken to the cannon-blast!

    Drums are beating fierce and fast;

    Fierce and fast the trumpets cast

    Warning call.

    Form the battle’s stern parade,

    Charge the musket, draw the blade;

    Square and column stand arrayed,

    One and all.

    On they rush in stern career,

    Dragoon and swart cuirassier;

    Hussar-lance and Cossack-spear

    Clanging meet!

    Now the grenadier of France

    Sinks beneath the Imperial lance;

    Now the Prussian horse advance,

    Now retreat.

    Davoust, with his line of steel,

    Storms their squadrons till they reel,

    While his ceaseless cannon-peal

    Rends the sky.

    ’Gainst that crush of iron hail

    Naught may Russia’s ranks avail;

    Like the torn leaves in the gale,

    See, they fly!

    Through the battle’s smoky gloom

    Shineth Murat’s snowy plume;

    Fast his cohorts to their doom

    Spur the way.

    Platoff, with his desert horde,

    Is upon them with the sword;

    Deep his Tartar-spears have gored

    Their array.

    With his thousands, Augereau

    Paints with blood the virgin snow;

    Low in war’s red overthrow

    Sleep they on!

    Helm and breastplate they have lost,

    Spoils that long shall be the boast

    Of the savage-bearded host

    Of the Don.

    Charge, Napoleon! Where be those

    At Marengo quelled thy foes;

    Crowning thee at Jena’s close


    At this hour of deadly need

    Faintly thy old guardsmen bleed;

    Vain dies cuirassier and steed,

    Drenched with gore.

    Sad the frosty moonbeam shone

    O’er the snows with corpses strown,

    Where the frightful shriek and groan

    Rose amain:

    Loud the night-wind rang their knell;

    Fast the flaky horrors fell,

    Hiding in their snowy cell

    Heaps of slain!

    Many a year hath passed and fled

    O’er that harvest of the dead;

    On thy rock the Chief hath sped,

    St. Helene!

    Still the Polish peasant shows

    The round hillocks of the foes,

    Where the long grass rankly grows,

    Darkly green.