The Campaign

The Campaign

A Poem, to His Grace the Duke of Marlborough

Original Text
First edition (London: Pinted for Jacob Tonson, within Gray's Inn Gate next Gray's Inn Lane, 1705 [actually 1704]), in the Thomas Fisher Rare book Library, University of Toronto, shelfmark E-10 07461.
3While emperors to you commit their cause,
5Accept, great leader, what the muse indites,
6That in ambitious verse records your fights,
7Fir'd and transported with a theme so new:
8Ten thousand wonders op'ning to my view
9Shine forth at once, sieges and storms appear,
11Rivers of blood I see, and hills of slain;
14His ancient bounds enlarg'd on ev'ry side,
16And in the midst of his wide empire stood;
18Oppos'd their Apennines and Alps in vain,
19Nor found themselves, with strength of rocks immur'd,
20Behind their everlasting hills secur'd;
23Amaz'd and anxious for her sov'reign's fates,
26He gaz'd around, but saw no succour near,
27He gaz'd, and half abandon'd to despair
28His hopes on Heav'n, and confidence in pray'r.
29      To Britain's Queen the nations turn their eyes,
30On her resolves the western world relies,
31Confiding still, amidst its dire alarms,
32In Anna's councils, and in Churchill's arms:
34To sit the guardian of the continent!
35That sees her bravest son advanc'd so high,
37Thy fav'rites grow not up by fortune's sport,
38Or from the crimes, or follies of a court;
40From long-try'd faith, and friendship's holy ties:
41Their sov'reign's well-distinguish'd smiles they share,
42Her ornaments in peace, her strength in war,
43The nation thanks them with a public voice,
44By show'rs of blessings Heav'n approves their choice;
45Envy itself is dumb, in wonder lost,
46And factions strive who shall applaud 'em most.
48Britannia's colours in the zephyrs fly,
49Her chief already has his march begun,
52Retards the progress of the moving war:
53Delightful stream, had Nature bid her fall
56Her harvests for uncertain owners rise,
57Each vineyard doubtful of its master grows,
58And to the victor's bowl each vintage flows:
59The discontented shades of slaughter'd hosts
60That wander'd on her banks, her heroes' ghosts
61Hop'd, when they saw Britannia's arms appear,
62The vengeance due to their great deaths was near.
63      Our godlike leader, e'er the stream he pass'd,
64The mighty scheme of all his labours cast,
65Forming the wondrous year within his thought;
66His bosom glow'd with battles yet unfought:
67The long laborious march he first surveys,
69Between whose floods such pathless forests grow,
70Such mountains rise, so many rivers flow:
71The toil looks lovely in the hero's eyes,
72And danger serves but to enhance the prize.
73      Big with the fate of Europe he renews
74His dreadful course, and the proud foe pursues:
75Amidst the sultry gales his temples beat,
78Defensive shadows, and refreshing winds:
79Our British youth, with inborn freedom bold,
80Unnumber'd scenes of servitude behold,
81Nations of slaves, with tyranny debas'd,
82(Their Maker's image more than half defac'd)
83Hourly instructed, as they urge their toil,
84To prize their Queen, and love their native soil.
85      Still to the rising sun they take their way
86Though clouds of dust, and gain upon the day.
88With cooling streams revives the fainting host,
89That cheerfully its labours past forgets,
90The midnight watches, and the noon-day heats.
91      O'er prostrate towns and palaces they pass,
92(Now cover'd o'er with weeds, and hid in grass)
93Breathing revenge; whilst anger and disdain
94Fire ev'ry breast, and boil in ev'ry vein:
95Here shatter'd walls, like broken rocks, from far
96Rise up in hideous views, the guilt of war,
97Whilst here the vine o'er hills of ruin climbs,
99      At length the fame of England's hero drew
101Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
102Demand alliance, and in friendship burn;
103A sudden friendship, while with stretch'd out rays
104They meet each other, mingling blaze with blaze.
105Polish'd in courts, and harden'd in the field,
106Renown'd for conquest, and in council skill'd,
107Their courage dwells not in a troubled flood
108Of mounting spirits, and fermenting blood;
109Lodg'd in the soul, with virtue over-rul'd,
110Inflam'd by reason, and by reason cool'd,
111In hours of peace content to be unknown,
112And only in the field of battle shown:
113To souls like these, in mutual friendship join'd,
114Heav'n dares entrust the cause of human kind.
115      Britannia's graceful sons appear in arms,
116Her harass'd troops the hero's presence warms,
117Whilst the high hills and rivers all around
118With thund'ring peals of British shouts resound:
119Doubling their speed they march with fresh delight,
120Eager for glory, and require the fight.
121So the staunch hound the trembling deer pursues
122And smells his footsteps in tainted dews,
123The tedious track unrav'ling by degrees:
124But when the scent comes warm in ev'ry breeze,
125Fir'd at the near approach, he shoots away
126On his full stretch, and bears upon his prey.
127      The march concludes, the various realms are past,
129Like hills th' aspiring ramparts rise on high,
130Like valleys at their feet the trenches lie,
131Batt'ries on batt'ries guard each fatal pass,
132Threat'ning destruction; rows of hollow brass,
133Tube behind tube, the dreadful entrance keep,
134Whilst in their wombs ten thousand thunders sleep:
135Great Churchill owns, charm'd with the glorious sight,
136His march o'erpaid by such a promis'd fight.
137      The western sun now shot a feeble ray,
138And faintly scatter'd the remains of day,
139Ev'ning approach'd, but oh what hosts of foes
140Were never to behold that ev'ning close!
141Thick'ning their ranks, and wedg'd in firm array,
142The close compacted Britons win their way;
143In vain the cannon their throng'd war defac'd
144With tracks of death, and laid the battle waste,
145Still pressing forward to the fight, they broke
146Through flames of sulphur, and a night of smoke,
147'Till slaughter'd legions fill the trench below,
148And bear their fierce avengers to the foe.
149      High on the works the mingling hosts engage,
150The battle kindled into tenfold rage
151With show'rs of bullets and with storms of fire
152Burns in full fury, heaps on heaps expire,
153Whole nations trampl'd into dirt, and bruis'd,
154In one promiscuous carnage lie confus'd.
155      How many gen'rous Britons meet their doom,
156New to the field, and heroes in the bloom!
157Th' illustrious youths, that left their native shore
158To march where Britons never march'd before,
159(O fatal love of fame! O glorious heat
160Only destructive to the brave and great!)
161After such toils o'ercome, such dangers past,
162Stretch'd on Bavarian ramparts breathe their last.
163But hold, my muse, may no complaints appear,
164Nor blot the day with an ungrateful tear:
166A friendly light, and shine in innocence.
167Plunging through seas of blood his fiery steed
168Where e'er his friends retire, or foes succeed;
169Those he supports, these drives to sudden flight,
170And turns the various fortune of the fight.
171      Forbear, great Man, renown'd in arms, forbear
172To brave the thickest terrors of the war,
173Nor hazard thus, confus'd in crowds of foes,
174Britannia's safety, and the world's repose;
175Let nations anxious for thy life abate
176This scorn of danger, and contempt of fate:
177Thou liv'st not for thy self; thy Queen demands
178Conquest and peace from thy victorious hands;
179Kingdoms and empires in thy fortune join,
180And Europe's destiny depends on thine.
181      At length the long-disputed pass they gain,
182By crowded armies fortify'd in vain;
183The war breaks in, the fierce Bavarians yield,
184And see their camp with British legions fill'd.
186The sea's whole weight, increas'd with swelling tides,
187But if the rushing wave a passage find,
188Enrag'd by wat'ry moons, and warring winds,
189The trembling peasant sees his country round
190Cover'd with tempests, and in oceans drown'd.
191      The few surviving foes, dispers'd in flight,
192(Refuse of swords, and gleanings of a fight)
193In ev'ry rustling wind the victor hear,
194And Marlbro's form in ev'ry shadow fear,
195'Till the dark cope of night with kind embrace
196Befriends the rout, and covers their disgrace.
197     To Donauwert, with unresisted force,
198The gay victorious army bends its course;
199The growth of meadows, and the pride of fields,
201(The Danube's great increase) Britannia shares,
202The food of armies, and support of wars:
203With magazines of death, destructive balls,
205The victor finds each hidden cavern stor'd,
208And all the gaudy dream of empire lost,
209That proudly set thee on a fancy'd throne,
210And made imaginary realms thy own!
211Thy troops, that now behind the Danube join,
212Shall shortly seek for shelter from the Rhine,
213Nor find it there: surrounded with alarms,
214Thou hop'st th' assistance of the Gallic arms;
215The Gallic arms in safety shall advance,
216And crowd thy standards with the pow'r of France,
217While to console thy doom, th' aspiring Gaul
218Shares thy destruction, and adorns thy fall.
219      Unbounded courage and compassion join'd,
220Temp'ring each other in the victor's mind,
221Alternately proclaim him good and great,
222And make the hero and the man complete.
223Long did he strive th' obdurate foe to gain
224By proffer'd grace, but long he strove in vain,
225'Till fir'd at length he thinks it vain to spare
226His rising wrath, and gives a loose to war.
227In vengeance rous'd the soldier fills his hand
229A thousand villages to ashes turns,
230In crackling flames a thousand harvests burns,
231To the thick woods the woolly flocks retreat,
232And mix'd with bellowing herds confus'dly bleat;
233Their trembling lords the common shade partake,
234And cries of infants sound in ev'ry brake:
235The list'ning soldier fix'd in sorrow stands,
236Loath to obey his leader's just commands;
237The leader grieves, by gen'rous pity sway'd,
238To see his just commands so well obey'd.
239      But now the trumpet terrible from far
240In shriller clangours animates the war,
241Confed'rate drums in fuller consort beat,
242And echoing hills the loud alarm repeat:
245And while the thick embattled host he views
246Stretch'd out in deep array, and dreadful length,
247His heart dilates, and glories in his strength.
249That the griev'd world had long desir'd in vain:
250States that their new captivity bemoan'd,
251Armies of martyrs that in exile groan'd,
252Sighs from the depth of gloomy dungeons heard,
253And pray'rs in bitterness of soul preferr'd,
254Europe's loud cries, that Providence assail'd,
255And Anna's ardent vows at length prevail'd;
256The day was come when Heav'n design'd to show
257His care and conduct of the world below.
258      Behold in awful march and dread array
259The long extended squadrons shape their way!
260Death, in approaching terrible, imparts
261An anxious horror to the bravest hearts,
262Yet do their beating breasts demand the strife,
263And thirst of glory quells the love of life;
264The British souls low images disclaim,
265The heat of vengeance and desire of fame
266O'erlook the foe, advantag'd by his post,
267Lessen his numbers, and contract his host:
268Though fens and floods possess'd the middle space,
269That unprovok'd they would have fear'd to pass,
271When her proud foe rang'd on their borders stands.
273To sing the furious troops in battle join'd!
274Methinks I hear the drum's tumultuous sound
275The victor's shouts and dying groans confound,
276The dreadul burst of cannon rend the skies,
277And all the thunder of the battle rise.
278'Twas then great Marlbro's mighty soul was prov'd,
279That, in the shock of charging hosts unmov'd,
280Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
281Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war;
282In peaceful thought the field of death survey'd,
283To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
284Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
287With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
289Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
290And, pleas'd th' Almighty's orders to perform,
291Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.
293The dread of Europe, and the pride of France.
294The war's whole art each private soldier knows,
295And with a gen'ral's love of conquest glows;
296Proudly he marches on, and void of fear
297Laughs at the shaking of the British spear;
298Vain insolence! with native freedom brave
299The meanest Briton scorns the highest slave,
300Contempt and fury fire their souls by turns,
301Each nation's glory in each warrior burns,
302Each fights, as in his arm th' important day
303And all the fate of his great monarch lay:
304A thousand glorious actions, that might claim
305Triumphant laurels, and immortal fame,
306Confus'd in crowds of glorious actions lie,
307And troops of heroes undistinguish'd die.
309And not the wonders of thy youth relate!
310How can I see the gay, the brave, the young,
311Fall in the cloud of war, and lie unsung!
312In joys of conquest he resigns his breath,
313And, fill'd with England's glory, smiles in death.
314      The rout begins, the Gallic squadrons run,
315And rush in crowds to meet the fate they shun,
316Thousands of fiery steeds with wounds transfix'd
317Floating in gore, with their drown'd masters mix'd,
318Midst heaps of broken spears and standards lie,
319And in the Danube's bloody whirlpools die.
321Or sounding borders of the rapid Rhone,
322Or where the Seine her flow'ry fields divides,
323Or where the Loire through winding vineyards glides;
324In heaps the rolling billows sweep away,
327Beholds the various havoc of the fight;
328His waving banners, that so had stood
329Planted in fields of death, and streams of blood,
330So us'd the guarded enemy to reach,
331And rise triumphant in the fatal breach,
332Or pierce the broken foe's remotest lines,
333The hardy veteran with tears resigns.
335The pangs of rage, of sorrow, and of shame,
336That with mix'd tumult in thy bosom swell'd!
337When first thou saw'st thy bravest troops repell'd,
338Thine only son pierc'd with a deadly wound,
339Chok'd in his blood, and gasping on the ground,
340Thy self in bondage by the victor kept!
341The chief, the father, and the captive wept.
342An English muse is touch'd with gen'rous woe,
343And in th' unhappy man forgets the foe.
344Greatly distress'd! thy loud complaints forbear,
345Blame not the turns of fate, and chance of war;
346Give thy brave foes their due, nor blush to own,
347The fatal field by such brave leaders won.
348The field whence fam'd Eugenio bore away
349Only the second honours of the day.
350      With floods of gore that from the vanquish'd fell
351The marshes stagnate, and the rivers swell.
352Mountains of slain lie heap'd upon the ground,
353Or midst the roarings of the Danube drown'd,
354A captive host the the conqueror detains
355In painful bondage, and inglorious chains;
356Ev'n those that 'scape the fetters and the sword,
357Nor seek the fortunes of a happier lord,
358Their raging king dishonours, to complete
359Marlbro's great work, and finish the defeat.
361The distant battle drives th' insulting Gauls,
362Free'd by the terror of the victor's name
363The rescu 'd states his great protection claim;
366      The hero's breast still swells with great designs,
367In ev'ry thought the tow'ring genius shines:
368If to the foe his dreadful course he bends,
369O'er the wide continent his march extends;
370If sieges in his lab'ring thoughts are form'd,
371Camps are assaulted, and an army storm'd;
372If to the fight his active soul is bent,
373The fate of Europe turns on its event.
374What distant land, what region can afford
375An action worthy his victorious sword;
376Where will he next the flying Gaul defeat,
377To make the series of his toils complete?
378      Where the swoln Rhine rushing with all its force
379Divides the hostile nations in its course,
380While each contracts its bounds, or wider grows,
381Enlarg'd or straiten'd as the river flows,
383That all the wide extended plain commands;
384Twice, since the war was kindled, has it try'd
385The victor's rage, and twice has chang'd its side;
386As on whole armies, with the prize o'erjoy'd,
387Have the long summer on its walls employ'd.
388Hither our mighty chief his arms directs,
389Hence future triumphs from the war expects;
391Carries his arms still nearer to the sun:
392Fix'd on the glorious action, he forgets
393The change of season, and increase of heats:
394No toils are painful that can danger show,
395No climes unlovely that contain a foe.
396      The roving Gaul, to his own bounds restrain'd,
397Learns to encamp within his native land,
398But soon as the victorious host he spies,
399From hill to hill, from stream to stream he flies:
400Such dire impressions in his heart remain
402In vain Britannia's mighty chief besets
403Their shady coverts, and obscure retreats;
404They fly the conqueror's approaching fame,
405That bears the force of armies in his name.
407Sceptres and thrones are destin'd to obey,
408Whose boasted ancestry so high extends
411The great supporter of his father's throne:
412What tides of glory to his bosom run,
413Clasp'd in th' embraces of the godlike man?
414How were his eyes with pleasing wonder fix'd
415To see such fire with so much sweetness mix'd,
416Such easy greatness, such a graceful port,
417So turn'd and finish'd for the camp or court!
421(His features flush'd with an immortal bloom
423In all the charms of his bright mother glow'd.
424      The royal youth by Marlbro's presence charm'd,
425Taught by his counsels, by his actions warm'd,
427Discharges all his thunder on its walls,
428O'er mines and caves of death provokes the fight,
429And learns to conquer in the hero's sight.
430      The British chief, for mighty toils renown'd,
431Increas'd in titles, and with conquests crown'd,
432To Belgian coasts his tedious march renews,
433And the long windings of the Rhine pursues,
434Clearing its borders from usurping foes,
435And blest by rescu'd nations as he goes.
437And Traerbach feels the terror of his arms,
438Seated on rocks her proud foundations shake,
439While Marlbro presses to the dire attack,
440Plants all his batt'ries, bids his cannon roar,
441And shows how Landau might have fall'n before.
442Scar'd at his near approach, great Louis fears
444Forgets his thirst of universal sway,
445And scarce can teach his subjects to obey;
446His arms he finds on vain attempts employ'd.
447Th' ambitious projects of his race destroy'd,
448The work of ages sunk in one campaign,
449And lives of millions sacrific'd in vain.
450      Such are the' effects of Anna's royal cares:
451By her, Britannia, great in foreign wars,
452Ranges through nations, wheresoe'er disjoin'd,
455And taste the sweets of English liberty.
456But who can tell the joys of those that lie
457Within the constant influence of her eye!
458Whilst in diffusive show'rs her bounties fall
459Like Heav'n's indulgence, and descend on all,
460Secure the happy, succour the distress'd,
461Make ev'ry subject glad, and a whole people bless'd.
462      Thus would I fain Britannia's wars rehearse,
463In the smooth records of a faithful verse;
464That, if such numbers can o'er time prevail,
465May tell posterity the wondrous tale.
466When actions, unadorn'd, are faint and weak,
467Cities and countries must be taught to speak,
468Gods may descend in factions from the skies,
469And rivers from their oozy beds arise;
471And round the hero cast a borrow'd blaze.
472Marlbro's exploits appear divinely bright,
473And proudly shine in their own native light;
474Rais'd of themselves, their genuine charms they boast,


1] The title-page motto is taken from the Latin poet Claudian's panegyric on the general Stilicho; it may be translated: "Pacifier of the Rhine and the Danube. In this one man all discord among the different orders ceases; the knight rejoices and the Senator applauds, and plebeian votes endorse patrician approval." The poem was intended to reflect the view of the war shared by the dedicatee, Marlborough, and the Queen's chief minister, Lord Treasurer Godolphin. When Godolphin saw a draft that extended to the simile of the angel, he was so impressed that he appointed Addison a commissioner of appeal in excise. Early in 1705 came more substantial recognition, when Addison was made under-secretary to the Secretary of State of the Southern Department. Back to Line
2] to enroll your name: two weeks after the battle of Blenheim, the Emperor Leopold had appointed Marlborough a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. John Churchill (1650-1722) had been created Earl of Marlborough in 1689 and raised to Duke in 1702. Back to Line
4] Anna: Queen Anne (1702-1714); Marlborough and his wife were her close friends; among other things, they had ensured her personal safety during the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-89. Back to Line
10] year: 1704. Back to Line
12] Iliad: Homer's Iliad tells of events in the tenth year of the Trojan War, but many details of earlier fighting are recalled, so that it "rises out" of the whole decade of warfare. Marlborough has reversed the proportions: his one campaign is the equivalent of ten ordinary ones. Back to Line
13] haughty Gaul: the French in general, but more specifically Louis XIV (1661-1715), whose armies had been generally victorious in the recurrent wars of his reign, fought to extend the north-east frontiers of France. Back to Line
15] Pirene: the Pyrenees mountains; because a French prince assumed the throne of Spain in 1700, they now mark not the southern boundary of France but the middle of Louis XIV's domain. Back to Line
17] Ausonia: Italy, not then a unified country. French forces had invaded northern Italy, part of the Holy Roman Empire effectively under Austrian rule, in 1701. Back to Line
21] Danube: the Danube rises in the mountains of the Swabian Jura in south-eastern Germany and flows east and south across Europe to the Black Sea. Back to Line
22] new conquests: Bavaria, which had rebelled against the Emperor Leopold and allied itself with France; the people of Hungary were in revolt against Leopold in his capacity as King of that country, and were thus aiding the French cause. Back to Line
24] Germania: in the eighteenth century Germany was divided into more than 100 states of various kinds (principalities, dukedoms, margravates, free cities, to name a few) under the nominal authority of the Holy Roman Empire, which also included Alsace, Savoy and other parts of modern France, and northern Italy. Back to Line
25] 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 (hence "great"), but in 1704 he was on the defensive against the French in northern Italy and threatened by the rising power of Bavaria (a significant component of the Holy Roman Empire) on his western flank. Back to Line
33] from the kingdoms rent: it was believed that the English Channel had opened up to separate the British isles from the continent of Europe either at the time of the Flood (Genesis 6-8) or as the result of a mighty earthquake. Back to Line
36] prince: here in the general sense of "monarch;" i.e., Queen Anne. Back to Line
39] desert: being deserved. Back to Line
47] vernal breezes: Marlborough sailed from England on April 8, 1704. He commanded an army composed of British and Dutch troops which had to be prepared for the campaign while Marlborough persuaded the Dutch to allow him to lead their troops south into Germany, thus leaving the Netherlands with little protection should the French choose to invade there. His march began in the middle of May. Back to Line
50] himself had won: in the successful but relatively unspectacular campaigns of 1702 and 1703. Back to Line
51] Moselle: Marlborough's first objective on his march south was Koblenz, where the Moselle flows into the Rhine, then as now an important wine-growing area. Back to Line
54] perjured Gaul: in 1697 Louis XIV had undertaken not to recognize the son of the exiled James II as King of England, but on James's death in 1701 he did just that. Back to Line
55] a purchase to the sword: the Duchy of Lorraine, through which the Moselle flows, had been a part of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages, but during the seventeenth century France made several attempts at invasion and annexation. By the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 France had been compelled to surrender Lorraine to the Empire; when the War of the Spanish Succession began in 1702 France promptly re-invaded Lorraine. Back to Line
68] Maese: the river known as the Meuse in French, the Maas in Dutch. Marlborough crossed it on 15 May. Back to Line
76] Scorpion's heat: in one version of the story in Greek mythology, Orion was killed by the sting of a scorpion; thus in the heavens the constellation Orion declines from peak visibility in January, driven by the advance of Scorpio, which peaks in July. Back to Line
77] Maine: the river Main; the city of Mainz stands at the point where it joins the Rhine. Back to Line
87] Neckar: the Neckar flows into the Rhine about 75 km south of Mainz. Back to Line
98] great Bourbon: Louis XIV, a member of the Bourbon family, the royal house of France. Back to Line
100] Eugenio: Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), was born in Paris and spent his early years in court circles in Paris. Louis XIV refused him a military appointment, and he entered the service of the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperors. He proved an exceptionally able general, winning the crucial battle of Zenta over the Ottoman Turks in 1697; this victory effectively turned back the Ottoman advance into southern and central Europe. In the War of the Spanish Succession he had fought against the French in northern Italy before joining Marlborough in the Blenheim campaign. Eugene met Marlborough for the first time on 10 June 1704, in a camp near Stuttgart. Back to Line
128] Schellenberg: the heights overlooking the town of Donauworth on the Danube, which the army of Marlborough and the Prince of Baden took by storm on 2 July 1704, thus securing the route which kept the army supplied. Back to Line
165] Marlbro: Addison regularly gives the name in this form in order to ensure its pronounciation as a disyllable. Back to Line
185] Belgian mounds: the dykes which keep the North Sea at bay in the Netherlands. Addison had spent several months there in 1703-04 on his way back from his continental tour. Back to Line
200] spoils: the military governor of Donauworth fled as soon as he heard of the fall of the Schellenberg, not delaying to destroy supplies and military equipment, which accordingly assisted Marlborough and his allies. Back to Line
204] Landau: Landau-in-der-Pfalz, a free city of the Holy Roman Empire, had been occupied by the French since 1680 and fortified by them; it was taken by troops of the Holy Roman Empire in 1702, and recaptured by the French in 1703; it fell to forces under Marlborough's command on November 28, 1704. Ironically, the cannons that should have protected Donauworth against the Allies will be used by the Allies to attack Landau. Back to Line
206] guilty lord: the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian II Emmanuel (1662-1726), who had entered the war on the French side in hopes of displacing the Hapsburg Leopold I from the throne of the Holy Roman Empire; since as a Prince Elector of the Empire he owed Leopold allegiance, he is a "guilty lord." Back to Line
207] Deluded prince: after the defeat of the Franco-Bavarian forces at Blenheim Maximilian moved his court to the Spanish Netherlands (roughly modern Belgium) of which he was Governor, and most of Bavaria was occupied by Austria forces for the remainder of the war; part was occupied by the German state of the Palatinate. (Bavaria was reunited and Maximilian returned in 1714.) Back to Line
228] ravages the land: having reached the Danube in southern Bavaria, far from his base in Flanders, Marlborough could not afford to linger. To bring Maximilian to battle, he devastated the countryside in order to force the ruler to defend his people's interests. Back to Line
243] Gallia's proud standards: on 5 August a French army under Marshal Tallard arrived in southern Bavaria and joined the armies of Maximilian and the French Marshal Marsin at Augsburg, bringing their combined strength to approximately 56,000 men and 90 guns. Marlborough and Eugene commanded about 52,000 men. Back to Line
244] gilded lilies: the golden fleur-de-lys, symbol of the French monarchy. Back to Line
248] day: August 13, 1704. Back to Line
270] fens: Marlborough launched his central assault across a marsh, where it was not expected. Back to Line
272] numbers: powers of versification. Back to Line
285] doubtful battle: battle whose result hangs in the balance. Back to Line
286] angel: great storms were understood to be sent by God (Psalm 107: 25) as punishment for sins (Ps. 11: 6) and as a call to repentance (Ps. 83: 15); they were supposed to be steered by angels. Back to Line
288] Such as of late: referring to the great storm that raged over the south of England and the Midlands from November 24 to December 2, 1703, just one year before the poem was written. The storm sank many warships in the English Channel and was generally taken to be a sign of God's anger against a "guilty land," the more to be dreaded in time of war. The special prayer appointed for the national fast day on January 19, 1704 includes the following: "We vile dust and miserable sinners, in a most awful sense of thy amazing judgments, our own great and manifold provocations, and thy tender mercy to the penitent . . . Pardon the great offences of us thy servants, and the crying sins of the whole nation . . . Pour out thy abundant blessings upon our gracious Queen . . . And more particularly we now prostrate ourselves before thee, to implore thy blessing upon her fleets and armies, and those of her allies." Addison was in Holland at the time, but the storm, somewhat weaker but still formidable, struck there after it passed over England. Back to Line
292] Household-Troops: the elite corps of French troops closest to the King's person, esteemed the best-trained and best-equipped in Europe. Their inability to stop the British advance was one of the most surprising features of the battle. Back to Line
308] Dormer: Philip Dormer, lieutenant-colonel of the first regiment of Foot Guards, was killed at Blenheim. His younger brother James (1679-1741), a captain in the same regiment, was seriously wounded but survived to have a long and distinguished military career. Back to Line
320] Soane: like the Rhone, Seine, and Loire, rivers that flow into seas around France. Back to Line
325] Scythian seas: the Danube flows into the Black Sea, the regions north and east of which were known in classical times as Scythia, a barbarous and benighted zone. Back to Line
326] tow'rs: church towers were used as observation posts by military commanders. Back to Line
334] 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
360] Memminghen's high doors: sections of the medieval walls of Memmingen (in southern Germany), including no less than ten gateways, still stand. Augsburg, somewhat farther east, was an important trading city with substantial fortifications, of which substantial parts remain. Both had been in French hands before the battle. Back to Line
364] Ulm: a strategically located city on the Danube. Back to Line
365] obsequious: in the original Latin sense, "complying." Back to Line
382] bulwark: Landau; see note to line 204 above. It fell to allied besiegers on November 28, 1704. Back to Line
390] dog-star: Sirius, so called from its location in the constellation Canis Major; the "dog days," the hottest of the summer, when Sirius appears close to the sun, were reckoned by the Church of England to run from July 7 to September 5. Back to Line
401] Hochstedt: Hochstaedt, a town near Blenheim; alternative name for the battle. Back to Line
406] Austria's young monarch: Joseph, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, had been King of the Romans since 1690; this was the title of the heir apparent to the imperial throne (which Joseph would inherit in 1705, after this poem was published). Back to Line
409] his lineage: Addison exaggerates somewhat; the Hapsburgs' ancestry can be traced to a tenth century nobleman, Guntram the Rich. Back to Line
410] Comes from afar: Joseph had in fact been present at Blenheim. Back to Line
418] Achilles: the greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War, but so delicately formed that he could spend some years at the court of king Lycomedes disguised as a woman. Back to Line
419] Nireus: king of the tiny island of Naxos, leader of the smallest of the Greek contingents to the Trojan War; famous for his good looks, but in this as in military capacity inferior to Achilles. Back to Line
420] father of almighty Rome: Aeneas, who after the fall of Troy set out with a small band of followers and ultimately reached Italy, where he founded Lavinium, the legendary predecessor of the city of Rome. Back to Line
422] Cytherea: one of the names of the goddess Venus, the mother of Aeneas. Back to Line
426] redoubl'd fury: Joseph had participated in the successful siege that had wrested Landau from the French in 1702; they had won it back in 1703, and in the fall of 1704 Joseph joined the Prince of Baden's army which took it back in November. Back to Line
436] Treves: French name for Trier, like Trarbach a city strategically located on the river Moselle; both were besieged and captured by Allied forces in the autumn of 1704, Treves on October 29, Trarbach on December 20. Back to Line
443] Vengeance: following the success of his 1704 campaign, Marlborough intended to mount a direct invasion of France for the next year; various circumstances prevented this. Back to Line
453] Without . . . wind: Britain's power has so increased that it supports other nations allied to it wherever they may be, and no longer depends on the Royal Navy (a political point against the Tories, who supported naval operations but objected to a land war in Europe). Back to Line
454] Ister: from the Greek, an alternative name for the river Danube. Addison refers principally to Bavaria. Back to Line
470] spurious rays: the devices listed in the preceding three lines are ones commonly found in the Latin verses on public occasions that schoolboys and undergraduates were taught to write. Marlborough's actions need no such artificial aggrandizing Back to Line
475] 'em . . .'em: the abbreviations guide the reader to emphasize the key words: "paint . . . truest . . . praise . . . most." Back to Line
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

The poem was published, as by "Mr. Addison," in folio format (a token of importance) on 14 December 1704 in London, the day of Marlborough's return to England. It was popular: there were eleven later editions or reprints of the poem, as well as a translation into Latin.

RPO poem Editors
John Baird
RPO Edition