Ode on the Battle of Corunna

John Leyden

Written in 1809

Forward, ye dauntless heirs of fame;
Stand forth your country's rights to save
Again a chief of glorious name
Has sought the mansions of the brave.
Who next shall rear in combat high
Our banners, and the foe defy,
Till battling fields are red with gore?
For many a field with death shall groan,
Ere heaps of slaughtered Franks atone
Our high revenge for dauntless Moore.

Lo! I arraign thee, Leon old,
With proud Castile, the boast of Spain,
For cavaliers and warriors bold!—
Here I impeach thee, hill and plain,
Thy airy pennons glancing green,
Long borne in fight by barons keen.
By Carrion and old Douro's stream!-
Where were you when an hour of pause
Was treason to your own good cause,
Which valour's self shall scarce redeem?

He pauses not — to Douro's side
Moves on the firm undaunted band;
And lo! by foes encompassed wide,
Moore stands alone on Spanish land.
As seaward bends his long array,
The Gallic wolf from day to day
Scowls on his route with distant awe:
Distant he prowls, but shrinks to wait
The close-encountering shock of fate —
To face the lion's rending paw.

The iron king, supreme in war,
Whose look bids armies melt awav,
Like death's dark spectre gloom'd from far,
And first in battle felt dismay.
He thought of Acre's dreadful strife,
That reft his bravest hearts of life,
And bade his battle-star look pale,
While bright the waning crescent grew.
And Sydney's still unconquer'd crew
Made his proud soaring eagles quail.

Gallicia's hills are rising near,
The foes are pressing, swarming nigh;
Ah ! how shall souls that mock at fear
Endure before their taunts to fly?
Ne'er may I live that day to see,
"When Scotland's banners fair and free
Shall shun to face the fiercest fray:
No, let her pipes indignant blow,
And turn her broad-swords on the foe!—
Fear not, her clans shall hew their way.

And turn they shall — for who is he,
With myriads mustering at his back,
Who boasts to plunge them in the sea,
And foremost heads the fell attack?
Ha ! stern Dalmatians lord 'tis thou!
The laurels on that haughty brow
Are doom'd to wither, dry and sere:
These blood be-sprinkled wreaths of thine,
Are doom'd to grace a nobler shrine,
To crown our hero's martial bier.—

O vain of prowess I whence the boast
That swells thy heart to talk so proud?
Though hangs thy far out-numbering host
Above them like a thunder-cloud,
Full many a hero bold and tall
Whose souls thy vaunts shall ne'er appal,
Eager and panting for the fray,
Shall to the lists of death descend,
Whom, chief, thy battle ne'er shall bend
To yield, for life, an inch of way.

As waves redoubling dash the shore,
Descends to death each iron line;
And high the haughty eagles soar,
As towers mid storms the mountain-pine;
Harsh rings the steel, with fruitless toil
They burst — they break, and wide recoil,
With banners rent and standards torn;—
As mountain forests, quell'd by age,
Crash in the whirlwind's sweeping rage,
Afar their shatter'd ranks are borne.

Now turn we to Corunna's steep,
And mark that tomb beside the shore;
There, in his blood-stained arms, shall sleep
To future times the hero Moore:
There, in stern valour's generous glow,
Each manly heart shall melt with woe
For Moore, in freedom's battle slain;
While soft shall float the maiden's sigh,
And gentle tears from beauty's eye
Bedew his grave who died for Spain.

Sir John Moore was killed leading the British army in battle against the French at Corunna, Spain. In the battle took place on 16 January 1809, the British managed to hold off the French attack and escape by sea.

Main Location:

Battle of Corunna, La Coruña, Galicia, Spain

The death of Sir John Moore at the Battle of Corunna, 1809