Saturday, July 7, 2012

'Twas a Famous Victory - and who won again?

Those of you interested in military history probably recall that the Battle of Waterloo was fought on June 18, 1815 and that we recently marked its 197th anniversary. Bet that you didn't know that it is also an example of how history is often retold differently by different sources (and if you want proof of that go visit my friends at The Napoleon Series).

The English politician and poet Winthrop Mackworth Praed wrote this version of the Battle of Waterloo presumably after one or more visits to France in the decades immediately following the battle!


Ay, here such valorous deeds were done
  As ne’er were done before;
Ay, here the reddest wreath was won
  That ever Gallia wore;
Since Ariosto’s wondrous Knight
  Made all the Paynims dance,
There never dawned a day so bright
  As Waterloo’s on France.

The trumpet poured its deafening sound,
  Flags fluttered on the gale,
And cannons roared, and heads flew round
  As fast as summer hail;
The sabres flashed their light of fear,
  The steeds began to prance;
The English quaked from front to rear—
  They never quake in France!

The cuirassiers rode in and out
  As fierce as wolves and bears;
‘Twas grand to see them slash about
  Among the English squares!
And then the Polish Lancer came
  Careering with his lance;
No wonder Britain blushed for shame,
  And ran away from France!

The Duke of York was killed that day;
  The king was sadly scarred;
Lord Eldon, as he ran away,
  Was taken by the Guard;
Poor Wellington with fifty Blues
  Escaped by some strange chance;
Henceforth I think he’ll hardly choose
  To show himself in France.

So Buonaparte pitched his tent
  That night in Grosvenor Place,
And Ney rode straight to Parliament
  And broke the Speaker’s mace;
“Vive l’Empereur” was said and sung
  From Peebles to Penzance;
The Mayor and Alderman were hung’
  Which made folk laugh in France.

They pulled the Tower of London down,
  They burnt our wooden walls;
They brought the Pope himself to town,
  And lodged him in St. Paul’s;
And Gog and Magog rubbed their eyes,
  Awakening from a trance,
And grumbled out, in great surprise,
  “Oh, mercy! we’re in France!”

They sent a Regent to our Isle,
  The little King of Rome;
And squibs and crackers all the while
  Blazed in the Place Vendome;
And ever since, in arts and power,
  They’re making great advance;
They’ve had strong beer from that glad hour,
  And sea-coal fires, in France.

My uncle, Captain Flanigan,
  Who lost a leg in Spain,
Tells stories of a little man
  Who died at St. Helene;
But bless my heart, they can’t be true;
  I’m sure they’re all romance;
John Bull was beat at Waterloo!
  They’ll swear to that in France.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed