Poem of the day

The Battle of Blenheim
by Robert Southey (1774-1843)

It was a summer’s 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.

She saw her brother Peterkin
⁠         Roll something large and round,
Which 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.

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 skull,” said he,
“Who fell in the great victory!

“I find them in the garden,
⁠         For there’s many hereabout;
And often when I go to plow,
⁠         The plowshare turns them out;
For many thousand men,” said he,
“Were slain in that great victory!”

“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 killed each other for.”

“It was the English,” Kaspar cried,
⁠         “Who put the French to rout;
But what they killed each other for
⁠         I could not well make out.
But everybody said,” quoth he,
“That ’twas a famous victory!

“My father lived at Blenheim then,
⁠         Yon little stream hard by:
They burned 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.

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

“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.

“Great praise the Duke of Marlborough 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!

“And everybody praised the Duke
⁠         Who this great 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.”

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