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Where are the friends of former years,
The old original hussars?
Where is the chief who ruled his peers,
My boon companions of the wars?

Veterans, I remember all,
How you grew mellow without stint,
Your places round the fire recall,
And noses of a purple tint.

The soldiers' caps thrown lightly back,
The jackets reaching to your knees,
Sabres, and sabretaches slack,
The hay whereon you lay at ease.

Holding black pipes between your teeth,
You spare your speech; the smoke ascends
Or, choosing tortuous paths beneath
Your muffled coats, its way extends.

No single word, much columned smoke;
None stirs, and all to silence keep;
Each drinks and, wrapped within his cloak,
Stretches and quickly goes to sleep.

Scarecely appears the break of day,
Ere each is scudding o'er the field,
With cap askew in brave display,
Lets his pelisse to breezes yield.

His steed is quivering with delight,
His sabre whistles, cleaves a foe;
With battle done, his appetite
Demands a chance itself to show.

But what distresses now my view?
Fear rules hussars of modish shape,
Ill-uniformed, in high boots new,
They pirouette and work escape.

They sagely speak, wiseacres look,
Believe the tought of love absurd;
They like Jomini and his book,
Concerning vodka say no word.

Where are my friends of former years,
The real, superlative hussars?
Where is the chief who ruled his peers,
My boon companions of the wars?

The poem above is titled Song Of An Old Hussar by Denis Vasilyevich Davydov (1784-1839), a Russian soldier-poet of the Napoleonic Wars who invented a specific genre hussar poetry noted for its hedonism and bravado and spectacularly designed his own life to illustrate such poetry.

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Jul 13, 2011 01:23 am

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