And set their
bridges ship to ship and over them did ride;
Emperors unnumbered, for their cruelty renowned,
Who came to us with hungry eyes for water and for ground;
And though I would not care to brag, tell you this thing I must:
Little time went by ere they were water and were dust.
You boast that on your conquering road no gates for long were closed
Though all the flower of the West your vanguard's march opposed;
But what the high aspiring cause that did their hearts endure?
The vanity of every brave, of every cavalier;
The pomp of noisy conquest; for they had set their vow
To tear the pride from out your heart, the laurels from your brow.
But I defend the poverty and the needs of a struggling land
And therefore all the rocks and streams and hills that guardian stand
And all that grows and moves and breathes to me is ally true,
While every blade of grass and stone is enemy to you;
We have small hosts, yet love of soil had ever power to rid
This flowering land of all its foes. Prepare then Bayazid!"
No sooner had he gone than mighty the commotion!
The forest rang with arms, and rumbled like the ocean,
Amidst the greenwood thousand heads with long and plaited hair,
And several thousands more besides that did bright helmets wear.
While wave on wave of cavalry over the plain did flood
Astride high prancing chargers, their stirrups carved of wood.
Thundering over the battered earth an avalanche they went,
Lances levelled to the charge and bows near double bent;
Till like a shower of shivering light that whistled through the air,
A storm of arrows leapt and sang and flew from everywhere:
A din of blows on armour dealt like rattling of hail,
The noise of hoof and sword and lance, the roar of battle gale.
Unheeded was the Emperor's fury, lion-like his rage,
For hotter still about his troops the fight did deadly wage;
Unheeded did the green flame flutter over his stricken ranks
assailed in front, attacked on both their flanks,
The East's entire battle host was scattered in the fray
And line on line of infantry mown down like summer hay.
A steady rain of arrows fell and sword blows did resound,
While riders dropped on every hand and dead bestrewed the ground.
Till, onset from all sides at once, helpless to fight or fly,
It seemed the very earth was doomed and fallen was the sky...
Mircea himself led on his men midst storm of battle lust
That came, and came, and came, that trod all in the dust;
Their cavalry undaunted, a wall of lances proud
Which through that pagan army streets of daylight ploughed
And laid to earth their thousands like sheaves of ripened corn,
High in the van of conquest Wallachia's banner borne;
As deluge flung from heaven that burst upon the seas,
Till in an hour the heathen were chaff before the breeze
And from that hail of iron fast towards the Danube fled,
While gloriously behind them the Romanian army spread.
Now, while the troops are camping, the sun goes slowly
Decking the lofty summits with victory's gold crown;
The lightning that from terror had flown out of the sky
Now flashes forth its splendour along the mountains high,
While gradually the planets do up the heaven rear
And over the mist-drenched forest the pallid moon appear,
The queen of night and ocean that squanders calm and sleep.
Yet of the sons of Mircea does one still vigil keep,
And on his knee, in musing, beneath the evening star,
He writes to his beloved of Arges village far:
"From deep within Rovine vale,
O lady fair, we bid you hail,
Alas, by letter not by speech,