The Vision of Don Roderick, by Walter Scott



“Who shall command Estrella’s mountain-tide

Back to the source, when tempest-chafed, to hie?

Who, when Gascogne’s vexed gulf is raging wide,

Shall hush it as a nurse her infant’s cry?

His magic power let such vain boaster try,

And when the torrent shall his voice obey,

And Biscay’s whirlwinds list his lullaby,

Let him stand forth and bar mine eagles’ way,

And they shall heed his voice, and at his bidding stay.


“Else ne’er to stoop, till high on Lisbon’s towers

They close their wings, the symbol of our yoke,

And their own sea hath whelmed yon red-cross powers!”

Thus, on the summit of Alverca’s rock

To Marshal, Duke, and Peer, Gaul’s Leader spoke.

While downward on the land his legions press,

Before them it was rich with vine and flock,

And smiled like Eden in her summer dress; —

Behind their wasteful march a reeking wilderness.


And shall the boastful Chief maintain his word,

Though Heaven hath heard the wailings of the land,

Though Lusitania whet her vengeful sword,

Though Britons arm and WELLINGTON command!

No! grim Busaco’s iron ridge shall stand

An adamantine barrier to his force;

And from its base shall wheel his shattered band,

As from the unshaken rock the torrent hoarse

Bears off its broken waves, and seeks a devious course.


Yet not because Alcoba’s mountain-hawk

Hath on his best and bravest made her food,

In numbers confident, yon Chief shall baulk

His Lord’s imperial thirst for spoil and blood:

For full in view the promised conquest stood,

And Lisbon’s matrons from their walls might sum

The myriads that had half the world subdued,

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 rolled,

Have seen these wistful myriads eye their prey,

As famished wolves survey a guarded fold —

But in the middle path a Lion lay!

At length they move — but not to battle-fray,

Nor blaze yon fires where meets the manly fight;

Beacons of infamy, they light the way

Where cowardice and cruelty unite

To damn with double shame their ignominious flight.


O triumph for the Fiends of Lust and Wrath!

Ne’er to be told, yet ne’er to be forgot,

What wanton horrors marked their wreckful path!

The peasant butchered in his ruined cot,

The hoary priest even at the altar shot,

Childhood and age given o’er to sword and flame,

Woman to infamy; — no crime forgot,

By which inventive demons might proclaim

Immortal hate to man, and scorn of God’s great name!


The rudest sentinel, in Britain born,

With horror paused to view the havoc done,

Gave his poor crust to feed some wretch forlorn,

Wiped his stern eye, then fiercer grasped his gun.

Nor with less zeal shall Britain’s peaceful son

Exult the debt of sympathy to pay;

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,

Minion of Fortune, now miscalled in vain!

Can vantage-ground no confidence create,

Marcella’s pass, nor Guarda’s mountain-chain?

Vainglorious fugitive! yet turn again!

Behold, where, named by some prophetic Seer,

Flows Honour’s Fountain, {2} as foredoomed the stain

From thy dishonoured name and arms to clear —

Fallen Child of Fortune, turn, redeem her favour here!


Yet, ere thou turn’st, collect each distant aid;

Those chief that never heard the lion roar!

Within whose souls lives not a trace portrayed

Of Talavera or Mondego’s shore!

Marshal each band thou hast, and summon more;

Of war’s fell stratagems exhaust the whole;

Rank upon rank, squadron on squadron pour,

Legion on legion on thy foeman roll,

And weary out his arm — thou canst not quell his soul.


O vainly gleams with steel Agueda’s shore,

Vainly thy squadrons hide Assuava’s plain,

And front the flying thunders as they roar,

With frantic charge and tenfold odds, in vain!

And what avails thee that, for CAMERON slain,

Wild from his plaided ranks the yell was given —

Vengeance and grief gave mountain-range the rein,

And, at the bloody spear-point headlong driven,

Thy Despot’s giant guards fled like the rack of heaven.


Go, baffled boaster! teach thy haughty mood

To plead at thine imperious master’s throne,

Say, thou hast left his legions in their blood,

Deceived his hopes, and frustrated thine own;

Say, that thine utmost skill and valour shown,

By British skill and valour were outvied;

Last say, thy conqueror was WELLINGTON!

And if he chafe, be his own fortune tried —

God and our cause to friend, the venture we’ll abide.


But you, ye heroes of that well-fought day,

How shall a bard, unknowing and unknown,

His meed to each victorious leader pay,

Or bind on every brow the laurels won?

Yet fain my harp would wake its boldest tone,

O’er the wide sea to hail CADOGAN brave;

And he, perchance, the minstrel-note might own,

Mindful of meeting brief that Fortune gave

‘Mid yon far western isles that hear the Atlantic rave.


Yes! hard the task, when Britons wield the sword,

To give each Chief and every field its fame:

Hark! Albuera thunders BERESFORD,

And Red Barosa shouts for dauntless GRAEME!

O for a verse of tumult and of flame,

Bold as the bursting of their cannon sound,

To bid the world reecho to their fame!

For never, upon gory battle-ground,

With conquest’s well-bought wreath were braver victors crowned!


O who shall grudge him Albuera’s bays,

Who brought a race regenerate to the field,

Roused them to emulate their fathers’ praise,

Tempered their headlong rage, their courage steeled,

And raised fair Lusitania’s fallen shield,

And gave new edge to Lusitania’s sword,

And taught her sons forgotten arms to wield —

Shivered my harp, and burst its every chord,

If it forget thy worth, victorious BERESFORD!


Not on that bloody field of battle won,

Though Gaul’s proud legions rolled like mist away,

Was half his self-devoted valour shown, —

He gaged but life on that illustrious day;

But when he toiled those squadrons to array,

Who fought like Britons in the bloody game,

Sharper than Polish pike or assagay,

He braved the shafts of censure and of shame,

And, dearer far than life, he pledged a soldier’s fame.


Nor be his praise o’erpast who strove to hide

Beneath the warrior’s vest affection’s wound,

Whose wish Heaven for his country’s weal denied;

Danger and fate he sought, but glory found.

From clime to clime, where’er war’s trumpets sound,

The wanderer went; yet Caledonia! still

Thine was his thought in march and tented ground;

He dreamed ‘mid Alpine cliffs of Athole’s hill,

And heard in Ebro’s roar his Lyndoch’s lovely rill.


O hero of a race renowned of old,

Whose war-cry oft has waked the battle-swell,

Since first distinguished in the onset bold,

Wild sounding when the Roman rampart fell!

By Wallace’ side it rung the Southron’s knell,

Alderne, Kilsythe, and Tibber owned its fame,

Tummell’s rude pass can of its terrors tell,

But ne’er from prouder field arose the name

Than when wild Ronda learned the conquering shout of GRAEME!


But all too long, through seas unknown and dark,

(With Spenser’s parable I close my tale,)

By shoal and rock hath steered my venturous bark,

And landward now I drive before the gale.

And now the blue and distant shore I hail,

And nearer now I see the port expand,

And now I gladly furl my weary sail,

And, as the prow light touches on the strand,

I strike my red-cross flag and bind my skiff to land.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00