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O vain, though anxious, is the glance I cast,
The deeds recorded, and the laurels won.
Yet grant for faith, for valour, and for Spain,
THE VISION OF DON RODERICK.
"Who shall command Estrella's mountain-tide 3
Back to the source, when tempest-chafed, to hie?
Before finally dismissing the enchanted cavern of Don Roderick, it may be noticed, that the legend occurs in one of Calderon's plays, entitled, La Virgen del Sagrario. The scene opens with the noise of the chase, and Recisundo, a predecessor of Roderick upon the Gothic throne, enters pursuing a stag. The animal assumes the form of a man, and defies the king to enter the cave, which forms the bottom of the scene, and engage with him in single combat. The king accepts the challenge, and they engage accordingly, but without advantage on either side, which induces the Genie to inform Recisundo, that he is not the monarch for whom the adventure of the enchanted cavern is reserved, and he proceeds to predict the downfall of the Gothic monarchy, and of the Christian religion, which shall attend the discovery of its mysteries. Recisundo, appalled by these prophecies, orders the cavern to be secured by a gate and bolts of iron. In the second part of the same play, we are informed that Don Roderick had removed the barrier, and transgressed the prohibition of his ancestor, and had been apprized by the prodigies which he discovered of the approaching ruin of his kingdom.
["For a mere introduction to the exploits of our English commanders, the story of Don Roderick's sins and confessions, the minute description of his army and attendants, -and the whole interest and machinery of the enchanted vault, with the greater part of the Vision itself, are far too long and elaborate. They withdraw our curiosity and attention from the objects for which they had been bespoken, and gradually engage them upon a new and independent series of romantic adventures, in which it is not easy to see how Lord Wellington and Bonaparte can have any concern. But, on the other hand, no sooner is this new interest excited,-no sooner have we surrendered our imaginations into the hands of this dark enchanter, and heated our fancies to the proper pitch for sympathizing in the fortunes of Gothic kings and Moorish invaders, with their imposing accompaniments of harnessed knights, ravished damsels, and enchanted statues, than the whole romantie group vanishes at once from our sight; and we are hurried, with minds yet disturbed with those powerful apparitions, to the comparatively sober and cold narration of Bonaparte's villanies, and to drawn battles between mere mortal combatants in English and French uniforms. The vast and elaborate vestibule, in short, in which we had been so long detained, 'Where wonders wild of Arabesque combine
With Gothic imagery of darker shade,'
has no corresponding palace attached to it; and the long noviciate we are made to serve to the mysterious powers of romance is not repaid, after all, by an introduction to their awful presence."---- -JEFFREY.]
[MS." Who shall command the torrent's headlong tide."]
Who, when Gascogne's vex'd gulf is raging wide,
Let him stand forth and bar mine eagles' way,
"Else ne'er to stoop, till high on Lisbon's towers
To Marshal, Duke, and Peer, Gaul's Leader spoke.
And smiled like Eden in her summer dress ;-
And shall the boastful Chief maintain his word,
Though Britons arm, and WELLINGTON command!
An adamantine barrier to his force;
I have ventured to apply to the movements of the French army that sublime passage in the prophecies of Joel, which seems applicable to them in more respects than that I have adopted in the text. One would think their ravages, their military appointments, the terror which they spread among invaded nations, their military discipline, their arts of political intrigue and deceit, were distinctly pointed out in the following verses of Scripture :
"2. A day of darknesse and of gloominesse, a day of clouds and of thick darknesse, as the morning spread upon the mountains : a great people and a strong, there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the yeares of many generations. 3. A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behinde them a desolate wilderness, yea, and nothing shall esthem. 4. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses and as horsemen, so shall they runne. 5. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains, shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battel array. 6. Before their face shall the people be much pained; all faces shall gather blacknesse. 7. They shall run like mighty men, they shall climb the wall like men of warre, and they shall march every one in his wayes, and they shall not break their ranks. 8. Neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk every one in his path and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 9. They shall run to and fro in the citie; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climbe up upon the houses: they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10. The earth shall quake before them, the heavens shall tremble, the sunne and the moon shall be dark, and the starres shall withdraw their shining."
In verse 20th also, which announces the retreat of the northern army, described in such dreadful colours, into a "land barren and desolate," and the dishonour with which God afflicted them for having "magnified themselves to do great things," there are particulars not inapplicable to the retreat of Massena; Divine Providence having, in all ages, attached disgrace as the natural punishment of cruelty and presumption,
And from its base shall wheel his shatter'd band,
Yet not because Alcoba's mountain-hawk
And Lisbon's matrons from their walls, might sum
And hear the distant thunders of the drum,
That bids the bands of France to storm and havoc come.
Four moons have heard these thunders idly roll'd,
As famish'd wolves survey a guarded fold —
At length they move-but not to battle-fray,
Nor blaze yon fires where meets the manly fight!
Where cowardice and cruelty unite
To damn with double shame their ignominious flight !
O triumph for the Fiends of Lust and Wrath!
Childhood and age given o'er to sword and flame!
By which inventive demons might proclaim
The rudest sentinel in Britain born,
With horror paused to view the havoc done,
Gave his poor crust to feed some wretch forlorn, '
Even the unexampled gallantry of the British army in the campaign of 1810-11, although they never fought but to conquer, will do them less honour in history than their humanity, attentive to soften to the utmost of their power the horrors which war, in its mildest aspect, must always inflict upon the defenceless inhabitants of the country in which it is waged, and which, on this occasion, were tenfold augmented by the barbarous cruelties of the French.
Wiped his stern eye, then fiercer grasp'd his gun.
Riches nor poverty the tax shall shun,
Nor prince nor peer, the wealthy nor the gay,
Nor the poor peasant's mite, nor bard's more worthless lay.'
But thou-unfoughten wilt thou yield to Fate,
Marcella's pass, nor Guarda's mountain-chain?
Behold, where, named by some prophetic Seer,
Yet, ere thou turn'st, collect each distant aid;
Soup-kitchens were established by subscription among the officers, wherever the troops were quartered for any length of time. The commissaries contributed the heads, feet, etc, of the cattle slaughtered for the soldiery: rice, vegetables, and bread, where it could be had, were purchased by the officers. Fifty or sixty starving peasants were daily fed at one of these regimental establishments, and carried home the relics to their famished households. The emaciated wretches, who could not crawl from weakness, were speedily employed in pruning their vines. While pursuing Massena, the soldiers evinced the same spirit of humanity, and in many instances, when reduced themselves to short allowance, from having outmarched their supplies, they shared their pittance with the starving inhabitants, who had ventured back to view the ruins of their habitations, burnt by the retreating enemy, and to bury the bodies of their relations whom they had butchered. Is it possible to know such facts without feeling a sort of confidence, that those who so well deserve victory are most likely to attain it?-It is not the least of Lord Wellington's military merits, that the slightest disposition towards marauding meets immediate punishment. Independently of all moral obligation, the army which is most orderly in a friendly country, has always proved most formidable to an armed enemy.
' [The MS. has, for the preceding five lines
"And in pursuit vindictive hurried on,
And 0, survivors sad! to you belong
Tributes from each that Britain calls her son,
To her poor peasant's mite, and minstrel's poorer song."]
2 The French conducted this memorable retreat with much of the fanfuronade proper to their country, by which they attempt to impose upon others, and perhaps on themselves, a belief that they are triumphing in the very moment of their discomfiture. On the 50th March, 4811, their rear-guard was overtaken near Pega by the British cavalry. Being well posted, and conceiving themselves safe from infantry, (who were indeed many miles in the rear,) and from artillery, they indulged themselves in parading their bands of music, and actually performed "God save the King." Their minstrelsy was, however, déranged by the undesired accompaniment of the British horse-artillery, on whose part in the concert they had not calculated. The surprise was sudden, and the rout complete; for the artillery and cavalry did execution upon them for about four miles, pursuing at the gallop as often as they got beyond the range of the guns.
The literal translation of Fuentes d'Honoro.
Those chief that never heard the lion roar!
Of Talavera, or Mondego's shore!
Marshal each band thou hast, and summon more;
Of war's fell stratagems exhaust the whole;
And weary out his arm-thou canst not quell his soul.
O vainly gleams with steel Agueda's shore,
With frantic charge and tenfold odds, in vain!'
And, at the bloody spear-point headlong driven,
Go, baffled boaster! teach thy haughty mood
To plead at thine imperious master's throne,
In the severe action of Fuentes d'Honoro, upon 5th May, 1814, the grand mass of the French cavalry attacked the right of the British position covered by two guns of the horseartillery, and two squadrons of cavalry. After suffering considerably from the fire of the guns, which annoyed them in every attempt at formation, the enemy turned their wrath entirely towards them; distributed brandy among their troopers, and advanced to carry the field-pieces with the desperation of drunken fury. They were in nowise checked by the heavy loss which they sustained in this daring attempt, but closed, and fairly mingled with the British cavalry, to whom they bore the proportion of ten to one. Captain Ramsay, (let me be permitted to name a gallant countryman,) who commanded the two guns, dismissed them at the gallop, and, putting himself at the head of the mounted artillerymen, ordered them to fall upon the French, sabre-in-hand. This very unexpected conversion of artillerymen into dragoons, contributed greatly to the defeat of the enemy, already disconcerted by the reception they had met from the two British squadrons; and the appearance of some small reinforcements, notwithstanding the immense disproportion of force, put them to absolute rout. A colonel or major of their cavalry, and many prisoners, (almost all intoxicated,) remained in our possession. Those who consider for a moment the difference of the services, and how much an artilleryman is necessarily and naturally led to identify his own safety and utility with abiding by the tremendous implement of war, to the exercise of which he is chiefly, if not exclusively, trained, will know how to estimate the presence of mind which commanded so bold a manœuvre, and the steadiness and confidence with which it was executed.
2 The gallant Colonel Cameron was wounded mortally during the desperate contest in the streets of the village called Fuentes d'Honoro. He fell at the head of his native Highlanders, the 71st and 79th, who raised a dreadful shriek of grief and rage. They charged, with irresistible fury, the finest body of French grenadiers ever seen, being a part of Bonaparte's selected guard. The officer who led the French, a man remarkable for stature and symmetry, was killed on the spot. The Frenchman who stepped out of his rank to take aim at Colonel Cameron, was also bayoneted, pierced with a thousand wounds, and almost torn to pieces by the furious Highlanders, who, under the command of Colonel Cadogan, bore the enemy out of the contested ground at the point of the bayonet. Massena pays my countrymen a singular compliment in his account of the attack and defence of this village, in which he says, the British lost many officers, and Scotch.