The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna

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The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna  (1816) 
by Charles Wolfe
The poem was composed in 1816 and first published in 1817 at the “Newry Telegraph”. Sir John Moore, commanding a small army in Spain, was killed on 16 January 1809, in the Battle of Corunna. "The Burial of Sir John Moore" has become a part of popular education, as has also "The Eve of Waterloo" and "The Death of Napoleon." They are all poems of great rhythmical swing, intense and graphic.

Not a drum was heard, nor 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 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,
      Nor 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 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 left him alone with his glory.

<1816>

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.