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

Spain: Talavera


By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

For the Field of Battle

YON wide-extended town, whose roofs and towers

And poplar avenues are seen far off,

In goodly prospect over scattered woods

Of dusky ilex, boasts among its sons

Of Mariana’s name,—he who hath made

The splendid story of his country’s wars

Through all the European kingdoms known.

Yet in his ample annals thou canst find

No braver battle chronicled than here

Was waged, when Joseph, of the stolen crown,

Against the hosts of England and of Spain

His veteran armies brought. By veteran chiefs

Captained, a formidable force they came,

Full fifty thousand. Victor led them on,

A man grown gray in arms, nor e’er in aught

Dishonored, till by this opprobrious cause.

He, over rude Alverche’s summer stream

Winning his way, made first upon the right

His hot attack, where Spain’s raw levies, ranged

In double line, had taken their strong stand

In yonder broken ground, by olive-groves

Covered, and flanked by Tagus. Soon from thence,

As one whose practised eye could apprehend

All vantages in war, his troops he drew;

And on this hill, the battle’s vital point,

Bore with collected power, outnumbering

The British ranks twice told. Such fearful odds

Were balanced by Sir Arthur’s master mind

And by the British heart. Twice during night

The fatal spot they stormed, and twice fell back,

Before the bayonet driven. Again at morn

They made their fiery onset, and, again

Repelled, again at noon renewed the strife.

Yet was their desperate perseverance vain,

Where skill by equal skill was countervailed,

And numbers by superior courage foiled;

And, when the second night drew over them

Its sheltering cope, in darkness they retired,

At all points beaten. Long in the red page

Of war shall Talavera’s famous name

Stand forth conspicuous. While that name endures,

Bear in thy soul, O Spain! the memory

Of all thou sufferedst from perfidious France,

Of all that England in thy cause achieved.