Pieces People Ask For/The Death of D'Assas
THE DEATH OF D'ASSAS.
[In the autumn of 1760, Louis XV. sent an army into Germany. They took up a strong position at Klostercamp, intending to advance on Rheinberg. The young Chevalier D'Assas was sent out by Auvergne to reconnoitre. He met a party advancing to surprise the French camp. Their bayonets pricked his breast, and the leader whispered, "Make the least noise, and you are a dead man." D'Assas paused a moment, then cried out as loud as he could, "Here, Auvergne! here are the enemy! "He was immediately cut down, but his death had saved the French army.—History of France.]
There's revelry at Louis' court. With joust and tournament,
With feasting and with laughter, the merry days are spent;
And midst them all, those gallant knights, of Louis' court the boast,
Who can compare with D'Assas among the brilliant host?
The flush of youth is on his cheek; the fire that lights his eye
Tells of the noble heart within, the spirit pure and high.
No braver knight holds charger's reign, or wields the glittering lance.
Than proud and lordly D'Assas, bold chevalier of France.
The sound of war strikes on the air from far beyond the Rhine,
Its clarions ring across the fields, rich with the purple vine.
France calls her best and bravest: "Up, men, and take the sword!
Of German vales and hillsides, Louis would fain be lord;
Go forth, and for your sovereign win honor and renown;
Plant the white flag of Ivry on valley and on town.
The green soil of the Fatherland shall see your arms advance,
The dull and stolid Teuton shall bend the knee to France."
On Klostercamp the morning sun is glancing brightly down.
Auvergne has ranged his forces within the ancient town.
From thence on Kheinberg shall they move: that citadel so grim
Shall yield her towers to Auvergne, shall ope her gates to him.
His warriors stand about him, a bold and gallant band,
No general e'er had truer men to follow his command.
He seeks the best and bravest; on D'Assas falls his glance,—
On brave and lordly D'Assas, bold chevalier of France.
"Advance, my lord," cried Auvergne; D'Assas is at his side.
"Of all the knights who form my train, who 'neath my banner ride,
None hold the place of trust the king our sovereign gives to thee,—
Wilt thou accept a fearful charge that death or fame shall be?
"Wilt thou, O D'Assas! ride to-night close to the foemen's line,
And see what strength he may oppose to these proud hosts of mine?"
Then D'Assas bows his stately head. "Thy will shall soon be done.
Back will I come with tidings full e'er dawns the morning sun."
'Tis midnight. D'Assas rideth forth upon his well-tried steed.
Auvergne hath made a worthy choice for this adventurous deed.
But stop! what means this silent host? How stealthily they come!
No martial music cleaves the air, no sound of beaten drum.
Like spectre forms they seem to glide before his wondering eyes;
Well hath he done, the wary foe, to plan this wild surprise.
Back D'Assas turns; but ah! too late,—a lance is laid in rest:
The knight can feel its glittering point against his corselet prest.
"A Frenchman! Hist!" A heavy hand has seized his bridle-rein.
"Hold close thy lips, my gallant spy; one word, and thou art slain.
What brought thee here? Dost thou not know this is the Fatherland?
How dar'st thou stain our righteous earth with thy foul Popish band?
Wouldst guard thy life, then utter not one sound above thy breath;
A whisper, and thy dainty limbs shall make a meal for Death.
Within thy heart these blades shall find the black blood of thy race,
And none shall ever know or dream of thy last resting-place."
Calm as a statue D'Assas stands. His heart he lifts on high.
"The God of battles! help me now, and teach me how to die.
A weeping maid will mourn my fate, a sovereign holds me dear;
Be to them ever more than I who perish sadly here."
No word has passed his pallid lips, no sound his voice has made.
'Twas but the utterance of his heart, this prayer the soldier prayed.
But then? ah, then! No voice on earth e'er rang more loud and clear:
"Auvergne!" he cried, "Auvergne, Auvergne! Behold! the foe is here!"
The forest echoes with the shout. Appalled his captors stand.
The courage of that dauntless heart has stayed each murderous hand.
A moment's pause,—then who can tell how quick their bayonets' thrust
Reached D'Assas' heart, and laid him there, a helpless heap of dust!
The bravest chevalier of France, the pride of Louis' train,—
His blood bedews that alien earth, a flood of crimson rain.
But Auvergne—Auvergne hears the cry; his troops come dashing on:
Ere D'Assas' spirit leaves its clay, the victory has been won.
Mary E. Vandyne, in Good Cheer.