Ah, simple boy! – well had it been for thee
Had thy ambitious longing been confined
To objects wisely placed beyond thy grasp.
But years stole on – thy ardent spirit broke
Its childish trammels, and with eager joy
Explored the warlike annals of the past,
And called up spirits of the mighty dead,
To set their hostile armies in array,
And fight for thee their sanguine battles o’er.
Oh, while such visions burst on thy sight,
While shouts of victory and dying groans
Rang on thine ear – time backward rolled his tide,
Rome in her ancient splendour proudly rose,
And murdered Caesar lived again in thee!
Young fiery soldier – let us trace thy steps
Through danger’s stormy paths, to win the goal
Of all thy lofty and ambitious hopes.
Wedded to glory, thy brave heart springs forth
To win thy bride from valour’s armed hand,
And pluck the laurel from the brow of death.
A novice in the camp and new to arms,
The bugle lulls thee to repose, the trumpet
Thrills on thy sleeping ear and bids thee dream
Of deathless fields in fancy fought and won.
At length the day of trial comes – the day
Which puts thy boasted courage to the proof –
Thy first in battle, and perchance thy last.
The camp is broken up, the air is rent
With strains of martial music, the loud neigh
Of prancing steeds, impatient for the strife,
With clang of arms, and oft-repeated shouts
Of warriors who impatiently leap forth
with reckless hardihood to meet their doom.
With beating heart, firm step, and flashing eye,
The young recruit of glory proudly grasps
The standard he must only yeild with life.
The march commences – deep excitement grows
To fiery expectation – he forgets
Amid the hurried interest of the scene,
The crown he fights for only can be won
Through seas of slaughter and the waste of life.
Alas! How few devoted hearts like his
Survive their first engagement with the foe.
Death strikes the hero to the dust. He falls
In honour’s mantle, the triumphant cry
Of victory on his pallid lips expires!
But what are conquests of the bow and spear,
And Alexander’s victories compared
With the stern warfare which the soul maintains
Against the subtle tempter of mankind –
The base corruption of a sinful world –
An evil conscience and a callous heart?
Oh, vanquish these – and through the gates of death
Triumphant pass and win a heavenly crown!
– Susanna Moodie, an excerpt from Enthusiasm