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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

James Montgomery (1771–1854)

Arnold Winkelried

“MAKE way for liberty!” he cried;

Made way for liberty, and died!

In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,

A living wall, a human wood!

A wall, where every conscious stone

Seemed to its kindred thousands grown;

A rampart all assaults to bear,

Till time to dust their frame should wear;

A wood like that enchanted grove

In which with fiends Rinaldo strove,

Where every silent tree possessed

A spirit prisoned in its breast,

Which the first stroke of coming strife

Would startle into hideous life;

So dense, so still, the Austrians stood,

A living wall, a human wood!

Impregnable their front appears,

All horrent with projected spears,

Whose polished points before them shine,

From flank to flank, one brilliant line,

Bright as the breakers’ splendors run

Along the billows, to the sun.

Opposed to these, a hovering band

Contended for their native land:

Peasants, whose new-found strength had broke

From manly necks the ignoble yoke,

And forged their fetters into swords,

On equal terms to fight their lords;

And what insurgent rage had gained,

In many a mortal fray maintained:

Marshaled once more at Freedom’s call,

They came to conquer or to fall,

Where he who conquered, he who fell,

Was deemed a dead or living Tell!

Such virtue had that patriot breathed,

So to the soil his soul bequeathed,

That wheresoe’er his arrows flew,

Heroes in his own likeness grew,

And warriors sprang from every sod

Which his awakening footstep trod.

And now the work of life and death

Hung on the passing of a breath;

The fire of conflict burnt within,

The battle trembled to begin:

Yet while the Austrians held their ground,

Point for attack was nowhere found;

Where’er the impatient Switzers gazed,

The unbroken line of lances blazed.

That line ’twere suicide to meet,

And perish at their tyrants’ feet;—

How could they rest within their graves,

And leave their homes the homes of slaves?

Would they not feel their children tread

With clanging chains above their head?

It must not be: this day, this hour,

Annihilates the oppressor’s power;

All Switzerland is in the field:

She will not fly, she cannot yield—

She must not fall; her better fate

Here gives her an immortal date.

Few were the number she could boast;

But every freeman was a host,

And felt as though himself were he

On whose sole arm hung victory.

It did depend on one, indeed:

Behold him—Arnold Winkelried!

There sounds not to the trump of fame

The echo of a nobler name.

Unmarked, he stood amid the throng

In rumination deep and long,

Till you might see, with sudden grace,

The very thought come o’er his face;

And by the motion of his form

Anticipate the bursting storm;

And by the uplifting of his brow

Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.

But ’twas no sooner thought than done;

The field was in a moment won;—

“Make way for Liberty!” he cried:

Then ran, with arms extended wide,

As if his dearest friend to clasp;

Ten spears he swept within his grasp.

“Make way for Liberty!” he cried:

Their keen points met from side to side;

He bowed amongst them like a tree,

And thus made way for Liberty.

Swift to the breach his comrades fly;

“Make way for Liberty!” they cry,

And through the Austrian phalanx dart,

As rushed the spears through Arnold’s heart:

While, instantaneous as his fall,

Rout, ruin, panic, scattered all;—

An earthquake could not overthrow

A city with a surer blow.

Thus Switzerland again was free;

Thus death made way for Liberty!