After Blenheim Summary in English by Robert Southey

After Blenheim Poem Summary in English and Hindi Pdf. After Blenheim Poem is written by Robert Southey.

After Blenheim Poem Summary in English by Robert Southey

After Blenheim Poem Summary
After Blenheim Poem Summary

After Blenheim Poem About the Poet

Robert Southey (1774-1843) was born in Bristol and educated at Westminster School and Balliol College, Oxford. He visited Spain and Portugal. His poetry and literary criticism earned him the laureateship in 1813. Southey wrote a vast amount of prose and verse. He is now best known for his short pieces such as Inchcape Rock and The Holly Tree. He wrote a number of poems, plays, romances, letters and biographies. He was a prolific writer. He remained the Poet Laureate of England for thirty years from 1813 till his death in 1843.

His biographies on John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Cowper, Oliver Cromwell and Horatio Nelson (used for the script of the English film ‘Nelson’ in 1926) are well-known. His everlasting work is the children’s classic ‘The Story of the Three Bears’. Among his popular short poems are ‘The Scholar’, ‘The Battle of Blenheim’, ‘The Inchcape Rock’ and ‘Bishop Hatto’. Among his long narrative poems are ‘Madoe’ (1805), ‘The Curse of Kehama’ (1810), ‘Roderick, the Last of the Goths’ (1814) and ‘A Vision of Judgement’ (1821)

After Blenheim About the Poem

All about the Poem After Blenheim:
The poem ‘After Blenheim’ brings out the horrors of war. There is death and destruction everywhere. The English registered a grand victory over the French. Old Kaspar’s grandchildren fail to understand how a horrible war can be called a famous victory. The old man has no answer to this question.

‘After Blenheim’ brings out the horrors of war in a simple but ironic way. The battle of Blenheim was fought in 1704 in the village between the English and the Austrians on the one side and the French on the other side. The battle resulted in a grand victory of the English under the Duke of Marlbrough. In this battle, thousands of men were killed. Women became widows and children became orphans. The battle called war caused much ruin and destruction.

In the poem, written mostly in a dialogue form, the grandfather, Old Kaspar, calls the battle of Blenheim as a great victory. He praises the heroism of English soldiers. His grandchildren, Wilhelmine and Peterkin, who have discovered a human skull, fail to understand how a destructive war can be called a famous victory. The innocent, searching questions of the children puzzle the old man, and evoke pity for the victims and hatred for the war.

After Blenheim Poem Theme

I. Horrors of War
‘After Blenheim’ uses an ironic structure to bring home the idea that war is horrible. Thousands of persons are killed, wounded or maimed. Houses are burnt down. People become homeless. Men, women and children suffer physical pain and mental anguish. Ordinary soldiers lay down their lives. War-heroes are praised. Victories are extolled. This is what happened in the war fought at Blenheim in 1704.

The English registered a grand victory over the French. The old man, Kaspar, describes the battle as a ‘famous victory’. His response towards the war is conventional. Only his grandchildren fail to understand how a destructive and evil thing like the war can be praised and hailed as omething grand and famous. The old man has no reply to his grandchild’s innocent question :
‘But what good came of it at last ?’

II. Generation Gap
Another theme that the poem seems to project is the difference between the viewpoints of the old and the new generation. The old men like Kaspar have no fresh thinking over almost anything. They are conventional and undaring. They are mostly guided by blind patriotism. On the other hand, the children’s responses to all things are simple, innocent and instinctive.

The two children in the poem have different line of thinking. They do not understand how their old grandfather could praise the war which was totally purposeless and destructive. The poem has an open ending. The old man continues to stick to his conventional opinion of war. He has no reply to the searching questions of his little grandchildren.

After Blenheim Poem Summary in English

War at Blenheim
The poem, referring to the famous battle of Blenheim fought in 1704, condemns blind patriotism and castigates all wars which only bring out horror, death and destruction. Written as a ballad, it tells us about the war fought at Blenheim in which the English, under the command of the Duke of Marlbrough, won a grand victory. By juxtaposing the opposite viewpoints it effectively conveys the horrors of all wars.

Death and Destruction in War
The poem opens on the scene of a summer evening. The old man Kaspar was sitting in the sun before his cottage door. His granddaughter Wilhelmine was playing beside him in the green grass. Her brother Peterkin brought home a large, round thing he had found while playing near a rivulet. He wanted to know what that thing was. The old man saw it and said that it was the skull of some man who must have been killed in the great ‘victory’ of Blenheim. He added that thousands of men were killed in the battle and that their skulls lay buried around everywhere there.

The children wanted to know about the war fought at Blenheim. They were eager to know why it was fought. Kaspar was puzzled and said that he only knew that the English defeated the French badly and that it was a ‘famous victory’. His father lived at Blenheim during the war. His own house was burnt down, and he had to flee with his family. He had no place to take shelter. The war caused widespread ruin and destruction in every part of the country. A large number of men, women and children were killed.

‘Famous’ Victory for England
After the battle was won, dead bodies were found rotting everywhere. It was a shocking sight. Kaspar, however, said that such things do happen in the war. People praised the Duke of Marlbrough and the Prince Eugene for having a grand victory. The little girl Wilhelmine could not help saying that the war was nothing but ‘a wicked thing’. Her grandfather, however, tried to correct her, saying with half conviction that it was ‘a famous victory’. He again repeated what he had said about the people’s acclaim of this victory and their praise of the English commanders. Little Peterkin wanted to know what good came out of the war. The grandfather had no other words to say than that it was a ‘famous victory’.

The repetition of the old man’s words ” ’twas a famous victory” builds up an ironic pitch to bring home the idea that war is horrible, ruinous and destructive.

After Blenheim Poem Stanza Wise Explanation

Stanza 1
The poem at once makes the setting of the story clear. It was a summer evening. An old man Kaspar having finished his day’s work was sitting before his cottage door. His little granddaughter Wilhelmine was playing near him on the green grass.

The situation described here is commonplace, familiar. Nothing is spectacular.

Stanza 2
The little girl Wilhelmine saw her brother Peterkin rolling something that was large and round. Peterkin had discovered the thing by the side of a rivulet while he was playing there. He came back home to know what that thing was.

Stanza 3
The old man Kaspar took it from Peterkin who stood expectantly for the answer. He looked at it, shook his head in sorrow and sighed. He said that it was somebody’s skull. The person must have died in the battle fought at Blenheim. He called the battle a ‘great victory’. Being a Bavarian, who sided with the English, he was proud of the victory won by the English.

Stanza 4
The old man added that he found a number of skulls in the garden because there were many skulls scattered there around. When he went to plough in his field, many skulls were dug out of the earth. It was so because thousands of men were killed in the battle of Blenheim. He again referred to the battle as a ‘great victory’, as it was something natural and to be proud of.

Stanza 5
The young Peterkin got anxious to know all about the incident. Wilhelmine, too, looked up with keen eyes. They wanted to know all about the war and what they fought each other for.

Stanza 6
Kaspar said that it was the English who completely defeated the French, but he was not sure as to what they fought for. He only repeated what the people generally said that it was a ‘famous victory’. It is clear that the response of the old man was only conventional, and not his own.

Stanza 7
The old man, Kaspar, continued to speak about the war. Pointing to the nearby stream, he said that his father used to live there at Blenheim. His house was burnt down and he was forced to run away, with his wife and child. He had no place to take shelter.

Stanza 8
The whole country, the old man said, was ruined far and wide with fire and sword. Many expectant mothers and new-born children died. Ironically, the old man added that such things do happen to win a grand victory.
People said that it was a ghastly sight after the battle was won. Thousands of dead bodies lay there rotting in the sun. The old man again remarked that such things do happen in the war, at every ‘famous victory’.

Stanza 10
Old Kaspar then showered praises on the Duke of Marlbrough and ‘good’ Prince Eugene who won the war for the English. Little Wilhelmine’s shocking response was instinctive. She remarked in disgust that the war was the most wicked thing. She could not tolerate the old man’s praise of the war. Her grandfather, Kaspar, weakly asserted that she was wrong and it was indeed a ‘famous victory’.

It is here in this stanza that the poet brings about a confrontation between the conventional and instinctive responses to war. The old man’s defence of war is conventional and unacceptable, whereas the child’s innocent condemnation of war is a natural and instinctive response, and brings about the reality of the wicked thing called a ‘famous victory’ by the old man.

Stanza 11
Old Kaspar again referred to the public praise for the glorious victory won by the Duke of Marlbrough at Blenheim. Little Peterkin, like his sister, failed to appreciate the views about the war. He wanted to know what good at last came out of the war. The old man was puzzled and said that he could not tell that but asserted parrot-like that it was ‘a famous victory’.

After Blenheim Poem Glossary

Stanza 1
sported : played
on the green : on the green grass

Stanza 2
roll : play by rotating or revolving something
something large and round : (here) refers to a large, round human skull
rivulet : stream

Stanza 3
it : the skull
expectant : expecting a reply
shook his head : expressed sorrow by shaking the head
natural : instinctive
great victory : (here) grand victory won by the English over the French at the battle of Blenheim in 1704

Stanza 4
them : skulls
ploughshare : ploughpin that cuts the soil
slain : killed

Stanza 5
’twas all about : all about the war
wonder-waiting eyes : surprised, waiting for the reply

Stanza 6
put to rout : defeated completely
make out : understand

Stanza 7
hard by : quite near
dwelling : house
forced to fly : made to run away
fled : ran away

Stanza 8
fire and sword : arson and murder
wasted : destroyed, ruined
far and wide : upto great distance, spread over wide area
childing mother : expectant mother
shocking sight : disgusting scene
after the field was won: after the battle was won
rotting : decaying, perishing

Stanza 10
the Duke of Marlbro’ : the Duke of Marlbrough, the English commander
wicked : evil, sinful

Stanza 11
‘what good came of it’ : what was the good out-come of the war

After Blenheim Poem Critical Appreciation

Historical Background
The poem ‘After Blenheim’ has a historical background. A battle was fought between the English and the French at a small village called Blenheim in 1704. The English who fought and won the battle were assisted by the Austrians and Bavarians. The English fought under the command of the Duke of Marlbrough.

The title of the poem ‘After Blenheim’ is very appropriate as the poet discusses the aftermath of the battle fought at a small village Blenheim between the English and the French.

Anti-war poem
It is obvious that any anti-war poem succeeds in its effect only when it deals with the human aspects of the war. It has to be indirect in projecting any anti-war stance. A direct condemnation of war becomes ineffective. Patriotic sentiments are bound to belittle any clear, logical perception of victory won by your side.

So Robert Southey chooses an incident from a simple household to express his response to the war and its victims. By using a simple response of two innocent children to the war he evokes pity for the victims and hatred for the war. This technique is employed by many later- day poets who wanted to register their opposition to the horrors of war. One is reminded of the dramatic technique employed by Thomas Hardy in his poem ‘The Man He Killed’, a powerful anti-war poem, to convey the uselessness of all wars :

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.

After Blenheim Poem Style and Literary Devices

‘After Blenheim’ is a ballad. It is a simple tale involving a conversation between an old man and his two little grandchildren. It begins abruptly, without any attempt at a systematic introduction : .

It was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar’s work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

The situation is slowly made clear after another little grandchild of Old Kaspar comes home with a human skull.

Like any other ballad, it is impersonal. There is no attempt to show the writer’s identity or personality. It keeps up the suspense, as is necessary in any tale. The open-ending makes it truly objective, though it makes it powerful in its anti-war stance simultaneously. The clash between the opposed viewpoints brought through dialogue works effectively in the tale.

Literary Devices

The poem has 11 stanzas. Each stanza consists of 6 lines, and incorporates a quatrain and a couplet. The quatrain has the rhyme scheme : abcb. The couplet is sometimes interlinked with the quatrain (as in the second stanza, beginning with ‘She saw her brother Peterkin….’) or forms a separate unit, as in stanza 1 :

And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

Here the last two words in the couplet do not rhyme with any rhyming word in the quatrain.

Repetition of keywords and phrases is natural in a ballad. It is used to put emphasis on some idea/feeling. Old Kaspar repeatedly describes the horrible battle as ‘the great victory’ or ‘a famous victory’. This repetition brings out effectively the destructive side of war in an ironic perspective.

The language used in the poem is simple, straightforward and colloquial. The poet has avoided the use of figurative language in order to maintain the simplicity and innocence involved in the whole situation. Old Kaspar is a farmer. The other two characters are small children. The unadorned language suits them the most. Of course, the poet has varied the line length for dramatic effect. For example, the use of ellipses in stanza 10 effectively conveys the hesitation and lack of confidence on the part of the old man.

The poet makes use of irony in the poem to bring home the idea that war is horrible. The repetition of the old man’s words ” it was a famous victory” builds up an ironic pitch to point out that war is destructive.

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