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The Call

A Poem, said to be written by
Major Mordaunt during the last
German War. Never before published.

Go, lovely boy![1] to yonder tow'r
The fame of Janus, ruthless King!
And shut, O! shut the brazen door,
And here the keys in triumph bring.

Full many a tender heart hath bled,
Its joys in Belgia's soil entomb'd:
Which thou to Hymen's smiling bed,
And length of sweetest hours had doom'd.

Oh, glory! you to ruin owe
The fairest plume the hero wears:
Raise the bright helmet from his brow;
You'll mock beneath the manly tears.

Who does not burn to place the crown
Of conquest on his Albion's head?
Who weeps not at her plaintive moan,
To giver her hapless orphans bread?

Forgive, ye brave, the generous fault,
If thus my virtue falls; alone
My Delia stole my earliest thought,
And fram'd its feelings by her own.

Her mind so pure, her face so fair;
Her breast the seat of softest love;
It seemed her words an angel's were,
Her gentle percepts from above.

My mind thus form'd, to misery gave
The tender tribute of a tear:
O! Belgia, open thy vast grave,
For I could pour an ocean there.

When first you show'd me at your feet
Pale liberty, religion tied,
I flew to shut the glorious gate
Of freedom on a tyrant's pride.

Tho great the cause, so wore with woes,
I can not but lament the deed:
My youth to melancholy bows,
An Clotho trifles with my thread.

But stop, my Clio, wanton muse,
Indulge not this unmanly strain:
Beat, beat the drums, my ardor rouse,
And call the soldier back again.

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife,
Throughout the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

Go then, thou little lovely boy,
I can not, must not, hear thee now;
And all thy soothing arts employ
To sooth my Delia of her wo.

If the gay flow'r, in all its youth,
Thy scythe of glory here must meet;
Go, bear my laurel, pledge of truth,
And lay it at my Delia's feet.

Her tears shall keep it ever green,
To crown the image in her breast;
Till death doth close the hapless scene,
And calls its angel home to rest.[2]

  1. Cupid
  2. As originally printed, according to the
    Literary Digest, Sept. 11, 1920.

by George J. Dance

The Call is a much-anthologized quatrain, from a longer poem written by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt, that for many years had been incorrectly attributed to Mordaunt's contemporary, Sir Walter Scott [1].

Thomas Osbert Mordaunt[]

Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (30th January 1730 (old calendar?) - 13 February 1809) was born in Gerard St. London, the 2nd son of Charles Mordaunt and his 2nd wife, Anne (Scroup). As a teenager Thomas Mordaunt was page of honor to 9-year-old Princess Augusta. He became an officer of the British Army, serving in the Seven Years' War under the rank of major (at which time he reportedly wrote "The Call"), and eventually attaining the rank of major general. He also became a fellow of the Royal Society. He was buried in All Saints, Fulham, on 18th February, 1809.[2]

History of the poem[]

Epigraph from Scott's novel Old Mortality.

The quatrain of "The Call" is the 11th stanza of a 14-stanza poem published in the October 12, 1791 edition of The Bee (a weekly literary magazine published in Edinburgh, Scotland) under the title, “A Poem, said to be written by Major Mordaunt during the last German War. Never before published.” Scott used the 11th stanza as an epigraph to Chapter 34 of his novel, Old Mortality, attributed to "Anonymous". Although a copy of that issue of The Bee was found in Scott's library after his death, it was only in the summer of 1920 that James Rankin of Galashiels discovered the connection, which was written about in the September 11, 1920 Literary Digest.[3]


The single quatrain of "The Call", properly credited to Mordaunt, was included in the 1939 edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.

See also[]


  1. Bernard Darwin, in his introduction to the first edition of the Oxford Book of English Quotations.]
  2. The Earls of Peterborough and Family, 1598 - 1814, Mordaunt Family History and Genealogy Resource,, Web, June 16, 2012.
  3. "One Crowded Hour Survives an Age Without a Name", Getting There, Oct. 20, 2009, HubPages Inc., Web, June 16, 2012.

External links[]


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