Character Of The Happy Warrior "The Happy Warrior"
by William Wordsworth

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"The Happy Warrior"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: This poem is a tribute to Wordsworth's brother John, who was drowned by shipwreck, February 5, 1805, and to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at Trafalgar, October 21, 1805. The quotation poses a rhetorical question which is answered in the remainder of the poem. Essentially, the happy warrior is a man of Senecan valor, of stoic fortitude, of generous spirit "with a natural instinct to discern/ What knowledge can perform." He is "diligent to learn" but ever careful to make "his moral being his prime care." Honorable in command, governed by reason, skilled in self-knowledge, he "turns his necessity to glorious gain." Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944), unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President in 1928, campaigned as "the Happy Warrior." The poem begins with the double question, and ends with Wordsworth's answer.

Who is the happy warrior? Who is heThat every man in arms should wish to be?'Tis finally the man . . .Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,Nor thought of tender happiness betray;Who, not content that former worth stand fast,Looks forward, persevering to the last,. . .And, while the mortal mist is gathering, drawsHis breath in confidence of Heaven's applause.