The Campaign "Taught The Doubtful Battle Where To Rage"

Carlos Fuentes

"Taught The Doubtful Battle Where To Rage"

Context: The occasion of this poem was the great victory won for the British and their allies at the Battle of Blenheim. In 1699 Addison was awarded a traveling fellowship from Oxford, during which he was expected to be a partisan writer for the Whigs, the party then in power. But he lost his fellowship when the Tories obtained control of the government. Ironically, however, the Tories, desperately in need of a poet to celebrate Marlborough's victory, chose Addison as the man to be their laureate. The poem, which has been called "a gazette in rhyme," established Addison's fame as a poet in his own time, although he had previously published other poetry. The tenor of this poem is praise for England generally, and John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, specifically, whose campaign on the Continent is compared by Addison to the Trojan War. The quotation is from a passage describing Marlborough during the famous battle:

'Twas then great Malbro's mighty soul was prov'd,
That, in the shock of charging hosts unmov'd,
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war;
In peaceful thought the field of death survey'd,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the battle where to rage.
So when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleas'd the Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm.