1810.1 - "Walcheren Expedition; Or, the Englishman's Lamentation for the Loss of His Countrymen."

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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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1810.1
Walcheren Expedition;
Or, the Englishman's Lamentation for the Loss of
His Countrymen.

[James Henry Leigh Hunt]
The Examiner (January 7, 1810)
The Morning Chronicle (January 8, 1810)
The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry, VII (1812), pp. 249-251 [1]

Ye brave, enduring Englishmen,
    Who dash through fire and flood,
And spend with equal thoughtlessness
    Your money and your blood,
I sing of that black season,
    Which all true hearts deplore,
        When ye lay,
        Night and day,
Upon Walcheren's swampy shore.[2]

'Twas in the summer's sunshine
    Your mighty host set sail,
With valour in each longing heart
    And vigour in the gale;
The Frenchman dropp'd his laughter,
    The Fleming's thoughts grew sore,
        As ye came
        In your fame
To the dark and swampy shore.

But foul delays encompass'd ye
    More dang'rous than the foe,
As Antwerp's town and its guarded fleet
    Too well for Britons know;
One spot alone ye conquer'd
    With hosts unknown of yore;
        And your might
        Day and night,
Lay still on the swampy shore.

In vain your dauntless mariners
    Mourn'd ev'ry moment lost,
In vain your soldiers threw their eyes
    In flame to the hostile coast;
The fire of gallant aspects
    Was doom'd to be no more,
        And your fame
        Sunk with shame
In the dark and the swampy shore.

Ye died not in the triumphing
    Of the battle-shaken flood,
Ye died not on the charging field
    In the mingle of brave blood;
But 'twas in wasting fevers
    Full three months and more,
        Britons born,
        Pierc'd with scorn,
Lay at rot on the swampy shore.

No ship came o'er to bring relief,
    No orders came to save;
But DEATH stood there and never stirr'd,
    Still counting for the grave.
They lay down, and they linger'd,
    And died with feelings sore,
        And the waves
        Pierc'd their graves
Thro' the dark and the swampy shore.

Oh England! Oh my Countrymen!
    Ye ne'er shall thrive again,
Till freed from Councils obstinate
    Of mercenary men.
So toll for the six thousand
    Whose miseries are o'er,
        Where the deep,
        To their sleep,
Bemoans on the swampy shore.


Notes

1. In the Poetical Register, the signature "Leigh Hunt, Esq." appears. Edmund Blunden, Leigh Hunt's "Examiner" Examined (New York and London, 1928) p. 13, also identifies the poem as Hunt's but notes it does not appear in H.S. Milford's edition of Hunt's poetry.

2. On July 28, 1809, 39,000 British fighting men were sent to the Low Countries under the Command of John Pitt, 2nd earl of Chatham. Instead of marching on Antwerp, Chatham ordered his men to take Walcheren Island off Flushing. By September when half his troops were recalled, 11,000 of Chatham's men had contracted fever, unused as they were to the swampy region. By December when the remaining troops were called back, the casualties numbered 4,044, only 106 of whom had been killed in battle.

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Published @ RC

September 2004