But we left him alone with his glory.

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There are days when whatever you intended, other stuff just sort of gets added to the agenda.

I had to go down to London. Virgin did their best, the train was swift and arrived on time and I drifted into London. It was expensive; my Kindle had just failed so I was forced to buy books!

But still, it had to be done and books were bought to ensure I had something to read, at least on the train back.

Anyway I checked in, dumped my gear and pondered the evening which was cold and windy. First stop was St Paul’s Cathedral which is just nearby. I try and catch evensong if I can and it was there I saw it. For Christmas and Epiphany the Cathedral as a virtually life sized crib scene. It has kings, mother and child, shepherds, lambs and a border collie. All I can say is that the sculptor who created it had grasped the essential nature of the Border Collie.

There are kings, the Madonna, the Son of God, and doubtless outside in the yard there are camels, donkeys and all sorts of cattle. Our Border Collie (and it can be nothing else) ignores them all and concentrates entirely on the really important issue. The sheep.

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During the service, it was announced that the Rifles were going to lay a tribute at the Memorial of Sir John Moore, Moore of Corunna. After evensong those who wanted to gathered in a side chapel and there the dean said a few words, the wreaths were laid, somebody read the poem, and six buglers played. Given that was in a side chapel, and there were, as I mentioned, six of them, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he heard it.

He was a decent man, a fine officer, a humanitarian and deserves to be remembered. He died at the Battle of Corunna, where his victory won time for the British army to be evacuated by sea.

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The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna

 

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,

    As his corse to the rampart we hurried;

Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot

    O’er the grave where our hero was buried.

 

We buried him darkly at dead of night,

    The sods with our bayonets turning,

By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light

    And the lantern dimly burning.

 

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,

    Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;

But he lay like a warrior taking his rest

    With his martial cloak around him.

 

Few and short were the prayers we said,

    And we spoke not a word of sorrow;

But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,

    And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

 

We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed

    And smoothed down his lonely pillow,

That the foe and the stranger would tread o’er his head,

    And we far away on the billow!

 

Lightly they’ll talk of the spirit that’s gone,

    And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him –

But little he’ll reck, if they let him sleep on

    In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

 

But half of our heavy task was done

    When the clock struck the hour for retiring;

And we heard the distant and random gun

    That the foe was sullenly firing.

 

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,

    From the field of his fame fresh and gory;

We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,

    But we left him alone with his glory!

 

Charles Wolfe

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24 thoughts on “But we left him alone with his glory.

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 18, 2018 at 6:00 pm Reply

    What a moving poem. It is a good thing to be a wordsmith. I haven’t seen dogs at manger scenes – except the Mexican ones. Sometimes a family there will use a whole room to construct a diorama with everything including working windmills and running water (because, of course, there were windmills in Palestine in the days of Our Lord). Those DO have everything.

    Speaking of everything. I live in the suburbs of New Jersey, houses on a quiet cul-de-sac. I just saw a fox out my window, in broad daylight, galloping down the sidewalk.

    • jwebster2 January 18, 2018 at 6:11 pm Reply

      It’s not often quoted in full, but certainly there are lines in it that are slightly more widely known. The first and last especially.

      With regard to the dogs, I think the Border Collie followed the Shepherd, I’d love to talk to the artist about it 🙂
      As for foxes, Urban foxes in the UK might outnumber rural ones

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 19, 2018 at 12:32 am

        I’ve seen a fox on my driveway once before, but it was early morning. This was blatantly middle of the day.

        I think it means we have a vibrant ecosystem in our little suburb (lots of trees).

      • jwebster2 January 19, 2018 at 7:13 am

        from UK experience, people not keeping their dustbins properly covered is as important.
        Foxes seem to survive in a very urban environment (an inner city environment) because of the sheer amount of food for them
        Discarded McDonalds meals seem to be popular 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2018 at 1:34 am

        Not feral cats? We’re careful with our trash because otherwise there are big messes to clean up when an animal, feral or wild, decides to get through to find what it’s smelling in there. Others may not be so careful, but those messes are an incentive.

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2018 at 7:29 am

        feral foxes might or might not keep down the numbers of feral cats. The matter is disputed and will remain so because too many people on both sides of the argument have invested too much credibility in their cause 😦

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/4195162/Hungry-foxes-start-eating-the-nations-cats.html

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2018 at 8:02 am

        I have zero data – it was just interesting to see the fox. I see the cats wandering about sometimes, and a neighbor feeds them. Not too thrilled about that, except I also feel sorry for the poor things. It gets cold out.

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2018 at 8:28 am

        I don’t think anybody has data, they merely swap anecdotes to back their predetermined stance 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2018 at 4:00 pm

        Of course! That’s why we need real researchers and journalists, ones without preconceptions or agendas to support.

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2018 at 4:03 pm

        then shun historians. The more of them you read the more you realise they can inadvertently tell you about their own eras and preconceptions 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 20, 2018 at 4:19 pm

        Everyone has biases; some people are just better at laying them out for you before they start telling you what is and isn’t. Historians are products of their own times. I wonder if they think they’re above it.

      • jwebster2 January 20, 2018 at 4:26 pm

        some of them do, the best ones don’t 🙂

  2. oldhenwife January 18, 2018 at 6:36 pm Reply

    There’s no evidence of THREE wise men, not that they visited the infant in a stable, but they are always shown well before Epiphany and which is when we celebrate the visit of the wise men. If shepherds had dogs In Those Days they should be represented.

    ‘ No useless coffin enclosed his breast, Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him… ‘ He was obviously not English. I recognised a local trader at an event and said that he was the undertaker. He didn’t like that, they prefer to call themselves Funeral Directors. Well they won’t get their hand on my corpse, Spouse and I will be dumped with nothing more than a board and ropes, making it easier for sons and grandsons (they’ve agreed with enthusiasm) to drop us under the sod. We don’t want strangers handling our bodies. It would be good if they could be dumped under your sod, Jim, you have plenty of it. Name a price.

    There are lot of fox round here, they tend to walk down the street in pairs, comparing handbags. We, at great expense and energy have made our back garden fox-proof. Cat proof too, which takes some doing. They – fox – ‘d come during the day to get our hens,watching us as if asking what we were doing there? I don’t like them.

    This morning I took some unwanted (by us) books to a community shop. I looked for Webster’s books but couldn’t find any. The proprietor had never heard of you. Mind you, he hadn’t heard of Tinniswood either so you’re in very good company.

    • jwebster2 January 18, 2018 at 6:47 pm Reply

      my paperbacks could theoretically be sold in shops, and if the shop can be bothered, they can be ordered through distributors, but frankly the only real way of getting them is by seeing me at a show, or Amazon 😦

      The three wise men seem to come from the three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as only the gifts get numbered

  3. oldhenwife January 18, 2018 at 6:40 pm Reply

    The Battle of Corunna
    ’Twas in the year of 1808, and in the autumn of the year,
    Napoleon resolved to crush Spain and Portugal without fear;
    So with a mighty army three hundred thousand strong
    Through the passes of the Pyrenees into Spain he passed along.

    But Sir John Moore concentrated his troops in the north,
    And into the west corner of Spain he boldly marched forth;
    To cut off Napoleon’s communications with France
    He considered it to be advisable and his only chance.

    And when Napoleon heard of Moore’s coming, his march he did begin,
    Declaring that he was the only General that could oppose him;
    And in the month of December, when the hills were clad with snow,
    Napoleon’s army marched over the Guadiana Hills with their hearts full of woe.

    And with fifty thousand cavalry, infantry, and artillery,
    Napoleon marched on, facing obstacles most dismal to see;
    And performed one of the most rapid marches recorded in history,
    Leaving the command of his army to Generals Soult and Ney.

    And on the 5th of January Soult made his attack,
    But in a very short time the French were driven back;
    With the Guards and the 50th Regiment and the 42d conjoint,
    They were driven from the village of Elnina at the bayonet’s point.

    Oh! It was a most gorgeous and inspiring sight
    To see Sir John Moore in the thickest of the fight,
    And crying aloud to the 42d with all his might,
    “Forward, my lads, and charge them with your bayonets left and right.”

    Then the 42d charged them with might and main,
    And the French were repulsed again and again;
    And although they poured into the British ranks a withering fire,
    The British at the charge of the bayonet soon made them retire.

    Oh! That battlefield was a fearful sight to behold,
    ’Twas enough to make one’s blood run cold
    To hear the crack, crack of the musketry and the cannon’s roar,
    Whilst the dead and the dying lay weltering in their gore.

    But O Heaven! It was a heartrending sight,
    When Sir John Moore was shot dead in the thickest of the fight;
    And as the soldiers bore him from the field they looked woebegone,
    And the hero’s last words were “Let me see how the battle goes on.”

    Then he breathed his last with a gurgling sound,
    And for the loss of the great hero the soldier’s sorrow was profound,
    Because he was always kind and served them well,
    And as they thought of him tears down their cheeks trickling fell.

    Oh! it was a weird and pathetic sight
    As they buried him in the Citadel of Corunna at the dead of night,
    While his staff and the men shed many tears
    For the noble hero who had commanded them for many years.

    Success to the British Army wherever they go,
    For seldom they have failed to conquer the foe;
    Long may the highlanders be able to make the foe reel,
    By giving them an inch or two of cold steel.

    McGonagall

    • jwebster2 January 18, 2018 at 6:48 pm Reply

      Trust him to get in on it 🙂

  4. oldhenwife January 18, 2018 at 7:01 pm Reply

    “The three wise men seem to come from the three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as only the gifts get numbered”

    Quite. But folks should think and read the account in the Gospels.

    McGonegall – such fun!

    • jwebster2 January 18, 2018 at 7:20 pm Reply

      Oh yes, he gives bad poetry a good name 🙂
      With regard to the three wise men, the word Matthew uses when talking about where they met Jesus was House or Home. They arrived after the Stable incident once things had been sorted out a bit 🙂

  5. oldhenwife January 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm Reply

    They went to the HOUSE (not stable or whatever) where the young child (not baby) lay. And Herod demanded that all boys under 2 years were killed. It’s one of the very many bees in my bonnet.
    What do you mean – you didn’t know that I kept bees in my bonnet.Nor even that I wore a bonnet.

    • jwebster2 January 18, 2018 at 9:23 pm Reply

      It’s interesting looking at how the various accounts can fit together, Jesus could well have been presented at the Temple and Mary and Joseph could have been living in the area for a while.
      After all, Joseph might have decided to move back to his home town for a while, so going to Bethlehem for the census would have made sense.
      So while he was now settled in Bethlehem, why move again? Until the wise men inadvertently stirred up Herod, the massacre of Innocents and going to Egypt.

  6. oldhenwife January 21, 2018 at 4:32 pm Reply

    But Jesus spent his childhood and youth in Nazareth. Even if Joseph decided to stay in Bethlehem for a while (why should he though?) he didn’t stay in the ‘stable’, which is where the’kings’ are always shown. My point is that they weren’t part of the nativity.

    • jwebster2 January 21, 2018 at 5:57 pm Reply

      I think they were added to the ‘nativity’ in the last century to be honest, to make advent calendars and nativity scenes more colourful
      But yes, they probably turned up around a year after the big day (give or take 🙂 )

  7. rootsandroutes2012 January 23, 2018 at 3:33 pm Reply

    Do other people know something about McGonagall that I don’t know? And has he genuinely not heard of scansion, or does he just do it to annoy?

    • jwebster2 January 23, 2018 at 3:38 pm Reply

      I would quote another poet,
      “Speak roughly to your little boy,
      And beat him when he sneezes;
      He only does it to annoy,
      Because he knows it teases.”

      I suspect McGonagall may have heard of scansion but didn’t think it applied to him 🙂

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