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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1800.1
The Battle of Blenheim[1]
Robert Southey
The Annual Anthology, II (1800), 34-37

                    I.

It was a summer evening,
    Old Kaspar's work was done;
And he before his cottage door
    Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

                    II.

She saw her brother Peterkin
    Roll something large and round,
That he beside the rivulet
    In playing there had found;
He came to ask what he had found,
That was so large, and smooth, and round.

                   III.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy
    Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
    And with a natural sigh,
'Tis some poor fellow's scull, said he,
Who fell in the great victory.

                    IV.

I find them in the garden, for
    There's many here about,
And often when I go to plough,
    The ploughshare turns them out;
For many thousand men, said he,
Were slain in the great victory.

                    V.

Now tell us what 'twas all about,
    Young Peterkin he cries,
And little Wilhelmine looks up
    With wonder-waiting eyes;
Now tell us all about the war,
And what they kill'd each other for.

                    VI.

It was the English, Kaspar cried,
    That put the French to rout;
But what they kill'd each other for,
    I could not well make out.
But every body said, quoth he,
That 'twas a famous victory.

                   VII.

My father lived at Blenheim then,
    Yon little stream hard by,
They burnt his dwelling to the ground
    And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

                   VIII.

With fire and sword the country round
    Was wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then,
    And new-born infant died.
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

                    IX.

They say it was a shocking sight
    After the field was won,
For many thousand bodies here
    Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that you know must be
After a famous victory.

                    X.

Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won,
    And our good Prince Eugene.—
Why 'twas a very wicked thing!
    Said little Wilhelmine.
Nay—nay—my little girl, quoth he,
It was a famous victory.

                    XI.

And every body praised the Duke
    Who such a fight did win.
But what good came of it at last?—
    Quoth little Peterkin.
Why that I cannot tell, said he,
But 'twas a famous victory. [2]


Notes

1. During the war of the Spanish succession, the Duke of Marlborough, commanding the forces of the Grand Alliance, won a victory at Blenheim (August 12, 1704) in his campaign in the Spanish Netherlands.

2. After the seige of Copenhagen in September 1807, The Battle of Blenheim was parodied in The Morning Chronicle. See A Danish Tale (A La Southey).

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September 2004

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