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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1793.6
A Fragment, Supposed to be Written near the Temple,
On the Night Before the Murder of Louis the Sixteenth

"Mrs. Robinson"
[Mary Robinson][1]
The European Magazine, XXIII (April 1793), pp. 313-314
The Scots Magazine, IV (April 1793), p. 192

Now Midnight spreads her sable vest
With starry rays light tissued o'er;
Now from the Desart's thistled breast
The chilling dews begin to soar;
The owl shrieks from the tott'ring tow'r,
Dread watch bird of the witching hour!

        Spectres from their charnel cells
        Cleave the air with hideous yells!
        Not a glow-worm ventures forth,
        To gild his little speck of earth!
    In wild despair Creation seems to wait,
While Horror stalks abroad to deal the shafts of Fate!

        To yonder damp and dreary cave,
        From black Oblivion's silent wave,
        Borne on Desolation's wings,
        Death his poison'd chalice brings!
        Wide beneath the turbid sky
        Red Rebellion's banners fly,
        Sweeping to her iron den
        The agonizing hearts of men:
        There in many a ghastly throng,
        Blood-stain'd myriads glide along,
    While each above his crest a falchion rears,
Imbu'd with tepid gore, or drench'd in scalding tears!

        Beneath yon tow'r (whose grated cell
        Entombs the fairest childof earth,
        August in misery as in birth),
        The troops of Pandemonium dwell!
        Night and day the fiends conspire
        To glut their desolating ire!
        Ire! that feeds on human woe;
        That smiling deals the murd'rous blow!
        And as the helpless victim dies,
        Fills with shouts the threat'ning skies;
    Nor trembles, lest the vengeful light'ning's glare
Should blast their recreant arms, and scatter them to air!

        Round the deep entrenchments stand
        Bold Ambition's giant band;
        Beneath, insidious Malice creeps.
        And keen Revenge—that never sleeps!
        While dark Suspicion hovers near,
        Stung by the dastard scorpion—Fear!
        Reason, shrinking from her gaze,
        Flies the scene in wild amaze!
        While trembling Pity dies to see
        The barb'rous sons of Anarchy
    Drench their unnatural hands in regal blood,
While patriot Virtue sinks beneath the whelming flood.

        Hark! the petrifying shriek
        Issues from yon turret bleak!
        The lofty tower returns the sound,
        Echoing through its base profound!
        The rising Moon with paly light
        Faintly greets the aching sight
        With many a gliding centinel,
        Whose shadow would his sense appall!
        Whose soul convuls'd with conscious woe,
        Pants for the morning's purple glow—
    The purple glow that cheers his breast,
And gives his startled mind a short-liv'd hour of rest.

        But when shall morn's effulgent light
        The hopeless sufferer's glance invite?
        When shall the breath of rosy day
        Around the infant victims play?
        When will the vivifying orb
        The tears of widow'd love absorb?
        See! see! the palpitating breast,
        By all the weeping Graces drest,
        Now dumb with grief—now raving wild,
        Bending o'er each with'ring child,
    The only treasures spared by savage ire,
The fading shadows of their murdered sire.

        Oh! Fancy, spread thy pow'rful wing,
        From Hell's polluted confines spring—
        Quit, quit the cell where Madness lies!
        With wounded breast and starting eyes!
        Ruthless fiends have done their worst,
        They triumph in the deed accurs'd!
        See her veil Oblivion throws,
        O'er the last of human woes;
        The royal stole, with many a crimson stain,
        Closes from every eye the scene of pain,
    While from afar the war song[2] dins the ear,
And drowns the dying groan[3]which Angels weep to hear!


Notes

1. Although the author of this poem is identified as "Mrs. Robinson," Robinson (1758-1800) also contributed to The Morning Post under the signature "Tabitha" and to The Morning Chronicle under the signature of "Oberon", "M. R." and "Tabitha."

2. [Author's note]: "Ca Ira."

3. [Author's note]: "The last insult offered to the expiring Monarch."

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September 2004

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