At Coruna

Robert Southey

When from these shores the British army first
Boldly advanced into the heart of Spain,
The admiring people who beheld its march
Called it " the Beautiful." And surely well
Its proud array, its perfect discipline,
Its ample furniture of war complete,
Its powerful horse, its men of British mould,
All high in heart and hope, all of themselves
Assured, and in their leaders confident,
Deserved the title. Few short weeks elapsed
Ere hither that disastrous host returned,
A fourth of all its gallant force consumed
In hasty and precipitate retreat;
Stores, treasure, and artillery, in the wreck
Left to the fierce pursuer; horse and man
Foundered, and stiffening on the mountain snows.
But when the exulting enemy approached,
Boasting that he would drive into the sea
The remnant of the wretched fugitives,
Here, ere they reached their ships, they turned at bay.
Then was the proof of British courage seen:
Against a foe far overnumbering them,
An insolent foe, rejoicing in pursuit,
Sure of the fruit of victory, whatsoe'er
Might be the fate of battle, here they stood,
And their safe embarkation, — all they sought, —
Won manfully. That mournful day avenged
Tlieir sufferings, and redeemed tlieir country's name;
And thus Coruna, which in this retreat
Had seen the else indelible reproach
Of England, saw the stain effaced in blood.