William Topaz McGonagall (1830 - 1902 / Edinburgh / Scotland)
The Battle of Abu Klea
Ye sons of Mars, come join with me,
And sing in praise of Sir Herbert Stewart's little army,
That made ten thousand Arabs flee
At the charge of the bayonet at Abu Klea.
General Stewart's force was about fifteen hundred all told,
A brave little band, but, like lions bold,
They fought under their brave and heroic commander,
As gallant and as skilful as the great Alexander.
And the nation has every reason to be proud,
And in praise of his little band we cannot speak too loud,
Because that gallant fifteen hundred soon put to flight
Ten thousand Arabs, which was a most beautiful sight.
The enemy kept up a harmless fire all night,
And threw up works on General Stewart's right;
Therefore he tried to draw the enemy on to attack,
But they hesitated, and through fear drew back.
But General Stewart ordered his men forward in square,
All of them on foot, ready to die and to dare;
And he forced the enemy to engage in the fray,
But in a short time they were glad to run away.
But not before they penetrated through the British square,
Which was a critical moment to the British, I declare,
Owing to the great number of the Arabs,
Who rushed against their bayonets and received fearful stabs.
Then all was quiet again until after breakfast,
And when the brave little band had finished their repast,
Then the firing began from the heights on the right,
From the breastworks they had constructed during the night;
By eight o'clock the enemy was of considerable strength,
With their banners waving beautifully and of great length,
And creeping steadily up the grassy road direct to the wells,
But the British soon checked their advance by shot and shells.
At ten o'clock brave General Stewart made a counter-attack,
Resolved to turn the enemy on a diferent track;
And he ordered his men to form a hollow square,
Placing the Guards in the front, and teeing them to prepare.
And on the left was the Mounted Infantry,
Which truly was a magnificent sight to see;
Then the Sussex Regiment was on the right,
And the Heavy Cavalry and Naval Brigade all ready to fight.
Then General Stewart took up a good position on a slope,
Where he guessed the enemy could not with him cope,
Where he knew the rebels must advance,
All up hill and upon open ground, which was his only chance.
Then Captain Norton's battery planted shells amongst the densest mass,
Determined with shot and shell the enemy to harass;
Then carne the shock of the rebels against the British square,
While the fiendish shouts of the Arabs did rend the air.
But the steadiness of the Guards, Marines, and Infantry prevailed,
And for the loss of their brother officers they sadly bewailed,
Who fell mortally wounded in the bloody fray,
'Which they will remember for many a long day.
For ten minutes a desperate struggle raged from left to rear
While Gunner Smith saved Lieutenant guthrie's life without dread or fear;
When all the other gunners had been borne back,
He took up a handspike, and the Arabs he did whack.
The noble hero hard blows did strike,
As he swung round his head the handspike;
He seemed like a destroying angel in the midst of the fight
The way he scattered the Arabs left and right.
Oh! it was an exciting and terrible sight,
To see Colonel Burnaby engaged in the fight:
With sword in hand, fighting with might and main,
Until killed by a spear-thrust in the jugular vein.
A braver soldier ne'er fought on a battle-field,
Death or glory was his motto, rather than yield;
A man of noble stature and manly to behold,
And an honour to his country be it told.
It was not long before every Arab in the square was killed.
And with a dense smoke and dust the air was filled;
General Stewart's horse was shot, and he fell to the ground.
In the midst of shot and shell on every side around.
And when the victory was won they gave three British cheers.
While adown their cheeks flowed many tears
For their fallen comrades that lay weltering in their gore;
Then the square was re-formed, and the battle was o'er.
Comments about this poem (The Battle of Abu Klea by William Topaz McGonagall )
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