Bleinheim, a Poem

Bleinheim, a Poem

Inscribed to the Right Honourable Robert Harley, Esq.

Original Text

First editiion (London: Printed for Thomas Bennet, at the Half-Moon in St. Paul's Churchyard, 1705); Thomas Fisher rarre Book Library, University of Toronto, shelfmark E-10 01050.

2Now mounts aërial, to sing of arms
3Triumphant, and emblaze the martial acts
5Beneath his merits, but detain a while
8Thy hourly counsels) since with ev'ry art
9Thy self adorn'd, the mean essays of youth
10Thou wilt not damp, but guide, wherever found,
11The willing genius to the muses' seat:
12Therefore thee first, and last, the muse shall sing.
14Enlarg'd his borders, and of human force
15Opponent slightly thought, in heart elate,
17That monarchs harness'd to his chariot yok'd,
18(Base servitude!) and his dethron'd compeers
19Lash'd furious; they in sullen majesty
20Drew the uneasy load.) Nor less he aim'd
22Could naught avail, however fam'd in war;
23Nor armies leagu'd, that diversely assay'd
24To curb his pow'r enormous; like an oak,
25That stands secure, though all the winds employ
26Their ceaseless roar, and only sheds its leaves,
28So stood he, and alone; alone defy'd
29The European thrones combin'd, and still
30Had set at naught their machinations vain.
31But that great Anne, weighing th' events of war
32Momentous, in her prudent heart, thee chose,
33Thee, Churchill, to direct in nice extremes
34Her banner'd legions. Now their pristine worth
35The Britons recollect, and gladly change
36Sweet native home for unaccustom'd air,
37And other climes, where diff'rent food and soil
38Portend distempers; over dank, and dry,
39They journey toilsome, unfatigu'd with length
40Of march, unstruck with horror at the sight
41Of Alpine ridges bleak, high stretching hills,
42All white with summer snows. They go beyond
43The trace of English steps, where scarce the sound
45Thy conduct, and example gives; nor small
47Equal in merit, honour, and success,
49The best of queens:) he, of the royal store
50Splendidly frugal, sits whole nights devoid
51Of sweet repose, industrious to procure
52The soldiers' ease; to regions far remote
53His care extends, and to the British host
54Makes ravag'd countries plenteous as their own.
55      And now, O Churchill, at thy wish'd approach
56The Germans, hopeless of success, forlorn,
58New animated rouse; not more rejoice
59The miserable race of men, that live
60Benighted half the year, benumb`d with frosts
63When first the sun with new-born light removes
64The long incumbent gloom; gladly to thee
66Nor thinks it diminution, to be rank`d
67In military honour next, although
69Accurs`d, and prov`d in far divided lands
72Won from th`encroaching sea: that sword great Anne
76Assures good omens, and Saint George`s worth
77Enkindles like desire of high exploits.
81Thou walk`st, and seem`st already in the fight.
83From thy achievements! yet thou hast surpass'd
84Her boldest vows, exceeded what thy foes
85Could fear, or fancy; they, in multitude
86Superior, fed their thoughts with prospect vain
87Of victory, and rapine, reck'ning what
88From ransom'd captives would accrue. Thus one
89Jovial his mate bespoke: "O friend, observe,
90How gay with all th' accoutrements of war
91The Britons come, with gold well fraught they come
92Thus far, our prey, and tempt us to subdue
94Enrich the victors, while the vultures sate
95Their maws with full repast!" Another, warm'd
96With high ambition, and conceit of prowess
98"What if this sword, full often drench'd in blood
100Should now cleave the execrable head
101Of Churchill, met in arms! or if this hand,
102Soon as his army disarray'd 'gins swerve,
103Should slay him flying, with retentive gripe,
104Confounded, and appall'd! no trivial price
105Should set him free, nor small should be my praise
106To lead him shackl'd, and expose to scorn
107Of gath'ring crowds the Britons' boasted chief."
108      Thus they, in sportive mood, their empty taunts
109And menaces express'd; nor could their prince
111Refrain: "Why halt thee thus, ye Britons? why
112Decline the war? shall a morass forbid
113Your easy march? Advance; we'll bridge a way,
114Safe of access. Imprudent, thus t' invite
115A furious lion to the folds!" That boast
116He ill abides, captiv'd in other plight
118Resplendent came, with stretch'd retinue girt,
119And pompous pageantry; O hapless fate,
120If any arm, but Churchill's, had prevail'd!
122Of cowardice; the military mound
123The British files transcend, in evil hour
124For their proud foes, that fondly brav'd their fate.
125And now on either side the trumpet blew,
126Signal of onset, resolution firm
127Inspiring, and pernicious love of war.
128The adverse fronts in rueful conflict meet,
129Collecting all their might; for on th' event
130Decisive of this bloody day depends
131The fate of kingdoms: with less vehemence
132The great competitors for Rome engag'd,
135Adjudg'd the empire of this globe to one.
137Gallant in arms, and gaudy to behold,
139Best temper'd steel, successless prov'd in field!
141Presumptuous comes: here Churchill, not so prompt
142To vaunt, as fight, his hardy cohorts joins
144The brazen instruments of death discharge
145Horrible flames, and turbid streaming clouds
146Of smoke sulphureous; intermix'd with these
147Large globous irons fly, of dreadful hiss,
148Singeing the air, and from long distance bring
149Surprising slaughter; on each side they fly
151Behead whole troops at once; the hairy scalps
153Th' ensanguin'd field; with latent mischief stor'd
155Disploding murd'rous bowels, fragments of steel,
157A thousand ways at once the shiver'd orbs
158Fly diverse, working torment, and foul rout
159With deadly bruise, and gashes furrow'd deep.
160Of pain impatient, the high prancing steeds
161Disdain the curb, and flinging to and fro,
163Indignant, by unhostile wounds destroy'd.
164      Thus through each army death, in various shapes,
165Prevail'd; here mangled limbs, here brains and gore
166Lie clotted; lifeless some: with anguish these
167Gnashing, and loud laments invoking aid,
168Unpity'd, and unheard; the louder din
169Of guns, and trumpets clang, and solemn sound
170Of drum o'ercame their groans. In equal scale
171Long hung the fight, few marks of fear were seen,
172None of retreat: as when two adverse winds,
174Engage with horrid shock, the ruffled brine
175Roars stormy, they together dash the clouds,
176Levying their equal force with utmost rage;
177Long undecided lasts the airy strife.
178      So they, incens'd: till Churchill, viewing where
179The violence of Tallard most prevail'd,
181Precipitant he rode, urging his way
182O'er hills of gasping heroes, and fall'n steeds
183Rolling in death: destruction, grim with blood,
184Attends his furious course. Him thus enrag'd
186Dextrous to guide th' unerring charge, design'd
187By one nice shot to terminate the war.
188With aim direct the levell'd bullet flew,
189But miss'd her scope (for destiny withstood
190Th' approaching wound) and guiltless plough'd her way
192The glowing balls play innocent, while he
193With dire impetuous sway deals fatal blows
194Amongst the scatter'd Gauls. But O! beware
195Great warrior, nor too prodigal of life
196Expose the British safety: hath not Jove
197Already warn'd thee to withdraw? Reserve
199Eugene, with regiments unequal press'd,
200Awaits; this day of all his honours gain'd
201Despoils him, if thy succour opportune
202Defends not the sad hour: permit not thou
203So brave a leader with the vulgar herd
204To bite the ground unnoted.----Swift and fierce
205As wintry storm, he flies, to reinforce
206The yielding wing; in Gallic blood again
207He dews his reeking sword, and strews the ground
210For valour much, and warlike wiles renown'd,
211When the insulting Trojans urg'd him sore
212With tilted spears): unmanly dread invades
214They quit, and in their swift retreat confide,
215Unseemly yelling; distant hills return
216The hideous noise. What can they do? or how
217Withstand his wide-destroying sword? or where
218Find shelter thus repuls'd? behind with wrath
219Resistless, th' eager English champions press,
220Chastising tardy flight; before them rolls
221His current swift the Danube, vast, and deep
222Supreme of rivers; to the frightful brink,
223Urg'd by compulsive arms, soon as they reach'd,
225Themselves to wretched doom; with efforts vain,
226Encourag'd by despair, or obstinate
227To fall like men in arms, some dare renew
228Feeble engagement, meeting glorious fate
229On the firm land; the rest discomfited,
231Leap plunging in the wide extended flood:
234The unfroze waters marvellously stood,
235Observant of the great command. Upbore
236By frothy billows thousands float the stream
237In cumbrous mail, with love of farther shore;
238Confiding in their hands, that sed'lous strive
240Ev'n in the sight of death, some, tokens show
241Of fearless friendship, and their sinking mates
242Sustain; vain love, though laudable! absorb'd
243By a fierce eddy, they together sound
244The vast profundity; their horses paw
245The swelling surge, with fruitless toil: surcharg'd,
246And in his course obstructed by large spoil,
248The ling'ring remnant with unusual tide;
249Then rolling back, in his capacious lap
251So when some swelt'ring travellers retire
252To leafy shades, near the cool sunless verge
254Of vast extension, from her wat'ry den,
256Insidious, and with curl'd envenom'd train
257Embracing horribly, at once the crew
258Into the river whirls; the' unweeting prey
259Entwisted roars, the parted wave rebounds.
260      Nor did the British squadrons now surcease
261To gall their foes o'erwhelm'd; full many felt
262In the moist element a scorching death,
263Pierc'd sinking; shrouded in a dusky cloud
266Inflam'd by Vulcan, when th' swift-footed son
267Of Peleus to his baleful banks pursu'd
268The straggling Trojans: nor less eager drove
269Victorious Churchill his desponding foes
270Into the deep immense, that many a league
271Impurpl'd ran, with gushing gore distain'd.
272      Thus the experienc'd valour of one man,
273Mighty in conflict, rescu'd harass'd pow'rs
275Imperial, that once lorded o'er the world,
276Sustain'd. With prudent stay, he long deferr'd
277The rough contention; nor would deign to rout
278An host disparted; when, in union firm
279Embody'd, they advanc'd, collecting all
280Their strength, and worthy seem'd to be subdu'd;
281He the proud boasters sent, with stern assault,
283Exult to see the crowding ghosts descend
284Unnumber'd; well aveng'd, they quit the cares
286Not so the new inhabitants; they roam
288Accusing, and their chiefs, improvident
289Of military chance; when lo! they see,
290Through the dun mist, in blooming beauty fresh,
293Unspeakable; thou, his associate dear
294Once in this world, nor now by fate disjoin'd,
295Had thy presiding star propitious shone,
296Should'st Churchill be! But Heav'n severe cut short
297Their springing years, nor would, this isle should boast
298Gifts so important! Them the Gallic shades
299Surveying, read in either radiant look
300Marks of excessive dignity and grace,
301Delighted; 'till, in one, their curious eye
302Discerns their great subduer's awful mien,
303And corresponding features fair; to them
304Confusion! Strait the airy phantoms fleet,
305With headlong haste, and dread a new pursuit;
306The image pleas'd with joy paternal smiles.
307      Enough, O muse; the sadly-pleasing theme
308Leave, with these dark abodes, and re-ascend
309To breathe the upper air, where triumphs wait
310The conqu'ror, and sav'd nations joint acclaim.
311Hark, how the cannon, inoffensive now,
313From ev'ry city flow; with ardent gaze
314Fix'd, they behold the British guide, of sight
316Each prince affects to touch respectful. See,
318His mighty guest; to him the royal pledge,
319Hope of his realm, commits (with better fate,
321Unhappy Pallas), and intreats to show
322The skill and rudiments austere of war.
324His great deliverer; and courts t' accept
327Far humbler thoughts now learns; despair, and fear
328Now first he feels; his laurels all at once
329Torn from his aged head, in life's extreme,
331Of various sounding wire, best taught to calm
332Whatever passion, and exalt the soul
333With highest strains, his languid spirits cheer:
334Rage, shame, and grief, alternate in his breast.
335      But who can tell what pangs, what sharp remorse
337Exil'd by fate, torn from the dear embrace
338Of weeping comfort, and depriv'd the sight
339Of his young guiltless progeny, he seeks
341Deplorable! but that his mind averse
342To right, and insincere, would violate
344Friendly composure offer'd? or well weigh,
345With whom he must contend? Encount'ring fierce
348With paynim blood effus'd; nor did the Gaul
350Of counsel rash, new measures he pursues,
352Too late his error, forc'd t' implore relief
354Of hope, unpity'd! Thou should'st first have thought
355Of persevering steadfast; now upbraid
356Thy own inconstant ill-aspiring heart.
358Rise hilly, with large piles of slaughter'd knights,
359Best men, that warr'd still firmly for their prince,
360Though faithless, and unshaken duty show'd;
361Worthy of better end. Where cities stood,
362Well fenc'd, and numerous, desolation reigns,
363And emptiness, dismay'd, unfed, unhous'd,
364The widow, and the orphan stroll around
366They view the gaping wall, and poor remains
367Of mansions, once their own (now loathsome haunts
369Of spouse, or sire, or son, ere manly prime
370Slain in sad conflict, and complain of fate
371As partial, and too rigorous; nor find
372Where to retire themselves, or where appease
373Th' afflictive keen desire of food, expos'd
374To winds, and storms, and jaws of savage beasts.
376By Heav'n propitious, blissful seat of peace!
377Learn from thy neighbour's miseries to prize
378They welfare; crown'd with nature's choicest gifts,
379Remote thou hear'st the dire effect of war,
380Depopulation, void alone of fear,
381And peril, whilst the dismal symphony
382Of drums and clarions other realms annoys.
384Engages mighty hosts in wasteful strife;
385From diff'rent climes the flow'r of youth descends
387With utmost hazard to enthrone their prince,
389And wild uproar: the natives, dubious whom
390They must obey, in consternation wait,
391Till rigid conquest will pronounce their liege.
392Nor is the brazen voice of war unheard
394Hath Eugene caus'd! How many widows curse
396What do thy pastures, or thy vines avail,
398With olives, when the cruel battle mows
399The planters, with their harvest immature?
400See, with what outrage from the frosty north,
402In battailous array, while Volga's stream
403Sends opposite, in shaggy armour clad,
404Her borderers; on mutual slaughter bent,
405They rend their countries. How is Poland vex'd
407Contend for sway? Unhappy nation, left
408Thus free of choice! The English, undisturb'd
409With such sad privilege, submiss obey
410Whom Heav'n ordains supreme, with rev'rence due,
411Not thraldom, in fit liberty secure.
412From scepter'd kings, in long descent deriv'd,
413Thou Anna rulest, prudent to promote
414Thy people's ease at home, nor studious less
415Of Europe's good; to thee, of kingly rights
416Sole arbitress, declining thrones, and pow'rs
417Sue for relief; thou bidd'st thy Churchill go,
418Succour the injur'd realms, defeat the hopes
419Of haughty Louis, unconfin'd; he goes
421In one great day. Again thou giv'st in charge
423The empire of the ocean wide diffus'd
424Is thine; behold! with winged speed he rides
425Undaunted o'er the lab'ring main, t' assert
426Thy liquid kingdoms; at his near approach
427The Gallic navies, impotent to bear
428His volley'd thunder, torn, dissever'd, scud,
429And bless the friendly interposing night.
430      Hail, mighty Queen, reserv'd by fate, to grace
431The new-born age; what hopes we may conceive
432Of future years, when to thy early reign
433Neptune submits his trident, and thy arms
434Already have prevail'd to th' utmost bound
436Mountain sublime, that casts a shade of length
437Immeasurable, and rules the inland waves!
438Let others, with insatiate thirst of rule,
439Invade their neighbours' lands, neglect the ties
440Of leagues, and oaths; this thy peculiar praise
441Be still, to study right, and quell the force
442Of kings perfidious; let them learn from thee,
443That neither strength, nor policy refin'd
444Shall with success be crown'd, where justice fails.
445Thou with thy own content, not for thy self,
446Subduest regions; generous to raise
447The suppliant knee, and curb the rebel neck.
448The German boasts thy conquests, and enjoys
450But satisfaction from thy conscious mind.
451      Auspicious Queen, since in thy realms secure
452Of peace, thou reign'st, and victory attends
453Thy distant ensigns, with compassion view
455Sufficient art) the jarring kingdoms' ire,
456Reciprocally ruinous; say who
457Shall wield th' Hesperian, who the Polish sword,
458By thy decree; the trembling lands shall hear
459Thy voice, obedient, lest thy scourge should bruise
460Their stubborn necks, and Churchill in his wrath
461Make them remember Bleinheim with regret.
462      Thus shall the nations, aw'd to peace, extol
463Thy pow'r, and justice; jealousies and fears,
464And hate infernal banish'd shall retire
467Amongst the enemies of truth; while arts
468Pacific, and inviolable love
471Delectable, and shed your influence sweet
472On virtuous Anna's head; ye happy days,
473By her restor'd, her just designs complete,
474And, mildly on her shining, bless the world.
475      Thus from the noisy crowd exempt, with ease,
477(Sweet solitude) where warbling birds provoke
478The silent muse, delicious rural seat
480To sing Britannic trophies, inexpert
481Of war, with mean attempt; while he intent
482(So Anna's will ordains) to expedite
483His military charge, no leisure finds
485Consummate peace shall rear her cheerful head,
486Then shall his Churchill, in sublimer verse
487For ever triumph; later times shall learn
488From such a chief to fight, and bard to sing.


1] Bleinheim, now usually spelled Blenheim in English texts, is a village in Bavaria near which a great battle was fought in August 1704 between a French and Bavarian army and an army of the Grand Alliance (England, the Netherlands, Austria and others). Back to Line
4] hero: John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), victorious leader of the Allied armies in the battle of Blenheim. Back to Line
6] Harley: Robert Harley (1661-1724), one of the most influential politicians of Queen Anne's reign; at the time of the poem's writing, he was Speaker of the House of Commons and one of the two Secretaries of State who dealt with both foreign and domestic affairs. Back to Line
7] Anne: Queen Anne (1702-1714). Back to Line
13] Gallic monarch: Louis XIV inherited the throne of France as a child in 1643 and took power into his own hands in 1661. He had sought to extend the eastern frontier of France by numerous campaigns over the previous quarter of a century. Back to Line
16] Sesostris: in Greco-Roman legend, an ancient king of Egypt, fabled to have conquered most of northern Africa, Arabia, Asia eastward of the Persian empire, and southern Europe, who forced the kings he conquered to draw his chariot. Back to Line
21] William: William III (1689-1702), who though a persistent leader of the opponents of Louis XIV's expansionist war making, never won a decisive victory over the French. Back to Line
27] mast: fruit of a tree, here acorns. Back to Line
44] Henry: Henry V; the battlefield of Agincourt (1415) lies west of Paris, far from the banks of the Rhine where Marlborough's army marched south, and then east over the mountains to reach the headwaters of the Danube. Back to Line
46] Godolphin: Sidney Godolphin, First Earl Godolphin (1645-1712), Lord High Treasurer from 1702 to 1710, Queen Anne's chief minister. An expert in finance, he saw to it that Marlborough had the resources he needed. Back to Line
48] Burleigh: William Cecil, first Baron Burghley or Burleigh (1521-1598), Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth from 1572 until his death. Back to Line
57] cheer: in the now obsolete sense of "facial expression." Back to Line
61] Boreas: in classical mythology, the north wind. Back to Line
62] Polar Bear: the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear (or Little Dipper) where Polaris, the north star, is found. Back to Line
65] Eugene: Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), French by birth but a general in the Austrian service, famous for his epoch-making victory over the Ottoman Turks at Zenta in what is now Serbia (1697). The Blenheim campaign was the first of several in which he and Marlborough collaborated with great success. Back to Line
68] Turkestan throne: the seat of the Ottoman empire in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). By the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 the Ottomans withdrew from Hungary and much of modern Slovenia and Serbia, never to return. Back to Line
70] thy: i.e., Marlborough's. Back to Line
71] the Belgic coast: i.e., the United Provinces, modern Netherlands, where dykes protect land reclaimed from the sea. Back to Line
73] puissant: powerful. Back to Line
74] garter'd knights: Queen Anne had named Marlborough to the Order of the Garter, of which St. George is the patron saint, in 1702. Back to Line
75] Illustrating: making illustrious. Back to Line
78] tire: equipment, accoutrements. Back to Line
79] plumy crest: Philips is thinking of the helmets of Homer's heroes rather than of the unplumed tricorn hat that Marlborough actually wore in the field. Back to Line
80] port: mien, deportment. Back to Line
82] Albion: poetic name for England. Back to Line
93] recreant: cowardly. Back to Line
97] inherent: inborn, natural to him. Back to Line
99] griding: piercing, wounding. Back to Line
110] Tallard: Camille d'Hostun de la Baume, duc de Tallard, Marshal of France, was the senior French commander at Blenheim; he was captured by the British. He was well known in England, where he had been French ambassador (1700-1702). His only son was killed by his side during the battle. He remained a prisoner on parole till 1711, living in Nottingham and introducing celery into English cookery. Back to Line
117] Britanny: Britain; a reference to his time as French ambassador. Back to Line
121] exprobations: reproaches. Back to Line
133] Caesar: in 48 B.C. Julius Caesar won a decisive victory over the the forces of his rival Pompey (Cnaeus Pompeius) at Pharsalia in northern Greece, making him the most powerful man in the Roman republic and its empire. Back to Line
134] Bellona: in classical mythology, the goddess of war. Back to Line
136] Bavarian Duke: Maximilian II Emmanuel, electoral prince of Bavaria (1679-1726) . Germany at this period was a patchwork of principalities, dukedoms, lordships large and small known as the Holy Roman Empire, since it had been founded centuries earlier by Charlemagne as the Christian successor to the Roman empire. The emperor was elected by a small group of the leading princes, but by tradition they always chose a member of the Hapsburg family. In 1701 Maximilian, in violation of his status as an elector, rebelled against the Emperor Leopold I (1658-1705) and allied himself with France, hoping to dethrone the Emperor and win the imperial throne for himself and his family. Back to Line
138] Noric: from the Latin name, Noricum, of a district north of the Alps in modern Bavaria famous for its iron and swords made from it; as an English word, apparently Philips's own invention. Back to Line
140] Celtic: referring to the Irish troops in the French service. Back to Line
143] van: the forward line of an army. Back to Line
150] By chains connex'd: chain-shot (solid iron balls linked by a length of chain) was often used in naval engagements to destroy ship's masts and rigging; it seems not to have been used on land as an anti-personnel weapon. Philips has in mind Satan's artillery, which fires "chained thunderbolts and hail/Of iron globes" (Paradise Lost 6: 589-90). Back to Line
152] aloof: some distance away. Back to Line
154] granadoes: grenades, small explosive shells, typically thrown by tall, athletic soldiers known as grenadiers. Back to Line
156] nitrous grain: gunpowder. adust: that has been exploded. Back to Line
162] they expire: the riders die of injuries caused by being thrown from their horses, not wounds inflicted by the enemy ; "indignant" in the sense of the Latin indignus, "unworthy." Back to Line
173] Sublim'd: condensed. Back to Line
180] Came to oppose his slaughtering arm: [Churchill] came to put his slaughtering arm in opposition [to the violence of Tallard]. Back to Line
185] engineer: a soldier who operates a military engine or device; here, a soldier with a musket, a sniper. Back to Line
191] courser: warhorse. Back to Line
198] palms: symbolic of victory. Back to Line
208] Ajax: in Book 11 of Homer's Iliad. Back to Line
209] Laertes' son: Odysseus. Back to Line
213] astony'd: paralyzed with fear. Back to Line
224] devote: consigned. Back to Line
230] Marlborough: the only place in the poem where Philips uses the title rather than the surname Churchill, presumably because here he needed a trisyllable. Back to Line
232] Memphian: of Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, hence Egyptian. Back to Line
233] Erythreaean: from the Greek name for the Red Sea; see Exodus 14: 23-31. Back to Line
239] outrageous fluent: enormous river. Back to Line
247] flows redundant: overflows its banks. Back to Line
250] quick: both "quickly" and "alive." Back to Line
253] Paraba: the Paraiba river, in north-eastern Brazil. Back to Line
255] Hydra: in classical mythology, the Hydra was a many-headed monster that infested a lake in Greece, ultimately destroyed by Hercules; Philips seems here to mean a large snake that twists around its prey, a boa constrictor, although these are not actually venomous. Back to Line
264] livid missive flames: the flashes of weapons that send lead-coloured [projectiles] (the bullets that pierce to deliver a scorching death). Back to Line
265] Pergamean: Pergamum, a city and district close to the site of Troy on the Aegean cost of Asia Minor, now Turkey. Xanthus: a great river near Troy; see the opening of Book 21 of Homer's Iliad for the incident described. Back to Line
274] throne: of the Holy Roman Empire. Back to Line
282] Landen-plains: at the battle of Landen (Neerwinden) on July 29, 1693, the French general Luxembourg defeated William III, inflicting heavy casualties. Back to Line
285] lake: here in the obsolete sense of a stream of running water; it refers to Lethe, one of the rivers of the underworld in classical mythology, the waters of which were drunk by the dead after they had spent some time in Tartarus, and brought forgetfulness of all previous experience. Back to Line
287] erroneous: aimlessly. Back to Line
291] Egregious: in its original Latin sense, "chosen out of the flock," hence "eminent." Back to Line
292] His mingled parents: Queen Anne and her husband, Prince George of Denmark. Back to Line
312] signs of gratulation: salutes. Back to Line
315] insatiate: they cannot see too much of him. Back to Line
317] Prussia's King: Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg within the Holy Roman Empire and Duke of Prussia outside it, had won the right to style himself "King in Prussia" in 1701. His son, "the royal pledge," survived his military apprenticeship and succeeded him in 1713 as Frederick William I. Back to Line
320] Evander: originally king of Arcadia in Greece, he migrated to central Italy, where he welcomed the arrival of the Trojan chief Aeneas and his fellow exiles, assisting them in fighting the hostile Rutuli. Evander sent his son Pallas with a military force against the Rutuli; after initial success, Pallas was killed by Turnus, their leader. See Aeneid, Book 8. Back to Line
323] Leopold: Leopold I (1658-1705), Holy Roman Emperor: he was also Archduke of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Hungary and King of Croatia. In earlier years his armies had won important victories over the Ottoman Turks, but in 1704 he was on the defensive against the French in northern Italy and threatened by the rebellion of Bavaria (a significant component of the Holy Roman Empire) on his western flank. His Hungarian subjects were also in revolt. The battle had transformed him from a likely loser into a winner. Back to Line
325] titles: two weeks after the battle Leopold had appointed Marlborough a prince of the Holy Roman Empire; Marlborough, however, pointed out that without some grant of land the title was an empty honour; after months of negotiation Leopold agreed to grant him the lordship of tiny Mindelheim. In disapproving of Marlborough's acceptance of this honour Philips is expressing a Tory criticism: Marlborough seeks to aggrandize himself. Back to Line
326] haughty King: Louis XIV. Back to Line
330] Boileau: Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711), French poet and critic, from 1677 historiographer to Louis XIV. His work was widely read and admired in England, even such poems as his ode on the taking of Namur (1695) which celebrated the military success of his royal master. Back to Line
336] Boian: "Bavarian." The Boii were a tribe of ancient Gaul that lived in different places at different times, whose memory now survives only in the "Bo" of Bologna in Italy and Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). Caesar had encounters with them during his wars in Gaul, and Tacitus in his book on Germany locates them between the Rhine and the Main rivers, roughly in modern Bavaria. Back to Line
340] in an alien land: after the battle Maximilian abandoned his Bavarian subjects, and retired to the Spanish Netherlands (roughly modern Belgium), of which he had been appointed governor some time earlier. Back to Line
343] plighted faith: as an electoral prince Maximilian had sworn fealty to the Emperor Leopold, then violated this oath by waging war on Leopold with the aim of deposing him. Back to Line
346] Solymaean Sultan: Solyma is an old name for Jerusalem, for a millennium part of the Ottoman Empire ruled from Constantinople by the Sultan. Back to Line
347] moony troops: troops who fought under the sign of the crescent. As a young man, Maximilian II Emmanuel took part in the battle of Vienna, which lifted the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, and led the forces that captured Belgrade from the Turks in 1685. Back to Line
349] A baleful foe: in the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697), Maximilian campaigned effectively against the French on the Rhine frontier of the Holy Roman Empire, as a result he was appointed Governor of the Spanish Netherlands in 1691; he defended Brussels successfully against a French siege in 1695. Back to Line
351] no more a prince: after Blenheim, although offered peace terms by Leopold, Maximilian abandoned Bavaria and retired to Brussels as governor of the Spanish Netherlands; as a result Bavaria was partitioned, and most of it ruled directly by the Austrians until the end of the war; Maximilian returned in 1714. Back to Line
353] him: Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. Back to Line
357] Noric: Bavarian; see note to line 137 above. Back to Line
365] retorted: in the literal Latin sense of "twisted back;" backward looking. Back to Line
368] birds obscene: birds like owls, that disgorge pellets of indigestible remains of their prey. Back to Line
375] disjoin'd: by the English Channel. Back to Line
383] th' Iberian sceptre: the throne of Spain, the focus of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713). Back to Line
386] Lusitanian: Potuguese. Although originally allied to France, Portugal had changed sides and entered the war on the Allied side under the terms of the Methuen treaty with England negotiated in 1703. Back to Line
388] Gallic, or Austrian: the two contenders for the throne of Spain were Philip of Anjou, a member of the French royal family, who might therefore possibly become King of France, thus uniting the powerful kingdoms of France and Spain (with its overseas empire) and the Archduke Charles, younger son of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. Back to Line
393] Latian: Italian. Eugene of Savoy had campaigned against French armies in northern Italy from 1701 to 1703, winning several victories and inflicting heavy casualties, especially at the battle of Luzzara in 1703. Back to Line
395] falchion: sword. Back to Line
397] Taburnus: known today as Monte Taburno, a mountain in Campania, in southern Italy; in Georgics 2: 38 Virgil urges husbandmen to clothe Taburnus with olives, but this seems to be a hyperbole. Back to Line
401] early valiant Swede: Charles XII of Sweden, who assumed power at the age of fifteen in 1697. Three years later Sweden was attacked by a combination of Danish, German, Polish-Lithuanian and Russian forces; Charles won a series of victories that knocked them all out of the war except the Russians, who were to inflict a devastating defeat on him at Poltava in 1709. But in 1705 he was a prodigy of military success, barely out of his teens. Back to Line
406] two elected kings: the kings of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were elected by the nobility; when the throne fell vacant in 1697 there were two candidates: Augustus II the Strong, hereditary electoral prince of Saxony in north-eastern Germany, who was backed by the Russian and Holy Roman Emperors, and Francois Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Conti, backed by Louis XIV. In a corrupt election, Conti won more votes, but Augustus took advantage of Saxony's proximity to Poland and assumed the throne at once. When Conti arrived he found Augustus well established, and returned to France. Following successful military actions against Poland, in 1704 Charles XII staged a bogus election in favour of a young nobleman, Stanislaw Leszczynki, who did later replace Augustus from 1706 to 1709. It is not clear to which of the rival elected kings Philips refers. Back to Line
420] obsequious: in its original Latin sense, "complying." Back to Line
422] Rooke: Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Rooke (1650-1709) captured the Spanish treasure fleet in the battle of Vigo Bay (1702), and took Gibraltar from the Spanish (1704). Back to Line
435] Hesperian: from the garden of the Hesperides, in the western ocean; here "Spanish." Calpe: the classical name for Gibraltar. Alcides: another name for Hercules, who is said to have broken a single mountain into two, Calpe on the Spanish coast, Abila on the African, to form the Pillars of Hercules at the western entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Back to Line
449] nought to thee: a note of Tory propaganda: land wars in Europe are costly, and bring no material advantage to England; the navy, on the other hand, is less expensive and brings appreciable gains, such as those won by Rooke. Back to Line
454] still: verb (imperative). Back to Line
465] Mauretania: the ancient Roman province in northern Africa; modern Morocco. Bactrian: Bactria was an ancient country in Persia, modern Iran. Back to Line
466] Tartary: a vague designation of vast areas north and east of the Black Sea. Back to Line
469] Saturnian days: in classical mythology, the golden age, when Saturn ruled the earth and men lived in perfect freedom and equality. Back to Line
470] In perpetual tenor: maintaining the same course for ever. Back to Line
476] mazy: with winding paths. Back to Line
479] St. John: Henry St. John (1678-1751), a close political associate of Robert Harley, served as Secretary at War from 1704 to 1708, working closely with Marlborough. It was he who had commissioned Philips to undertake this poem, and who entertained him at his country house, Bucklebury, while he wrote it. Gaius Memmius was, like St. John, an aristocrat prominent in political life, in Rome in the first century B.C.; he was the friend of the Latin poet Lucretius and the dedicatee of his poem De Rerum Natura. Back to Line
484] shell: lyre (like Memmius, St. John had poetic ambitions). Back to Line
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

 Published anonymously in London in folio format (a mark of importance) on January 2, 1705, to coincide with ceremonies in which the cavalry standards and infantry colours captured in the battle were taken in procession through the streets of London to Westminster Hall, the poem was well received, running to eight subsequent separate editions or reprints.  Secret service records show that Philips later received £100 from the royal bounty for his poem, presumably arranged by the dedicatee.

RPO poem Editors
John Baird
RPO Edition