This introduction to “Marco Bozzaris” is reprinted from Historic Poems and Ballads. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.
AT the beginning of the nineteenth century Greece, which had once been one of the greatest countries in the world, was subject to the rule of her powerful neighbor, Turkey. But in 1821 the fire of patriotism was rekindled, and the Greeks began a war of independence. One of the most heroic of the Greek leaders was Marco Bozzaris. He was in command of a small band of his countrymen, and planned to surprise a much larger Turkish force after nightfall. In this poem, written by Fitz-Greene Halleck, an American author, the story of the attack is told.
The Turkish commander and his men were sleeping in their camps, dreaming of victory over the Greeks, while at the same hour of midnight Marco Bozzaris was making ready his band of Suliotes, or men whose homes were near the Suli mountains and river in the northwestern part of Greece. The Turkish camp was not far distant from Missilonghi, which is near the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth, near the head of which gulf the earlier Greeks, in 479 B.C., had defeated a great invading army of Persians at the battle of Platæa.
Bozzaris attacked the Turks, and small though his band was, they took the enemy so completely by surprise that they won a very decisive victory. But the gallant leader himself was killed. The poem tells how he won glory, and how death is welcomed by the victorious warrior, as he was the cry of land to Columbus of Genoa when his lookout caught the fragrance of the palms and groves of Haiti, mistaking them for India. Pilgrims from foreign lands shall seek the home of Bozzaris to hear again the story of his victory and of his country’s independence.
His cause was successful, and six years after this battle near Missilonghi, Turkey was forced to grant Greece her freedom, and that country, which had been in subjection for almost four centuries, became an independent nation. It was in this war that the poet Byron and other Englishmen who loved the history of ancient Greece and the cause of liberty fought by the side of Marco Bozzaris.