The watchman on the tower his bugle blew,
And swelling to the morn the streamers flew;
The rampart-guns a dread alarum gave,
Smoke rolled, and thunder echoed o'er the wave;
When, starting from his couch, Valdivia cried,
What tidings? Of the tribes! a scout replied;
Ev'n now, prepared thy bulwarks to assail,
Their gathering numbers darken all the vale!
Valdivia called to the attendant youth,
Philip, he cried, belike thy words have truth;
The formidable host, by holy James,
Might well appal our priests and city dames!
Dost thou not fear? Nay--dost thou not reply?
Now by the rood, and all the saints on high,
I hold it sin that thou shouldst lift thy hand
Against thy brothers in thy native land!
But, as thou saidst, those mighty enemies
Me and my feeble legions would despise.
Yes, by our holy lady, thou shalt ride,
Spectator of their prowess, by my side!
Come life, come death, our battle shall display
Its ensigns to the earliest beam of day!
With louder summons ring the rampart-bell,
And haste the shriving father from his cell;
A soldier's heart rejoices in alarms:
And let the trump at midnight sound to arms!
And now, obedient to the chief's commands,
The gray-haired priest before the soldier stands.
Father, Valdivia cried, fierce are our foes,--
The last event of war GOD only knows;--
Let mass be sung; father, this very night
I would attend the high and holy rite.
Yet deem not that I doubt of victory,
Or place defeat or death before mine eye;
It blenches not! But, whatsoe'er befall,
Good father, I would part in peace with all.
So, tell Lautaro--his ingenuous mind
Perhaps may grieve, if late I seemed unkind:--
Hear my heart speak, though far from virtue's way
Ambition's lure hath led my steps astray,
No wanton exercise of barbarous power
Harrows my shrinking conscience at this hour.
If hasty passions oft my spirit fire,
They flash a moment and the next expire;
Lautaro knows it. There is somewhat more:
I would not, here--here, on this distant shore
(Should they, the Indian multitudes, prevail,
And this good sword and these firm sinews fail)
Amid my deadly enemies be found,
'Unhouseled, ananealed,' upon the ground,
A dying man;--thy look, thy reverend age,
Might save my poor remains from barb'rous rage;
And thou may'st pay the last sad obsequies,
O'er the heaped earth where a brave soldier lies:--
So GOD be with thee!
By the torches' light,
The slow procession moves; the solemn rite
Is chanted: through the aisles and arches dim,
At intervals, is heard the imploring hymn.
Now all is still, that only you might hear--
(The tall and slender tapers burning clear,
Whose light Anselmo's palid brow illumes,
Now glances on the mailed soldier's plumes)
Hear, sounding far, only the iron tread,
That echoed through the cloisters of the dead.
Dark clouds are wandering o'er the heaven's wide way;
Now from the camp, at times, a horse's neigh
Breaks on the ear; and on the rampart height
The sentinel proclaims the middle watch of night.
By the dim taper's solitary ray,
Tired, in his tent, the sovereign soldier lay.
Meantime, as shadowy dreams arise, he roams
'Mid bright pavilions and imperial domes,
Where terraces, and battlements, and towers,
Glisten in air o'er rich romantic bowers.
Sudden the visionary pomp is past;
The vacant court sounds to the moaning blast;
A dismal vault appears, where, with swoll'n eyes,
As starting from their orbs, a dead man lies.
It is Almagro's corse!--roll on, ye drums,
Lo! where the great, the proud Pizarro comes!
Her gold, her richest gems, let Fortune strew
Before the mighty conqueror of Peru!
Ah, turn, and see a dagger in his hand--
With ghastly look--see the assassin stand!
Pizarro falls;--he welters in his gore!
Lord of the western world, art thou no more!
Valdivia, hark!--it was another groan!
Another shadow comes, it is thy own!
Ah, bind not thus his arms!--give, give him breath!
Wipe from his bleeding brow those damps of death!
Valdivia, starting, woke. He is alone:
The taper in his tent yet dimly shone.
Lautaro, haste! he cried; Lautaro, save
Thy dying master! Ah! is this the brave,
The haughty victor? Hush, the dream is past!
The early trumpets ring the second blast!
Arm, arm! Ev'n now, the impatient charger neighs!
Again, from tent to tent the trumpet brays!
By torch-light, then, Valdivia gave command,
Haste, let Del Oro take a chosen band,
With watchful caution, on his fleetest steed,
A troop observant on the heights to lead.
Now beautiful, beneath the heaven's gray arch,
Appeared the main battalion's moving march;
The banner of the cross was borne before,
And next, with aspect sad, and tresses hoar,
The holy man went thoughtfully and pressed
A crucifix, in silence, to his breast.
Valdivia, all in burnished steel arrayed,
Upon whose crest the morn's effulgence played,
Majestic reined his steed, and seemed alone,
Worthy the southern world's imperial throne.
His features through the barred casque that glow,
His pole-axe pendent from the saddle-bow;
His dazzling armour, and the glitter bright
Of his drawn sabre, in the orient light,
Speak him not, now, for knightly tournament
Arrayed, but on emprise of prowess bent,
And deeds of deadly strife. In blooming pride,
The attendant youth rode, pensive, by his side.
Their pennoned lances, waving in the wind,
Two hundred clanking horsemen tramped behind,
In iron harness clad. The bugles blew,
And high in air the sanguine ensigns flew.
The arbalasters next, with cross-bows slung,
Marched, whilst the plumed Moors their cymbals swung.
Auxiliar-Indians here, a various train.
With spears and bows, darkened the distant plain;
Drums rolled, and fifes re-echoed shrill and clear,
At intervals, as near and yet more near,
While flags and intermingled halberds shine,
The long battalion drew its passing line.
Last rolled the heavy guns, a sable tier,
By Indians drawn, with matchmen in the rear;
And many a straggling mule and sumpter-train
Closed the embattled order on the plain,
Till nought beneath the azure sky appears
But the projecting points of scarce-discovered spears,
Slow up the hill, with floating vapours hoar,
Or by the blue lake's long retiring shore,
Now seen distinct, through the disparting haze,
The glittering file its bannered length displays;
Now winding from the woods, again appears
The moving line of matchlocks and of spears.
Part seen, part lost; the long illustrious march
Circling the swamp, now draws its various arch;
And seems, as on it moves, meandering slow,
A radiant segment of a living bow.
Five days the Spaniards, trooping in array,
O'er plains and headlands, held their eastern way.
On the sixth early dawn, with shuddering awe
And horror, in the last defile they saw
Ten pendent heads, from which the gore still run,
All gashed, and grim, and blackening in the sun.
These were the gallant troop that passed before,
The Indians' vast encampment to explore,
Led by Del Oro, now with many a wound
Pierced, and a headless trunk upon the ground.
The horses startled, as they tramped in blood;
The troops a moment half-recoiling stood.
But boots not now to pause, or to retire;
Valdivia's eye flashed with indignant fire:
Follow! he cried, brave comrades, to the hill!
And instant shouts the pealing valley fill.
And now, up to the hill's ascending crest,
With animated look and beating breast,
He urged his steed; when, wide beneath his eye,
He saw, in long expanse, Arauco's valley lie.
Far as the labouring sight could stretch its glance,
One undulating mass of club and lance,
One animated surface seemed to fill
The many-stirring scene from hill to hill:
To the deep mass he pointed with his sword,
Banner, advance! give out 'Castile!' the word.
Instant the files advance, the trumpets bray,
And now the host in terrible array,
Ranged on the heights that overlook the plain,
Has halted!
But the task were long and vain
To tell what nations, from the seas that roar
Round Patagonia's melancholy shore;
From forests, brown with everlasting shades;
From rocks of sunshine, white with prone cascades;
From snowy summits, where the Llama roams,
Oft bending o'er the cataract as it foams;
From streams whose bridges tremble from the steep;
From lakes, in summer's sweetest light asleep;
Indians, of sullen brow and giant limb,
With clubs terrific, and with aspects grim,
Flocked fearless.
When they saw the Spanish line
Arrayed, and front to front, descending shine,
Burst, instant burst, the universal cry,
(Ten thousand spears uplifted to the sky)--
Tyrants, we come to conquer or to die!
Grim Mariantu led the Indian force
A-left; and, rushing to the foremost horse,
Hurled with unerring aim the involving thong,
Then fearless sprang amidst the mailed throng.
Valdivia saw the horse, entangled, reel,
And shouting, as he rode, Castile! Castile!
Led on the charge: like a descending flood,
It swept, till every spur was black with blood.
His force a-right, where Harratomac led,
A thousand spears went hissing overhead,
And feathered arrows, of each varying hue,
In glancing arch, beneath the sunbeams flew.
Dire was the strife, when ardent Teucapel
Advancing in the front of carnage fell.
At once, Ongolmo, Elicura, rushed,
And swaying their huge clubs together, crushed
Horseman and horse; then bathed their hands in gore,
And limb from limb the panting carcase tore.
Caupolican, where the main battle bleeds,
Hosts and succeeding hosts undaunted leads,
Till, torn and shattered by the ceaseless fire,
Thousands, with gnashing teeth, and clenched spears, expire.
Pierced by a hundred wounds, Ongolmo lies,
And grasps his club terrific as he dies.
With breathless expectation, on the height,
Lautaro watched the long and dubious fight:
Pale and resigned the meek man stood, and pressed
More close the holy image to his breast.
Now nearer to the fight Lautaro drew,
When on the ground a warrior met his view,
Upon whose features memory seemed to trace
A faint resemblance of his father's face;
O'er him a horseman, with collected might,
Raised his uplifted sword, in act to smite,
When the youth springing on, without a word,
Snatched from a soldier's wearied grasp his sword,
And smote the horseman through the crest: a yell
Of triumph burst, as to the ground he fell.
Lautaro shouted, On! brave brothers, on!
Scatter them like the snow!--the day is won!
Lo, I! Lautaro,--Attacapac's son!
The Indians turn: again the battle bleeds,
Cleft are the helms and crushed the struggling steeds.
The bugle sounds, and faint with toil and heat,
Some straggling horsemen to the hills retreat.
Stand, brave companions! bold Valdivia cried,
And shook his sword, in recent carnage dyed;
Oh! droop not--droop not yet--all is not o'er--
Brave, faithful friends, one glorious sally more.
Where is Lautaro! leaps his willing sword
Now to avenge his long-indulgent lord!
He waited not for answer, but again
Spurred to the centre of the horrid plain.
Clubs, arrows, spears, the spot of death inclose,
And fainter now the Spanish shouts arose.
'Mid ghastly heaps of many a bleeding corse,
Lies the caparisoned and dying horse.
While still the rushing multitudes assail,
Vain is the fiery tube, the twisted mail!
The Spanish horsemen faint; long yells resound,
As the dragged ensign trails the gory ground:
Shout, for the chief is seized!--a thousand cries
Burst forth--Valdivia! for the sacrifice!
And lo, in silent dignity resigned,
The meek Anselmo, led in bonds, behind!
His hand upon his breast, young Zarinel
Amidst a group of mangled Indians fell;
The spear that to his heart a passage found
Left poor Olola's hair within the wound.
Now all is hushed, save where, at times, alone,
Deep midnight listens to a distant moan;
Save where the condors clamour, overhead,
And strike with sounding beaks the helmets of the dead.

More verses by William Lisle Bowles