What moral or message does the poet Robert Southey convey in his poem After Blenheim? Or, What is the central theme of the poem?
Southey’s poem After Blenheim is an anti-war poem. He is ironic here to present the fact that people in general glorify war and war-heroes without knowing what good it does to mankind or why a victory is called ‘great’ or ‘famous’.
In the poem we see that Old Kaspar repeatedly mentions the Battle of Blenheim as a great and famous victory but he does not know the reason. He has a romantic view of war even after receiving the sufferings himself during the war and after thousands of killings. This is all about the hollow romantic ideals regarding war that warmongers have created very carefully in people’s minds. Southey’s poem is a protest against the heroic ideals of war.
So, if you want a one-liner as a moral of the poem, here it is — “War can never be great.”
The poem gives a strong message that war is not an option and nothing ever justifies the loss of lives and destruction caused by the war and rather we can say that war doesn’t make a country winner or loser, it causes destruction between the two.
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. Ordinary soldiers lay down their lives. War-Heroes are praised. Victories are extolled.
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 everything. They are conventional and undaring. They are mostly guided by blind patriotism.
- Aftermath of war
- Man’s inhumanity to man
- Curiosity and lack of it
- Unnecessary complacency
- Chiding wars, and their unjustified glorification.
It was a famous victory and had many destructions caused by that. So the main theme of poem is
1. the cruelty of man to man because of worst behaviour of men.
2. curiosity and lack of it. The children were too curious to know about the war but old Kaspar was unable to say the reason for the war.
Pointlessness of the war
The war bore no fruits. There was only destruction and death but no gain. Many innocent lives were taken in the war but no reasonable result. Many pregnant mothers and little children were cruelly killed. But of what use?
Curiosity and the lack of it
The children were very curious about the war and the reason the English and french fought for. But old Kaspar didn’t know and did not care about the results and the reasons of the war. All he cared for that the English and Austria together defeated the french and that it was a great victory.
The poem is an anti-war poem as it advocates the phylosophy of violence. Here, through old kaspar we are made aware about the huge devastation of the war and cruelty between humans.
Poet Robert Southey wanted to establish an image of post war which is devastating. Old Kaspar has referred this as a great victory because he felt pride for the English and Austria who won this battle. The poem also projects the opinions of older and younger generations. Old kaspar repeatedly said that this was a great victory ignoring the futile effect of the war which took numberless innocent lives but his grand children were curious to know about the cause of this fatal incident which symbolizes their disagreement to their grandfather’s judgement.
“After Blenheim” by Robert Southey is based on the most famous battle of the Spanish succession (1701-1714), popularly known as the Battle of Blenheim. It is an antiwar poem in the form of a ballad in which two children seek information from their grandfather about a skull they found in the field. The grandfather tells them about the war that resulted in the destruction of several houses, civilian casualties, rotting corpses and inhumanity.
Robert Southey attempts to highlight the ignorance of thousands of ordinary men who refuse to accept the cruel and brutal reality of war and instead consider it as a dignified and glorious act. In this poem the grandfather refers to the war repeatedly as “a famous victory” and “a great victory” but is unable to tell the reason behind the cause of the war. The repetitions of the refrain “a great victory” and “a famous victory” have been used to emphasize on the sheer ignorance of common men regarding the cause of the war and the damaging consequences of it. They acknowledge war only as a victory.