Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
IV. Peace
The Battle of Blenheim
Robert Southey (1774–1843)
 
   [In Bavaria, August 13, 1704, between the English and Austrians on one side, under the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, and the French and Bavarians on the other side, led by Marshal Tallart and the Elector of Bavaria. The latter party was defeated, and the schemes of Louis XIV. of France were materially checked.]

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        5
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.
 
She saw her brother Peterkin
  Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet,
  In playing there, had found;        10
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,        15
  And, with a natural sigh,—
“’T is some poor fellow’s skull,” said he,
“Who fell in the great victory.
 
“I find them in the garden,
  For there ’s many hereabout;        20
And often, when I go to plough,
  The ploughshare turns them out;
For many thousand men,” said he,
  “Were slain in the great victory.”
 
“Now tell us what ’t was all about.”        25
  Young Peterkin he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
  With wonder-waiting eyes,—
“Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for.”        30
 
“It was the English,” Kaspar cried,
  “Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for
  I could not well make out;
But everybody said,” quoth he,        35
“That ’t was a famous victory.
 
“My father lived at Blenheim then,
  Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
  And he was forced to fly;        40
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 there,        45
  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,—        50
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,        55
  And our good Prince Eugene.”
“Why, ’t was a very wicked thing!”
  Said little Wilhelmine.
“Nay, nay, my little girl!” quoth he,
“It was a famous victory.        60
 
“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;        65
“But ’t was a famous victory.”
 
 
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