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   English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
422. After Blenheim
 
Robert Southey (1774–1843)
 
 
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
‘’Tis some poor fellow’s skull,’ said he.
‘Who fell in the great victory.
 
‘I find them in the garden,
  For there’s many here about;        20
And often when I go to plough
  The ploughshare turns them out.
For many thousand men,’ said he,
‘Were slain in that great victory.’
 
‘Now tell us what ’twas 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 ’twas 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 then        45
  And newborn 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 Marlbro’ won        55
  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.        60
 
‘And every body 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 ’twas a famous victory.’
 

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