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The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Saturday Rave: After Blenheim by Robert Southey.

Today is the Glorious Twelfth [of August]. This is when, if you're both rich and like killing things, you are finally allowed to go up on the moors and blast grouse out of the skies.

August 12th is also the date of a stupid number of battles, and in 1952 it was the Night of the Murdered Poets, when thirteen Jewish intellectuals were executed in Moscow after Stalin changed his mind about the desirability of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee he'd set up.

But August 12th was also, thank God, the day of Robert Southey's birth, and Southey (you pronounce it SUTHee (th as in mother, u as in cut) if you want to show you're educated, even though he himself seems to have called himself South-ee). 

Anyway, Robert Southey is one of the less celebrated, though possibly the sanest, of the Lake Poets, and he wrote one of the first anti-war poems, After Blenheim.

It's still a brilliantly effective poem (and quite short) though I don't think many people would say it was actually brilliant poetry. The full text can be found HERE, but here's a couple of verses to give the flavour: 

The poem opens like a modern piece of Scandi Noir, with the children Peterkin and Wilhelmine finding a skull while playing in their grandfather Kaspar's garden.

'Now tell us what 'twas all about,'
Young Peterkin, he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes;
'Now tell us all about the war
And what they fought each other for.'

'It was the English,' Kaspar cried,

'Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for,
I could not well make out;
But everybody said,' quoth he,
'That 'twas a famous victory.'

Thanks to Southey for this careful view of another famously  glorious day.

Word To Use Today: glory. This word comes from the French gloire, from the Latin glōria, but its ultimate origin is a mystery.

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