Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), Notice Rev. Charles Wolfe - “The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna,” “Ellis and Allan” Manuscript, undated (©1825)


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The Soldier’s Burial

These verses have been often and Justly admired as the only original essay on so hackney’d a subject as a Burial which has appeared for a long time. They are on the burial of Sir John Moore. Much dispute has arisen concerning the writer of the really elegant and original production. Moore, Campbell, Scott and Byron have all been mentioned as the supposed writer. It has now been pretty well ascertained to be Byron. As for the piece itself it is inimitable. The Poet the Patriot and the man of feeling breathes thro’ the whole, and a strain of originality gives a zest to this little piece which is seldom felt on tho perusal of others of the same kind.

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 we buried.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,

The sods with our bayonets turning,

By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light

And the lanthorn 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.


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Notes:

The manuscript of this notice was left as part of the Ellis and Allan papers, now in the Library of Congress. The handwriting is believed to be Poe’s, but whether it is his own composition or a copy of something he read is uncertain. If it is indeed Poe’s, then it is his earliest surviving critical notice. The item was first attributed to Poe by James H. Whitty in the Nation (New York), January 27, 1916.

The full title of the poem quoted is “The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna.” Sir John Moore was killed during the Peninsular War, at the Battle of Corunna in Spain on January 16, 1809. Wolfe was an Episcopal clergyman, who wrote the poem and published it in 1817 in the Newry Telegraph, an Irish newspaper. It was first collected in an edition of his works in 1825, an books which ran through four editions by the end of 1829.]

Regrettably, the great Poe scholar Thomas Ollive Mabbott died in 1968, long before he completed his collected edition of Poe’s editorial works. As late as 1966, however, he was planning to include this notice. (Mabbott’s notes and working texts are preserved in the Mabbott-Poe collection at the University of Iowa.)


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[S:0 - MS, 1825] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of Wolfe - The Burial of Sir John Moore (©1825)