Gateway to the Classics: Poems Every Child Should Know by Mary E. Burt
Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt

The Battle of Blenheim

Have you been to Woodstock, near Oxford, England? If so, you have seen the palace of the Duke of Marlborough, who won the battle of Blenheim. The main point of the poem is the doubtful honour in killing in our great wars. Southey, the poet, lived from 1774 to 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."

Robert Southey.

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