Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




[The French were engaged in the siege of Castillon, when Talbot marched against them. His first approach drove in the Franc Archers. This success emboldened him to attack the intrenched camp of the French. Though now eighty years of age, Talbot on [Page 151] foot led his men of arms to the assault. The fight was bravely sustained on both sides, until the English General was struck down by a culverin. His son, Lord Lisle, flung himself on the body of his parent. “Fly, my son:” said the expiring Talbot, “the day is lost. It is your first action, and you may without shame turn your back to the enemy.” Lord Lisle, nevertheless, with thirty nobles of England, was slain before the body of Talbot.—Crowe’s History of France.]

“Fly, fly my son,” old Talbot said,
    “The day can ne’er be ours;
“I feel ’tis not for us to spread
    “Our banner o’er yon towers.

“Then fly, you can without a stain,
    “You’re but a youthful Knight,
“And yet may live, renown to gain,
    “In many a gallant fight.

“Your Mother sits with our Hall,
    “Your Sister at her knee;
“And tho’ on this rough field I fall,
    “They still can cling to thee.

“For thou canst arm my Yeoman bold,
    “And bid my hearthstone blaze;
“And Talbot’s name and power uphold,
    “In England’s happier days.

“I will not fly,” the youth replied,
    “No tongue shall ever say
“That while my Father bravely died,
    “I turned and fled away. [Page 152]

“Could all the fame of after years
    Efface so deep a stain?
“Could piles of dead, and streams of tears,
    “Bring honor back again?

“Thy dying breath would curse thy son
    “My Mother’s tearless eye
“Could ne’er, in gladness, look upon
    “The Knight who feared to die.

“My Sister’s hand would seize the blade
    “Which I had thrown aside,
“And come t’appease thy gallant shade,
    “And die where you had died.

“Then fare thee well, my noble Sire,
    “But ere your eyelids close,
“Mark Talbot’s sword and soul of fire
    “Deal vengeance on your foes.

“Our blood in France may mingle here,
    “Our whit’ning bones decay;
“But English hearts shall aye revere.
    “The mem’ry of this day.

“Then raise my banner proud and high.
    “Strike Knights, and Yeoman true;
“Let England be our battle cry—
    “Once, more, brave Sire, adieu.”

He said—and o’er his Father’s form,
    He stood in youthful pride, [Page 153]
And braved the battle fiercest storm,
    And still the foe defied.

His eye was like a beacon fire—
    His sword the lightnings beam,
That bade the daring foe retire,
    Or die beneath its gleam.

Then backward rolled the power of France,
    A moment kept at bay—
But soon unnumbered hosts advance,
    And join the fatal fray.

Shadow’d by swords—encompass’d round
    By many a levelled spear,
He died within the human mound
    His arm had toiled to rear.

1827. [Page 154]