Charles Johnston (1791-1823)

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General Gordon

The marks of death were on him, and he bore
In every feature that sharp, clear, cold look
Which is not of this world; his weak frame shook,
Yet not with terror shook; for oft before
He had sought death amid the battle's roar;
Nor shrank he now, when in his chamber lone
Death, visible death, for three long moons had shown
His dart upraised, but struck not; still he wore
His brow, though sad, undaunted; for he knew
This was his last great fight, whose promise high
Was endless glory to the faithful few,
Whose courage can endure to victory.
And so he conquered, and a soldier true
And gallant, as he lived, did Gordon die.


Spirit of evil, with which earth is rife,
Revenge, revenge! thee all abjure and blame,
Yet when their hour is come invoke thy name;
Base men for thee in secret bare the knife;
The brave partake the peril and the strife;
The weak, the sword more sure of justice claim;
The strong, when they have blasted power and fame,
Give to their foe in scorn the curse of life,
The keenest, bitterest vengeance--
                                                       for these all
Are only shapes thou takest to goad the mind,
Turning the heart's pure generous blood to gall;
And thus, revenge, thou stalkst through all the kind
Till mighty nations madden at thy call,
And earth is waste and seas incarnadined.

In Decline

I've seen my day before its noon decline,
And dark is still the future, nor alas!
Can hope with all the magic of her glass
Irradiate the deep gloom which fate malign
Has gathered round; yet will I not repine;
For though the courage that can do and dare
Be brightest glory, unsubdued to bear,
That calmer, better virtue may be mine;

For this is of the mind; to slay, be slain
Asks but a moment's energies, and fame
First wakens and then keeps alive the flame;
But patience must itself, itself sustain,
And must itself reward, nor hope to find
The praise or the compassion of mankind.

To ------

Whether thy locks in natural beauty stray
Clustering like woodbind wild, or haply bound
Like ivy wreath thy polished brows around;
Whether within thine eyes' blue mirror play
Mirth's arrowy beams or love's more softened ray;
Whether to the gay viol's pleasant sound
Thou minglest in the dance's airy round,
Thy light feet twinkling like the darts of day;
Or whether over the graceful harp thy frame,
More graceful yet, with eyes up-raised thou bendest,
And with its tones thy own, far sweeter, blendest;
Still thou art loveliest, varying, yet the same,
Still over my soul thine absolute sway extendest,
And from all other loves thy heart defendest.


There is a virtue, which to Fortune's height
Follows us not, but in the vale below,
Where dwell the ills of life, disease and woe,
Holds on its steady course, serenely bright.
So some lone star, whose softly beaming light
We mark not in the blaze of solar day,
Comes forth with pure and ever constant ray,
That makes even beautiful the gloom of night.

Thou art that star so lovely and so lone,
That virtue of distress--Fidelity!
And thou, when every joy and hope are flown,
Clingst to the relics of humanity,
Making with all its sorrows life still dear,
And death, with all its terrors, void of fear.