A Trooper of France in Desperate Need [poem by Charles Harpur]

[Editor: This poem by Charles Harpur was published in The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems (1853). The poem was not given a title on its page in the book; however, it was listed on the Contents page as “A Trooper of France in desperate need”.]

[A Trooper of France in Desperate Need]

A Trooper of France, in desperate need
Had struggled from under his dying steed,
Where Egypt’s pyramids appeared:
While on his black war-horse, the Turk
Who had borne him down, to finish his work
Back wheelingly careered.

Taking his resolute stand
Foot deep in his charger’s blood,
The soldier of Christendom, sword in hand
That gleamily out-pointing, showed
Like the lightning-tongue of a settling cloud,
His foe awaiting stood.

Urged into whirlwind speed,
On on with a scattering tail
Like the hurrying thunderbolt’s smoky trail!
On on with a streaming mane
Like the foremost racks of a hurricane,
On came the Tartar steed!

Then passed with a vengeful clash
Of blades and a lunging downward crash
The imminent shock!
And when its cloud of dust upthrown
Clear’d off, there stood that Trooper alone,
Firm as a rock!

But two steeds and a Moslem in death lay still —
And a kite of the Desert that came, flop, flop,
In heavy flight from a pyramid’s top,
In a merry mood
At the scent of blood,
Was circling o’er and screaming shrill.

Charles Harpur, The Bushrangers; A Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems, Sydney: W. R. Piddington, 1853, pages 123-124

Editor’s notes:
kite = bird of prey, of the family Accipitridae (may also refer to areas in the Middle East which were enclosed by walls, with an entrance, used to herd animals into; some of these areas, when seen from the air, resemble the shape of kites, hence the name)

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

rack = a group of wind-blown clouds (a cloud rack, or cloud-wrack)

Tartar = someone who unexpectedly shows themselves to be formidable (may also refer to: someone who has a fierce, harsh, irritable, or intractable disposition; someone with an angry, unkind, or violent disposition; someone belonging to a ethnically Turkic people (also spelt “Tatar”), predominantly Muslims, who migrated from the Mongolian plateau in the 13th century to areas south-east and east of Russia)

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