Corpr’l John’s the name
and I’m a whirlygig of fame,
I’ve fought right well and grabbed the pearl
and now I’m a great big earl!
But what?! (You don’t?) You don’t agree?
But even I (even I!) have heard of me!
Well now, ain’t that me up on m’own petards?
This poem is a commentary on fame by poking a little humor at a great man. The War of the Spanish Succession was waged in the early 1700s across the Low Countries of Europe between France and the rest of Europe over the right to control the Spanish succession. It is the war that saw England, already emergent as a sea power, emerge as a land power with a dominating voice in European diplomacy, thus firmly setting itself on the path of Empire.
The British success was solely due to one man, John Churchill (ancestor of Winston Churchill), 1st Duke of Marlborough and Prince of Mindelheim, who not only lead the allied armies in a series of brilliant land campaigns but was also known for his skillful diplomacy. Such was his success that he was first made an Earl and then a Duke and then a Prince of the realm. Not too bad for the poor cousin of an impoverished branch of an old Irish family who had grown up on the handouts of relatives.
But fame is so fleeting, isn’t it? Famous in his day and affectionately called Corporal John by his men, the Duke of Marlborough is today a man known to historians only.
A petard, by the way, was a small bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. The term “hoisted on your own petard” came to mean “caught up in your own stratagems and deceits.”
Thank you for reading In the war of my own succession. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.
© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.