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On the evening of June 15, 1815, a great ball was given in Brussels to the English officers. The allies had not supposed that Napoleon was near, but by rapid marches unknown to them, he was approaching Waterloo, near Brussels, and while the ball was in progress, he attacked the allied armies. Although there were several battles, the contest has been named "The Battle of Waterloo."
In the great battle, Napoleon was defeated and again driven from his throne. His power was crushed, and he was soon after made a prisoner, and at last exiled as a prisoner to the lonely island of St. Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he died in 1821.
This selection is taken from the third Canto of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." The first stanzas describe the scene at the ball given to the English officers on the evening when Napoleon made his surprise attack.
Now stop reading, shut your eyes, and try to imagine the scene, -the great ballroom, the thousands of lights, the handsome officers in bright scarlet uniforms, the lovely English ladies dancing with them, the soft music of the orchestra, the talk, the laughter, the joyousness of these people who never even dreamed that Napoleon was near and ready to make a sudden attack.
Now read the first stanza.
Listen! From far away comes a faint
Boom! And some
one calls attention to it. But the others only laugh at him. Now read stanza 2, to see how he is laughed at by the joyous dancers. Again comes the heavy Boom of cannon. Then it comes clearer and faster, - Boom! Boom! Boom! - and then the sounds come too rapidly to count.
Suddenly some officer realizes that Napoleon has surprised the allies and that the sounds are the "booms" of Napoleon's cannon. And right in the midst of the music, and the dancing, and the talk, and the laughter, he shouts :
"Arm! Arm! It is it is the cannon's opening roar!"
Can you imagine the scene of fearful confusion now, the hurrying officers, the frightened women, the orderlies bringing the officers' horses, the rattle of the drums to alarm the sleeping soldiers, the clattering of hoofs and the rattle of wheels, and the awful partings! Yonder a sweet woman, with agonized face, clings to an officer whom she is never to see again. And all this time was heard the deep-Boom! Boom! Boom! of Napoleon's cannon. You must hear this sound throughout the story.
The allies won the battle, and the world was free from a ruthless conqueror. But of the officers who attended the ball, many never came back to their loved ones. They were lying in their blood on the trampled grass of the plains of "Ardennes."
Now read the remaining stanzas of the poem, seeing the pictures and hearing the sounds.
Learn the meanings of the following words before reading the selection.
revelry (rěv'ěl-ri): joyousness, thunder: here the roar of many laughter, merrymaking.
chivalry (shiv'ăl-ri): the best Ardennes (here är'den): the and bravest soldiers.
voluptuous swell (vô-lŭp'tü-us):
the feeling of delight or pleasure caused by sweet music. flying feet: dancing feet. mutual eyes: the eyes of a man and a woman that looked love at each other.
mustering squadron: a body of
forest-covered district in which lie many thousands of the dead who fell in the battle. aught inanimate: anything that cannot think and feel. lusty brave, active, strong. battle's magnificently
array: a great army drawn
cavalrymen, or mounted sol- rent:
diers, assembling in ranks for pent: shut in, that is, in solbattle.
impetuous speed: furious and blent: mixed, intermingled. violent speed.
THE EVE BEFORE WATERLOO
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
But, hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!
Did ye not hear it? - No; 'twas but the wind,
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
But, hark! that heavy sound breaks in once more,
And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!
Arm! arm! it is it is the cannon's opening roar!
Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise!
And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,
Or whispering with white lips, The foe! They come! they come !
And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Which now beneath them, but above shall grow
In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
Of living valor, rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall molder cold and low.
Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay;
The midnight brought the signal sound of strife —
Battle's magnificently stern array!
The thunderclouds close o'er it, which when rent, The earth is covered thick with other clay, Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent, Rider and horse- friend, foe-in one red burial blent!
how Napoleon's attack 7. Stanza 6.
3. Describe the confusion when
Note that five
different scenes, at five successive times of day,
are described in the first five lines. Tell, in your
own words, what each of these lines means.
fro"? the "tremblings of 8. What are the thunder
George Gordon, Lord Byron, was born in London, England, in 1788. He came of a very old and noble family. He was not born a lord, but the death of a great-uncle made him a lord at the age of ten.
While still a young man, he became famous as a poet. His fame grew so great that many persons imitated his peculiar manners of dress and speech. His fame grew greater and greater, but his habits of living were such that his friends deserted him, and he left England, a sad and lonely man, never to return. He spent some time in Italy, and then went to Greece, where the Greeks were engaged in a revolution to free themselves from the Turks. The Greeks made him commander in chief of their armies. But before he had time to lead them to battle, Byron died at Missolonghi (mis-o-loŋ'-gé) in 1824, at the age of thirty-six.