When I was a child, I would often sit with my father as he read aloud his favourite narrative poems from The Golden Treasury, a compilation of verse by F. T. Palgrave, first published in 1861. I would be completely captivated by the rhythms of the language and the images it invoked. Although much of this poetry has fallen out of favour and is considered old-fashioned, or just too pompous or jingoistic for modern tastes, some of it remains popular today. Who can mention the Crimean War without the temptation to quote at least a couple of these famous lines from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson?
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
|Loss of the Royal George, Spithead, 1782|
'Hearts of oak!' our captains cried, when each gun
Spread a death-shade round the ships,
Like the hurricane eclipse
Of the sun. ...
Brave hearts! to Britain's pride
Once so faithful and so true,
On the deck of fame that died
With the gallant good Riou:
Soft sigh the winds of heaven o'er their grave
Of the brave!
|Grandpa by John Faed, 1876 (private collection)|
'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.
...'Why, 'twas a very wicked thing!'
Said little Wilhelmine;
'Nay ... nay ... my little girl,' quoth he,
'It was a famous victory.
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,
'But 'twas a famous victory.
|Burial of Sir John Moore, Cassells Illustrated History|
Stones were raised to Sir John Moore later and here are some photographs of his grave as it is today at A Coruna.
And finally, with recent media reports that the coffin of Sir Francis Drake could soon be located in the Caribbean, it is worth mentioning that other rousing work Drake's Drum by Sir Henry Newbolt that I greatly enjoyed as a child, its most famous stanza being:
An' drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago.
Youtube of the sung version of Drake's Drum by Sir Thomas Allen.
And the real drum itself can be seen at Drake's home, Buckland Abbey.