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

Portugal: Torres Vedras

Inscription for the Lines of Torres Vedras

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

THROUGH all Iberia, from the Atlantic shores

To far Pyrene, Wellington hath left

His trophies; but no monument records

To after-time a more enduring praise

Than this which marks his triumph here attained

By intellect, and patience to the end

Holding through good and ill its course assigned,

The stamp and seal of greatness. Here the chief

Perceived in foresight Lisbon’s sure defence,

A vantage-ground for all reverse prepared,

Where Portugal and England might defy

All strength of hostile numbers. Not for this

Of hostile enterprise did he abate,

Or gallant purpose: witness the proud day

Which saw Soult’s murderous host from Porto driven;

Bear witness, Talavera, made by him

Famous forever; and that later fight

When from Busaco’s solitude the birds,

Then first affrighted in their sanctuary,

Fled from the thunders and the fires of war.

But when Spain’s feeble counsels, in delay

As erring as in action premature,

Had left him in the field without support,

And Bonaparté, having trampled down

The strength and pride of Austria, this way turned

His single thought and undivided power,

Retreating hither the great general came;

And proud Massena, when the boastful chief

Of plundered Lisbon dreamt, here found himself

Stopped suddenly in his presumptuous course.

From Ericeyra on the western sea,

By Mafra’s princely convent, and the heights

Of Montichique, and Bucellas famed

For generous vines, the formidable works

Extending, rested on the guarded shores

Of Tagus, that rich river who received

Into his ample and rejoicing port

The harvests and the wealth of distant lands,

Secure, insulting with the glad display

The robber’s greedy sight. Five months the foe

Beheld these lines, made inexpugnable

By perfect skill, and patriot feelings here

With discipline conjoined, courageous hands,

True spirits, and one comprehensive mind

All overseeing and pervading all.

Five months, tormenting still his heart with hope,

He saw his projects frustrated; the power

Of the blaspheming tyrant whom he served

Fail in the proof; his thousands disappear,

In silent and inglorious war consumed;

Till hence retreating, maddened with despite,

Here did the self-styled Son of Victory leave,

Never to be redeemed, that vaunted name.