Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Corunna (La Coruña)

At Coruña

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

WHEN from these shores the British army first

Boldly advanced into the heart of Spain,

The admiring people who beheld its march

Called it “the Beautiful.” And surely well

Its proud array, its perfect discipline,

Its ample furniture of war complete,

Its powerful horse, its men of British mould,

All high in heart and hope, all of themselves

Assured, and in their leaders confident,

Deserved the title. Few short weeks elapsed

Ere hither that disastrous host returned,

A fourth of all its gallant force consumed

In hasty and precipitate retreat;

Stores, treasure, and artillery, in the wreck

Left to the fierce pursuer; horse and man

Foundered, and stiffening on the mountain snows.

But when the exulting enemy approached,

Boasting that he would drive into the sea

The remnant of the wretched fugitives,

Here, ere they reached their ships, they turned at bay.

Then was the proof of British courage seen:

Against a foe far overnumbering them,

An insolent foe, rejoicing in pursuit,

Sure of the fruit of victory, whatsoe’er

Might be the fate of battle, here they stood,

And their safe embarkation,—all they sought,—

Won manfully. That mournful day avenged

Their sufferings, and redeemed their country’s name;

And thus Coruña, which in this retreat

Had seen the else indelible reproach

Of England, saw the stain effaced in blood.