Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,  
  As his corpse to the rampart we hurried;  
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot  
  O'er the grave where our hero we buried.  
We buried him darkly at dead of night,          
  The sods with our bayonets turning;  
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light  
  And the lantern dimly burning.  
No useless coffin enclosed his breast,  
  Not in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;   
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,  
  With his martial cloak around him.  
Few and short were the prayers we said,  
  And we spoke not a word of sorrow;  
But we steadfastly gazed on the face of the dead,   
  And we bitterly thought of the morrow.  
We thought, as we hollow'd his narrow bed  
  And smoothed down his lonely pillow,  
That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,  
  And we far away on the billow!   
Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone,  
  And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him;  
But little he'll reck, if they let him sleep on  
  In the grave where a Briton has laid him.  
But half of our heavy task was done   
  When the clock struck the hour for retiring,  
And we heard the distant and random gun  
  That the foe was sullenly firing.  
Slowly and sadly we laid him down,  
  From the field of his fame fresh and gory;   
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,  
  But we left him alone with his glory.

The battle of Corunna was part of a war fought in Portugal and Spain, with France. The British joined in against the French. In battle an army of British under Sir John Moore (1761-1809) was forced to retreat to the Spanish port of Corunna. From there they intended to evacuate back to Britain. A fight with the French ensued. Though defeating the French, Moore was mortally wounded. Charles Wolfe (1791-1823) wrote "Burial of Sir John Moore" circa 1814 and it was published in 1817.

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