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The Well Read Poem

Sep 11, 2023

For the thirteenth season of the Well Read Poem, we will be reading six poems about war. War is, of course, one of the oldest subjects that has inspired the imagination of poets. The first of our great epics has at its center the war of the Greeks against the Trojans and the deadly hatreds it inspires. In times neare to our own, poets have written about war both with enthusiasm and delight, as well as skepticism and horror at its brutalities. The poems we will share this season cover the span of many centuries.

Today's poem is "The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna" by Charles Wolfe. Poem begins at timestamp 4:40. 

“The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” 

by Charles Wolfe

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
    As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
    O'er the grave where our hero was 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 or 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 that was dead,
    And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

We thought, as we hollowed 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!