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Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt

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ARNOLD VON WINKLERIED

"Make way for liberty!" he cried,

Make way for liberty, and died.

In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,

A living wall, a human wood,—

A wall, where every conscious stone

Seemed to its kindred thousands grown.

A rampart all assaults to bear,

Till time to dust their frames should wear;

So still, so dense the Austrians stood,

A living wall, a human wood.


Impregnable their front appears,

All horrent with projected spears.

[297]

Whose polished points before them shine,

From flank to flank, one brilliant line,

Bright as the breakers' splendours run

Along the billows to the sun.


Opposed to these a hovering band

Contended for their fatherland;

Peasants, whose new-found strength had broke

From manly necks the ignoble yoke,

And beat their fetters into swords,

On equal terms to fight their lords;

And what insurgent rage had gained,

In many a mortal fray maintained;

Marshalled, once more, at Freedom's call,

They came to conquer or to fall,

Where he who conquered, he who fell,

Was deemed a dead or living Tell,

Such virtue had that patriot breathed,

So to the soil his soul bequeathed,

That wheresoe'er his arrows flew,

Heroes in his own likeness grew,

And warriors sprang from every sod,

Which his awakening footstep trod.


And now the work of life and death

Hung on the passing of a breath;

The fire of conflict burned within,

The battle trembled to begin;

Yet, while the Austrians held their ground,

Point for attack was nowhere found;

Where'er the impatient Switzers gazed,

The unbroken line of lances blazed;

[298]

That line 'twere suicide to meet,

And perish at their tyrant's feet;

How could they rest within their graves,

And leave their homes, the homes of slaves!

Would not they feel their children tread,

With clanging chains, above their head?


It must not be; this day, this hour,

Annihilates the invader's power;

All Switzerland is in the field;

She will not fly,—she cannot yield,—

She must not fall; her better fate

Here gives her an immortal date.

Few were the numbers she could boast,

But every freeman was a host,

And felt as 'twere a secret known

That one should turn the scale alone,

While each unto himself was he

On whose sole arm hung victory.


It did depend on one indeed;

Behold him,—Arnold Winkelried;

There sounds not to the trump of fame

The echo of a nobler name.

Unmarked he stood amid the throng,

In rumination deep and long,

Till you might see, with sudden grace,

The very thought come o'er his face;

And, by the motion of his form,

Anticipate the bursting storm,

And, by the uplifting of his brow,

Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.


[299]

But 'twas no sooner thought than done!

The field was in a moment won;

"Make way for liberty!" he cried,

Then ran, with arms extended wide,

As if his dearest friend to clasp;

Ten spears he swept within his grasp.

"Make way for liberty!" he cried.

Their keen points crossed from side to side;

He bowed amidst them like a tree,

And thus made way for liberty.


Swift to the breach his comrades fly,

"Make way for liberty!" they cry,

And through the Austrian phalanx dart,

As rushed the spears through Arnold's heart.

While instantaneous as his fall,

Rout, ruin, panic, seized them all;

An earthquake could not overthrow

A city with a surer blow.


Thus Switzerland again was free;

Thus Death made way for Liberty!


JAMES MONTGOMERY.


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