Is the story that Robert Southey’s poem ‘After Blenheim’ narrates ironical in tone? Discuss. Or, Why does the poet frequently use the term ‘great victory’ and ‘famous victory’? Or, How does the poet Robert Southey show the conflict between the glorious notion of war and the truth of war in the poem After Blenheim?
Robert Southey’s poem ‘After Blenheim’ narrates the story of the Battle of Blenheim and the death and destruction it caused. The poem is in ironical tone where the poet presents the common people’s misconceptions regarding war, how they fall prey to the propaganda that was indoctrinated in them and how they glorify war and the so-called war-heroes.
In the poem we see Old Kaspar praise the war calling it a ‘great victory’ and a ‘famous victory‘ as he has heard people say so. He does not know why it was a great victory. He does not know what good war can cause to the mankind. But still he glorifies war. And what is most ironical in it is the fact that he himself was a victim of the battle when his father was forced to escape with his family to save their life, losing their house and with no place ‘to rest his head’. Kaspar even feels the pity of war as we see him shaking his head and having a natural sigh seeing a skull. But still we see him praise the war and say
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.
The repetition of the line ‘it was a great victory’ at the end of every stanza is only to emphasize the irony and to deliver the poet’s message that war cannot be great; it can do no good. Thus the poet presents the conflict between the glorious notion of war and the truth of war in the poem.