The Siege of Valencia; The Last Constantine: with Other Poems/The Spartan's March

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For other versions of this work, see The Spartan's March.



"The Spartans used not the trumpet in their march into battle, says Thucydides, because they wished not to excite the rage of their warriors. Their charging-step was made to the 'Dorian mood of flutes and soft recorders.' The valour of a Spartan was too highly tempered to require a stunning or rousing impulse. His spirit was like a steed too proud for the spur."—Campbell on the Elegiac Poetry of the Greek.

'Twas morn upon the Grecian hills,
    Where peasants dress'd the vines,
Sunlight was on Cithæron's rills,
    Arcadia's rocks and pines.

And brightly, through his reeds and flowers,
    Eurotas wander'd by,
When a sound arose from Sparta's towers
    Of solemn harmony.

Was it the hunters' choral strain
    To the woodland-goddess pour'd?
Did virgin-hands in Pallas' fane
    Strike the full-sounding chord?

But helms were glancing on the stream,
    Spears ranged in close array,
And shields flung back a glorious beam
    To the morn of a fearful day!

And the mountain-echoes of the land
    Swell'd through the deep-blue sky,
While to soft strains moved forth a band
    Of men that moved to die.

They march'd not with the trumpet's blast,
    Nor bade the horn peal out,
And the laurel-groves, as on they pass'd,
    Rung with no battle-shout!

They ask'd no clarion's voice to fire
    Their souls with an impulse high;
But the Dorian reed and the Spartan lyre
    For the sons of liberty!

And still sweet flutes, their path around,
    Sent forth Eolian breath;
They needed not a sterner sound
    To marshal them for death!

So moved they calmly to their field,
    Thence never to return,
Save bearing back the Spartan shield,
    Or on it proudly borne!

  1. * Originally published in the Edinburgh Magazine.