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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
What is Greatness?
By William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)
 
From ‘The Chronicle of the Drum’

AH, gentle, tender lady mine!
  The winter wind blows cold and shrill:
Come, fill me one more glass of wine,
  And give the silly fools their will.
 
And what care we for war and wrack,        5
  How kings and heroes rise and fall?
Look yonder, 1 in his coffin black
  There lies the greatest of them all!
 
To pluck him down, and keep him up,
  Died many million human souls;—        10
’Tis twelve o’clock and time to sup:
  Bid Mary heap the fire with coals.
 
He captured many thousand guns;
  He wrote “The Great” before his name;
And dying, only left his sons        15
  The recollection of his shame.
 
Though more than half the world was his,
  He died without a rood his own;
And borrowed from his enemies
  Six foot of ground to lie upon.        20
 
He fought a thousand glorious wars,
  And more than half the world was his;
And somewhere now, in yonder stars,
  Can tell, mayhap, what greatness is.
 
Note 1. This ballad was written at Paris at the time of the second funeral of Napoleon. [back]
 
 
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