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Chapter 24


THE UNKNOWN STUDENT.


Ha! spears on Gmunden's meadows green,
And banners on the wood-crowned height!
Rank after rank, their helmets' sheen
Sends back the morning light!
Where late the mountain maiden sang,
The battle-trumpet's brazen clang
Vibrates along the air;
And wild dragoons wheel o'er the plain.
Trampling to earth the yellow grain,
From which no more the merry swain
His harvest sheaves shall bear.

The eagle, in his sweep at morn,
To meet the monarch-sun on high,
Heard the unwonted warrior's horn
Peal faintly up the sky!
He saw the foemen, moving slow
In serried legions, far below,
Against that peasant-band,
Who dared to break the tyrant's thrall
And by the sword of Austria fall,
Or keep the ancient Right of all,
Held by their mountain-land;

They came to meet that mail-clad host
From glen and wood and ripening field;
A brave, stout arm, each man could boast--
A soul, unused to yield!
They met: a shout, prolonged and loud,
Went hovering upward with the cloud
That closed around them dun;
Blade upon blade unceasing clashed,
Spears in the onset shivering crashed,
And the red glare of cannon flashed
Athwart the smoky sun!

The mountain warriors wavered back,
Borne down by myriads of the foe,
Like pines before the torrent's track
When spring has warmed the snow.
Shall Faith and Freedom vainly call,
And Gmunden's warrior-herdsmen fall
On the red field in vain?
No! from the throng that back retired,
A student boy sprang forth inspired,
And while his words their bosoms fired,
Led on the charge again!

"And thus your free arms would ye give
So tamely to a tyrant's band,
And with the hearts of vassals live
In this, your chainless land?
The emerald lake is spread below,
And tower above, the hills of snow--
Here, field and forest lie;
This land, so glorious and so free--
Say, shall it crushed and trodden be?
Say, would ye rather bend the knee
Than for its freedom die?

"Look! yonder stand in mid-day's glare
The everlasting Alps of snow,
And from their peaks a purer air
Breathes o'er the vales below!
The Traun his brow is bent in pride--
He brooks no craven on his side--
Would ye be fettered then?
There lifts the Sonnenstein his head,
There chafes the Traun his rocky bed
And Aurach's lovely vale is spread--
Look on them and be men!

"Let, like a trumpet's sound of fire,
These stir your souls to manhood's part--
The glory of the Alps inspire
Each yet unconquered heart!
For, through their unpolluted air
Soars fresher up the grateful prayer
From freemen, unto God;--
A blessing on those mountains old!
On to the combat, brethren bold!
Strike, that ye free the valleys hold,
Where free your fathers trod!"

And like a mighty storm that tears
The icy avalanche from its bed,
They rushed against th' opposing spears--
The student at their head!
The bands of Austria fought in vain;
A bloodier harvest heaped the plain
At every charge they made;
Each herdsman was a hero then--
The mountain hunters stood like men,
And echoed from the farthest glen
The clash of blade on blade!

The banner in the student's hand
Waved triumph from the fight before;
What terror seized the conq'ring band?--
It fell, to rise no more!
And with it died the lofty flame,
That from his lips in lightning came
And burned upon their own;
Dread Pappenheim led back the foe,
The mountain peasants yielded slow,
And plain above and lake below
Were red when evening shone!

Now many a year has passed away
Since battle's blast rolled o'er the plain,
The Alps are bright in morning's ray--
The Traunstein smiles again.
But underneath the flowery sod,
By happy peasant children trod,
A hero's ashes lay.
O'er him no grateful nation wept,
Fame, of his deed no record kept,
And dull Forgetfulness hath swept
His very name away!

In many a grave, by poets sung,
There falls to dust a lofty brow,
But he alone, the brave and young,
Sleeps there forgotten now.
The Alps upon that field look down,
Which won his bright and brief renown,
Beside the lake's green shore;
Still wears the land a tyrant's chain--
Still bondmen tread the battle-plain,
Culled by his glorious soul in vain
To win their rights of yore.


Bayard Taylor