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    The Unknown Student

    by Bayard Taylor
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    Ha! spears on Gmunden's meadows green,
    And banners on the wood-crowned height!
    Rank after rank, their helmets' sheen
    Sends back the morning light!
    Where late the mountain maiden sang,
    The battle-trumpet's brazen clang
    Vibrates along the air;
    And wild dragoons wheel o'er the plain.
    Trampling to earth the yellow grain,
    From which no more the merry swain
    His harvest sheaves shall bear.

    The eagle, in his sweep at morn,
    To meet the monarch-sun on high,
    Heard the unwonted warrior's horn
    Peal faintly up the sky!
    He saw the foemen, moving slow
    In serried legions, far below,
    Against that peasant-band,
    Who dared to break the tyrant's thrall
    And by the sword of Austria fall,
    Or keep the ancient Right of all,
    Held by their mountain-land;

    They came to meet that mail-clad host
    From glen and wood and ripening field;
    A brave, stout arm, each man could boast--
    A soul, unused to yield!
    They met: a shout, prolonged and loud,
    Went hovering upward with the cloud
    That closed around them dun;
    Blade upon blade unceasing clashed,
    Spears in the onset shivering crashed,
    And the red glare of cannon flashed
    Athwart the smoky sun!

    The mountain warriors wavered back,
    Borne down by myriads of the foe,
    Like pines before the torrent's track
    When spring has warmed the snow.
    Shall Faith and Freedom vainly call,
    And Gmunden's warrior-herdsmen fall
    On the red field in vain?
    No! from the throng that back retired,
    A student boy sprang forth inspired,
    And while his words their bosoms fired,
    Led on the charge again!

    "And thus your free arms would ye give
    So tamely to a tyrant's band,
    And with the hearts of vassals live
    In this, your chainless land?
    The emerald lake is spread below,
    And tower above, the hills of snow--
    Here, field and forest lie;
    This land, so glorious and so free--
    Say, shall it crushed and trodden be?
    Say, would ye rather bend the knee
    Than for its freedom die?

    "Look! yonder stand in mid-day's glare
    The everlasting Alps of snow,
    And from their peaks a purer air
    Breathes o'er the vales below!
    The Traun his brow is bent in pride--
    He brooks no craven on his side--
    Would ye be fettered then?
    There lifts the Sonnenstein his head,
    There chafes the Traun his rocky bed
    And Aurach's lovely vale is spread--
    Look on them and be men!

    "Let, like a trumpet's sound of fire,
    These stir your souls to manhood's part--
    The glory of the Alps inspire
    Each yet unconquered heart!
    For, through their unpolluted air
    Soars fresher up the grateful prayer
    From freemen, unto God;--
    A blessing on those mountains old!
    On to the combat, brethren bold!
    Strike, that ye free the valleys hold,
    Where free your fathers trod!"

    And like a mighty storm that tears
    The icy avalanche from its bed,
    They rushed against th' opposing spears--
    The student at their head!
    The bands of Austria fought in vain;
    A bloodier harvest heaped the plain
    At every charge they made;
    Each herdsman was a hero then--
    The mountain hunters stood like men,
    And echoed from the farthest glen
    The clash of blade on blade!

    The banner in the student's hand
    Waved triumph from the fight before;
    What terror seized the conq'ring band?--
    It fell, to rise no more!
    And with it died the lofty flame,
    That from his lips in lightning came
    And burned upon their own;
    Dread Pappenheim led back the foe,
    The mountain peasants yielded slow,
    And plain above and lake below
    Were red when evening shone!

    Now many a year has passed away
    Since battle's blast rolled o'er the plain,
    The Alps are bright in morning's ray--
    The Traunstein smiles again.
    But underneath the flowery sod,
    By happy peasant children trod,
    A hero's ashes lay.
    O'er him no grateful nation wept,
    Fame, of his deed no record kept,
    And dull Forgetfulness hath swept
    His very name away!

    In many a grave, by poets sung,
    There falls to dust a lofty brow,
    But he alone, the brave and young,
    Sleeps there forgotten now.
    The Alps upon that field look down,
    Which won his bright and brief renown,
    Beside the lake's green shore;
    Still wears the land a tyrant's chain--
    Still bondmen tread the battle-plain,
    Culled by his glorious soul in vain
    To win their rights of yore.
    If you're writing a The Unknown Student essay and need some advice, post your Bayard Taylor essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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