Feigned Courage

A Little Nimrod. James Tissot. 1882.


Feigned Courage

Charles and Mary Lamb


Horatio, of ideal courage vain,

Was flourishing in air his father’s cane,

And, as the fumes of valour swelled his pate,

Now thought himself this hero, and now that:

“And now,” he cried, “I will Achilles be;

My sword I brandish; see, the Trojans flee!

Now I’ll be Hector, when his angry blade

A lane through the heaps of slaughter’d Grecians made!

And now, by deeds, still braver, I’ll evince,

I am no less than Edward the Black Prince.—

Give way ye coward French!” As thus he spoke,

And aim’d in fancy a sufficient stroke

To fix the fate of Cressy or Poictiers,

(The Muse relates the hero’s fate with tears)

He struck his milk-white hand against a nail,

Sees his own blood, and feels his courage fail.

Ah! where is now that boasted valour flown.

That in the tented field so late was shown!

Achilles weeps, great Hector hangs his head,

And the Black Prince goes whimpering to bed.


A Little Poetry—The heroic adventures of Achilles and Hector can be learned in Homer’s Iliad. The “Muse” mentioned is William Shakespeare; the Black Prince features prominently in the play Edward III, which is partly attributable to the Bard.

A Fine Picture—Nimrod was identified in the Bible as a “mighty hunter before the Lord” in Genesis 10.