Coruna And The Grave Of Sir John Moore
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The next day we departed for Coruna, leading our horses by the bridle; the day was magnificent, and our walk delightful. We passed along beneath tall umbrageous trees, which skirted the road from Betanzos to within a short distance of Coruna. Nothing could be more smiling and cheerful than the appearance of the country around. Vines were growing in abundance in the vicinity of the villages through which we passed, while millions of maize plants upreared their tall stalks and displayed their broad green leaves in the fields. After walking about three hours, we obtained a view of the bay of Coruna, in which, even at the distance of a league, we could distinguish three or four immense ships riding at anchor.
Coruna stands on a peninsula, having on one side the sea, and on the other the celebrated bay, generally called the Groyne. It is divided into the old and new town, the latter of which was at one time probably a mere suburb. The old town is a desolate ruinous place, separated .from the new by a wide moat. The modern town is a much more agreeable spot, and contains one magnificent street, the Calle Real, where the principal merchants reside. One singular feature of this street is, that it is laid entirely with flags of marble, along which troop ponies and cars as if it were a common pavement.
It is a saying among the inhabitants of Coruna, that in their town there is a street so clean, that puchera may be eaten off it without the slightest inconvenience. This may certainly be the fact after one of those rains which so frequently drench Galicia, when the appearance of the pavement of the street is particularly brilliant. Coruna was at one time a place of considerable commerce, the greater part of which has lately departed to Santander, a town which stands a considerable distance down the Bay of Biscay.
There is a small battery of the old town which fronts the east, and whose wall is washed by the waters of the bay. It is a sweet spot, and the prospect which opens from it is extensive. The battery itself may be about eighty yards square; some young trees are springing up about it, and it is rather a favorite resort of the people of Coruna. In the center of this battery stands the tomb of Moore, built by the chivalrous French, in commemoration of the fall of their heroic antagonist. It is oblong and surmounted by a slab, and on either side bears one of the simple and sublime epitaphs for which our rivals are celebrated, and which stand in such powerful contrast with the bloated and bombastic inscriptions which deform the walls of Westminster Abbey:
"JOHN MOORE, LEADER OF THE ENGLISH ARMIES, SLAIN IN BATTLE, 1809."
The tomb itself is of marble, and around it is a quadrangular wall, breast high, of rough Gallegan granite; close to each corner rises from the earth the breech of an immense brass cannon, in-tended to keep the wall compact and close. These outer erections are, however, not the work of the French, but of the English government.
Yes, there lies the hero, almost within sight of the glorious hill where he turned upon his pursuers like a lion at bay and terminated his career. Many acquire immortality without seeking it, and die before its first ray has gilded their name; of these was Moore. The harrassed general, fly ing through Castile with his dispirited troops before a fierce and terrible enemy, little dreamed that he was on the point of attaining that for which many a better, greater, tho certainly not braver man, had sighed in vain. His very misfortunes were the means which secured him immortal fame; his disastrous route, bloody death, and finally, his tomb on a foreign strand, far from kin and friends. There is scarcely a Spaniard but has heard of this tomb, and speaks of it with a strange kind of awe. Immense treasures are said to have been buried with the general, tho for what purpose no one pretends to guess. The demons of the clouds, if we may trust the Gallegans, followed the English in their flight, and assailed them with water-spouts as they toiled up the steep winding paths of Fuencebadon; while legends the most wild are related of the manner in which the stout soldier fell. Yes, even in Spain, immortality has already crowned the head of Moore—Spain, the land of oblivion, where the tluadalete flows.