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Short poem

Charles Wolfe (1791-1823)

The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna

              1Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note,
              2    As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
              3Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
              4    O'er the grave where our hero we buried.

              5  We buried him darkly at dead of night,
              6    The sods with our bayonets turning;
              7By the struggling moonbeam's misty light
              8    And the lantern dimly burning.

              9No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
            10    Nor in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;
            11But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
            12    With his martial cloak around him.

            13Few and short were the prayers we said,
            14    And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
            15But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
            16    And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

            17We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed
            18    And smoothed down his lonely pillow,
            19That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
            20    And we far away on the billow!

            21Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone
            22    And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him,--
            23But little he'll reck, if they let him sleep on
            24    In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

            25But half of our heavy task was done
            26    When the clock struck the hour for retiring:
            27And we heard the distant and random gun
            28    That the foe was sullenly firing.

            29Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
            30    From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
            31We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
            32    But left him alone with his glory.


1] Apparently based on the account of Moore's death in the Edinburgh Annual Register. Moore, commanding a small army in Spain, was forced to withdraw to the coast. He was killed Jan. 16, 1809, in the victorious Battle of Corunna. His troops were able to embark in safety.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Charles Wolfe, The burial of Sir John Moore, and other poems (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1909). PR 5841 W78B8 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1817
Publication date note: Newry Telegraph (1817)
RPO poem editor: J. D. Robins
RP edition: 2RP.2.222; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/30

Composition date: 1816
Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Charles Wolfe