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Good Words 1860
The Happy Warrior


There is a noble English poem, worthy to be read and studied and cherished in his heart by every English soldier, in which is drawn, with a golden pen, the character of the Happy Warrior. It is not without reason that we associate this poem with the life of Major-General Sir Henry Havelock. In the year 1813, two youths were leaning over Westminster Bridge. One of them came afterwards to be Mr Justice Talfourd, and died on the bench in 1854, in the very act of urging upon the various classes of men in this country to cultivate a genuine sympathy with each other, as the true cure for social evil and crime. The other died in Lucknow, within the circle of insurrection, through which he had cut a bloody way to save the children of his people. But on that day, forty-seven years ago, the two youths, each in the happy glow of his eighteenth year, and under the April sunshine, (and April is sweet, even in London,) were repeating Wordsworth's poetry, and Talfourd's recital of the "Sonnet on Westminster Bridge," on the spot where it was composed, "made me," says Havelock, "a Laker for life." Nor after he became a soldier was he likely to forget a poem of his favourite poet, upon which his whole life might seem to have been moulded; and when, forty years later, his brother, Colonel William Havelock, flung away his life in battle against the Sikhs, Henry, proudly writing that ''my grief is more than half absorbed in admiration, and I would scarcely give my dead brother for any living soldier in the three Presidencies," justifies it by describing how "Will Havelock" rode "happy as a lover" to his death. But it is not such casual allusions as these that make us connect the poem of Wordsworth and the life of Havelock. It is because, as the life was an exposition of the poem, so the poem is a commentary on the life; and in sketching the one we shall ever and anon listen to the stately music of the other.

Havelock bears the name of Havelok the Dane, who ruled or ravaged the eastern counties before Hengist and Horsa visited them. Whether he was also descended from him does not appear. It is much more satisfactorily established that he was the son of a Sunderland shipbuilder, who, having made his money by the sea, like those old Norse pirates, retired, not like them, to some solitary wave-washed rock, but to a comfortable park in the county of Kent, where his son Henry was born. At school, seeing a big boy thrashing a little one, he interfered, and was accordingly thrashed by the big one, and thereafter thrashed by the master for having been thrashed before. At the age of ten he left this reverberant pedagogue, and went to the Charter House, where he was thrashed incessantly, and came, like the famous eels, rather to like it. We are told, indeed, that the severity of discipline here, and the custom of fagging and being fagged, had a great influence on his afterlife; he was a terrible disciplinarian in the army, never sparing others, and, it must be added in justice, never sparing himself. Among the boys who scampered about the Charter House in Havelock's time were Fox Maule, now Lord Panmure, Eastlake, the President of the Royal Academy, and Grote and Thirlwall, the well-known historians. But a little knot of more intimate friends—Sam Hinds, and Daphne Norris, and Phlos Havelock, and Julius Charles Hare, had some stranger and deeper thoughts in their heads, and used to creep away to one of the dormitories to read sermons, and perhaps to pray, at the risk of much "crackling of thorns " if they were discovered. The friendship thus laid in honest young hearts lasted through life; and in 1850 Archdeacon Hare, one of the noblest Christian men and English writers of our day, welcomed back the bronzed little warrior from India, having ''longed continually to know what fruit the bright and noble promise of your boyhood had borne." In more than one respect, therefore, does Havelock's life at the Charter House, compared with his subsequent history, recall to us Wordsworth's

"Generous spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought."

When the victory at Futtehpore shot the first ray of light across the darkness of Indian mutiny, he sat down and wrote his wife, "One of the prayers oft repeated throughout my life since my school days has been answered, and I have lived to command in a successful action. . . . Norris would have rejoiced, and so would dear old Julius Hare, if he had survived to see the day."

Havelock had intended to be a lawyer, but owing to "an unhappy misunderstanding with his father," of which we have no details, he, like his three brothers, entered the army at the age of twenty. For some ten years thereafter, he occupied the position which Lord Burleigh characterised as "a soldier in peace—a chimney in summer;" but our young officer refused to acquiesce in this view of his profession. He studied Vauban, and Lloyd, and Templehoff, and Jomini, read every military memoir within his reach, made himself familiar with the events of every modern and ancient campaign, got up the history and exploits of all the regiments of our army, and made himself a well furnished and accomplished soldier before he saw a single skirmish. Nor was this all; our lieutenant, who is described at this date as "diminutive in stature, but well built, with a noble expanse of forehead, and an eagle eye," "With a natural instinct to discern What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn, Abides by this resolve, and stops not there, But makes his moral duty his prime care."

For now Havelock becomes a Christian. The old Charter House feelings had died away. How they were revived we have no exact knowledge. Havelock's Christianity always partook of the nature of the man—stern, outspoken, uncompromising, but very averse to dwelling upon or analysing his own feelings. We only know that on his outward-bound voyage to India in 1823, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, "the Spirit of God came to him with its offer of peace and mandate of love, which, though for some time resisted, at last prevailed." A fellow voyager, a Lieutenant Gardener, was of great use to him at this time. Havelock taught him Hindostanee, and he taught in return the elements of the doctrine of Christ, giving him to read, as we find, the "Life of Martyn," and Scott's "Force of Truth." And so he seems to have stepped upon the soil of India, the land with which his name must henceforth be associated, a confirmed and consolidated Christian character; and to have henceforth regulated his upright, downright, straightforward life, not by the gentlemanly maxims of the mess, nor by the unsteadfast emotions of an "honest English heart," but by the power and in the strength of duty, as taught from the lips of Him who has brought duty as well as immortality to light.

"Hence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or act is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He
labours good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows."

This character was, for many years, to be displayed, not in active service, but in the monotony of a subaltern's life in cantonment and office. No doubt the year after he went out to India he went through a Burmese campaign, but it was very short; "the gilded spires of the countless pagodas of Rangoon" had fallen into our hands before his arrival, and in the only skirmish in which he was personally engaged, "my pioneers (Madrassees) fairly flung down the ladders, and would not budge, though I coaxed, harangued, and thrashed them by turns, all under the best fire our feeble enemy could keep up, and within pistol-shot of the work." After a twelvemonth of liver complaint and convalescence, we find him sent as the emissary of the British power to Ava, to receive the ratification of the treaty of peace, when the courteous barbarians, placing a fillet of gold leaf on his forehead, invested him with the title of a Burmese noble. But while he was a noble in Burmah, he remained in India a lieutenant in the 13th Foot, and it was long before his keen desire for either active service or promotion, or both, was gratified. Yet in this, too, as in later life amid more important work, he maintained the characteristic consistency and strength of his nature, as one

"Who, if he rise to station of command,
Rises by open means; and there will stand
On honourable terms, or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire;
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honours, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow, on whose head must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all."

Let us hear, on this subject, how he writes to his friend Major Broadfoot, a man of kindred and prodigious energy:—

"Let me ask, my good friend, what it is you mean by prejudices against me. Tell me plainly; I am not aware of any. Old ------ and others used to tell me that it was believed at the Horse Guards and in other quarters, that I professed to fear God, as well as honour the Queen, and that Lord Hill and sundry other wise persons had made up their minds that no man could be at once a saint and a soldier. Now, I dare say such great authorities must be right, notwithstanding the example of Colonel Gardiner, and Cromwell, and Gustavus Adolphus, (all that I can think of just now;) but if so, all I can say is, that their bit of red ribbon was very ill bestowed upon me, for I humbly trust that, in that great matter, I should not change my opinions and practice, though it rained garters and coronets as the rewards of apostasy."

And again—

"You are quite right; in public affairs, as in matters eternal, the path of popularity is the broad way, and that of duty the strait gate, and few there be that enter therein. I shall have been half a century in the world if I am spared another month, and I end in opinion where I begin. Principles alone are worth living for, or striving for."

Meantime, long before promotion came, and before these letters were written, he had "lived his life " honestly and truly. He taught and instructed the religiously-disposed men of his regiment, and formed a little band of Baptist " saints," whom the rest respected. " I know nothing about Baptists," said bluff Colonel Sale, "but I know that I wish the whole regiment were Baptists, for their names are never in the defaulter's roll, and they are never in the lock-up house." "Call out Havelock's saints," said Sir Archibald Campbell, when the Burmese threatened an outpost unexpectedly at night; they "are always sober, and can be depended on, and Havelock himself is always ready."

An officer sauntering through the passages of the Great Pagoda at Rangoon, suddenly found himself in a little room with idols in the niches, each holding a lamp, by the light of which the pious soldiers of the 13th, with Havelock in the midst of them, were standing up and singing a Christian hymn to the one living God; even as, long afterwards, within the walls of beleaguered Jellalabad, surrounded by an overwhelming force of enemies, and ere yet the earthquake had hurled its fortifications into ruin, he read in the midst of the military square, '' God is our refuge and our strength: Therefore we will not be afraid, though the hills be carried into the midst of the seas; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof! "

In 1829, not being able any longer "to run against the tide in an Indian canoe," he "consented to give hostages to fortune," and married the daughter of Dr Marshman, the revered Serampore missionary. From the marriage ceremony, he hurried away to attend a court-martial, in spite of the assurances of his friends that so interesting a transaction would plead for him sufficient excuse. Twenty-six years afterwards, he writes to his wife that the first incident of that twofold day, partitioned with such rigorous impartiality, was the "source of nearly all the satisfaction and happiness which retrospect presents to me on the chequered map of my sixty years' existence. So, madam, all hail! best of mothers and not worst of wives." Nor is this the only utterance which recalls to us Wordsworth's soldier, who,

"Though endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a soul whose master-bias leans
To home-felt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, wheresoe'er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love."

Like most men of strong, firm natures, he had a great pride in his sons; in the "boy Harry," who rode straight on through a shower of grape at Cawnpore, and in "the mighty Georgy," to whom he thus writes from Bombay:—

"My dear George,—This is your birthday, and I sit here in sight of the house in which you were born, five years ago, to write you a letter. My office is gone to Poonah, and I have nothing to do but to think of you. But your brother Joshua is very busy in the next room, reading Mahratta with his pundit. However, he says that he too will scrawl a note for you as soon as his daily studies are over. I dare say Harry is remembering you too, but he, you know, is a long way off from us now, in the Punjab.

''Now, though a little boy, you ought to have wisdom enough, when you get these lines, to call to mind how very good God was to you on this day, in preserving the life of your dear mamma, who was so sick that no one thought she would recover.....They tell me that now-a-days it is the fashion for little boys like you to do no work until they are seven years old. So if you are spared, you have two more years of holiday; but then you must begin to labour in earnest, and I will tell you what you will have to learn: the first thing is to love God, and to understand His law, and obey it, and to believe in and love Jesus Christ, since He was sent into the world to do good to all people who will believe in Him. Then, as it is likely you will be brought up to be a soldier in India, you will have to be taught to ride well, and a little Latin, and a great deal of mathematics, which are not very easy; and arithmetic, and English history, and French and German, and Hindostanee, and drawing and fortification.....

"Read all the accounts of the battles of Alma, Balaklava, and Inkermann, and if by God's blessing we meet again, I will explain them to you."

But we must hurry on to notice Havelock's public career. It was that of a soldier, who

"Doom'd to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed,—miserable train!
Turn'd his necessity to glorious gain"—

not so much by the placability and tenderness of which the poet speaks, as resulting from the view of wretchedness around—for, in truth, it was on this side that his character was deficient—but by that strength of soul which rooted itself the deeper through the shocks of a stormy existence. In peace, the soldier is, or should be,

"More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more;"
in war he becomes
''More able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress."

So our brave little officer, with his high forehead, and piercing eye, and ringing voice, rode through campaign after campaign in the Northwest. He passed over the gate of the impregnable fortress of Ghuznee, just after "the massive barricade had been shivered in pieces, bringing down in hideous ruin, into the passage below, masses of masonry and fractured beams," and having gained the inside, found Colonel Sale on the ground, struggling desperately with a powerful Affghan, and calling out to Captain Kershaw — coming up at the moment—to ''do him the favour to pass his sword through the body of the infidel." In the Cabul war he went forward with this same brigade to Jellalabad, and took part in its memorable defence, a defence all the more difficult from the want of the reinforcements which he had demanded at the beginning of the year,—" eight 28-pounders, four mortars, and a chaplain." For a long time matters remained here as he described them in a letter at the time,—" Our only friends on this side the Sutlege, are our own and General Pollock's bayonets. Thus, while Cabul has been overwhelmed by the billows of a terrific insurrection, Candahar, Khelat-i-Ghilzie, Ghuznee, and Jellalabad, stand like isolated rocks in the midst of an ocean covered with foam;" and when at last the garrison saved themselves by their own gallant exertions, their success was owing not a little to Havelock's valour and wisdom. Then came the Sikh wars, with their "smashing combats." Through them all the future saviour of Lucknow rode boldly and calmly; getting one horse shot under him by a ball in the ribs, another by a ball in the mouth, and a third hurled from under him by a cannon shot. Everywhere he distinguished himself by personal intrepidity, by his professional science and skill, by his clear-headed views of the requirements of each case, and by the trustworthiness and reliableness of his nature. Now, as afterwards, when all men watched his progress by the blood stained Ganges, or, as before, when a neglected subaltern, he realised the character of

"The man, who lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a nation's eye,
Or left unthought of in obscurity—
"Who, with a toward or untoward lot,
Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not
Plays in the many games of life that one
Where what he most doth value must be won:
Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that former worth stands fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self surpast."

So he lived his life, until at last, to use the metaphor of our laureate, the " stubborn thistle"* of duty burst into the bright red rose of fame. The hour came, and the man; for the man had so lived, that no hour should find him unprepared. On his birthday, the 5th of April 1857, while he was gaining victories over the Persians, and expecting more, news was brought him that peace with Persia had been signed. "The intelligence," he writes, "which elevates some and depresses others, finds me calm in my reliance on that dear Redeemer, who has watched over me and cared for me when I knew Him not, threescore and two years;" and with such an utterance on his lips, he turned to his last, crowning labour—for the mutiny in India had already broken out. And now, beyond all former emergencies of his life, was seen that most brilliant characteristic of the Happy Warrior,—

"He who, if he be call'd upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has join'd
Great issues, good or bad, for human kind,
Is happy as a lover, and attired
With sudden brightness, like a man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw:
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need."

In this spirit he fought up to Cawnpore, and from its blood-stained well to Lucknow. "In battle, the General," says Major North, "seemed to be gifted with ubiquity, and the clear tone of his voice raised to the highest pitch the courage of his men, as he hurried toward the Highlanders, and said, ' Come, who '11 take that village, the Highlanders or the 64th?'" And so his soldiers loved him, as men will love those who know how to lead them, however stern they be—and not even on this march would he relax his discipline, threatening, as we find, to hang up in their uniform all plunderers in the corps. Yet, after fighting two battles on the 28th of July,—

"As he returned to the causeway, the weary soldiers who were grouped on it, leaning on their arms, suddenly caught a glimpse of him, and in an instant there was an enthusiastic shout through their ranks, 'Clear the way for the General!' A bright smile stole over the stern features of the old chief, as he exclaimed, 'You have done that well already, men.' This unexpected compliment electrified the troops, and as his form gradually disappeared, 'God bless the General!' burst from a hundred lips."

So, too, at that last, deadliest fight, when Havelock and Outram, twins in fame, struggled at the head of their men into that world-famous Presidency—the loopholed houses on either side pouring forth a stream of fire as they advanced, every roof sending down a shower of missiles, with deep trenches cut across the road to detain them under the fire of the adjacent buildings, and from every angle of every street a volley of shot scattering death—when at last they arrived, it was no wonder that the garrison and the Highlanders, the deliverers and the delivered—nay, the children and the women, united in one rapture of acclamation and of welcome to the soldier who in deepest need had proved himself worthy of the name.

One more battle—one more enemy to fight and overcome—and then Havelock shall have, as another brave man strengthened himself by reflecting, "all eternity to rest in." The true warrior, says Wordsworth, finally, concluding his noble delineation, is he

"Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead, unprofitable name—
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause."

Thus died Havelock—thus, and even better. For while he found, as he had ever done, a deep comfort in himself, in his cause, and in the witness of Heaven authenticating the verdict of his conscience; while he said, most truly and characteristically, to his brave comrade Outram, ''I have for forty years so ruled my life, that when death came I might face it without fear;" he also called his son, the inheritor of his honours, to see how a Christian could die, and affirmed in these last hours the trust, not in himself, in which he had entered upon the campaign. Weeks before he had written to his wife, — "I must now write as one whom you may never see more, for the chances of war are heavy at this crisis. Thank God for my hope in the Saviour. We shall meet in heaven."

"This is the Happy Warrior; this is he
That every man in arms should wish to be."


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