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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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1794.22
For the European Magazine.
On A Late Victory At Sea.

"T. O."
The European Magazine, XXVI (December 1794), pp. 438-439

Behold the foe with spreading sails advance,
    With speed we steer to form th' embattled line,
In contest dread to join the sons of France,
    From o'er the seas their daring pow'r confine.

And as we near those tow'rs of wondrous force,
    The flash denotes th' impatient warrior's ire;
But impotent the blast, its lengthen'd course
    Disarms the ball thus wing'd with misspent fire.

And now we're close as valour's self can come;
    The din begins, the thunder shakes the deep,
From thousand mouths now hear the fatal doom
    That summons mortals to eternal sleep.

Now o'er the main the scatter'd fragments glide
    Of masts, and yards, and sails confus'd in heaps;
Now timbers crash, and batter'd ports gape wide,
    And Horror reigns, secure his vigil keeps.

Behold, what spectre's that! with visage pale,
    With crimson'd hands, and meagre ghastly form,
Who greets fell Horror with a friendly hail,
    Grins at each woe, and ruthless points the storm.

'Tis Death—o'er fleets with giant stride he goes,
    Insatiate, marks each victim doom'd to bleed,
With scowl malignant counts contending foes,
    The destin'd prey his hungry maw to feed.

Brave Montague[1] the fatal lot is thine,
    And Death receives thee as his lawful prize;
Britannia round thy urn the bays shall twine,
    The grateful tear adorn each Briton's eyes.

Now hark! the shouts of victory resound,
    The foe gives way, the Gallic ships retreat,
Save those secur'd by hard-earn'd conquest bound,
    Attending trophies to the British fleet.

And one whose crew the muse must sure lament,
    Whilst valour's honour'd, or the brave held dear,
To ocean's bosom for their country sent,
    To yielding strangers, unallied to fear.

When Death upon their prow had plac'd his throne,
    They own his pow'r, and, pleas'd, their homage plight,
Scorn to accept the victor's proffer'd boon,
    Thunder reply, then sink to endless night.

The blood-ting'd waves inclose their sad remains;
    But not their fame, that must for ever live,
Whilst on the trident France bestows her pains,
    Or valour's due to foes just Britons give.

What yell is that which breaks on Fancy's ear!
    Hark! 'tis the shriek of parents, brothers, wives,
Bereft of all their hearts us'd hold most dear,
    Of every comfort with their kindred lives.

With fond impatience did the virgin moan
    Her hero's absence; now despair succeeds;
Her tender wishes blasted with a groan,
    Mad'ning, in death she screams, 'her lover
                                bleeds.'

The helpless orphan, ignorant of woes,
    Oft lisping, doth require his sire's return,
The gushing tear betrays the mother's throes,
    And soon for both her sorrowing heart must
                                mourn.

Ye Powers who guide the rulers of this ball,
    Who with ambition long their course have
                                rang'd,
With anarchy their country who enthral,
    Defeat their mischiefs, be their maxims
                                chang'd!

Oh send fair Peace, the greatest good possess'd!
    Of ills enough each hostile land has shar'd;
Her smiling train by free-born minds caress'd,
    Still be enjoy'd, and guilt and blood be
                                spar'd.

Ah, what avails the victor's splendid car,
    Of noisy triumph! joy for heedless throngs!
What the advantage that can spring from war,
    To balance make 'gainst mis'ry's countless
                                wrongs?

And when reflection with resistless power
    Emblazon'd crimes with forceful pencil
                                draws,
What fame or glory then can cheer the hour,
    Or plea afford to Heaven's insulted laws?


Notes

1. James Montague (1752-1794), third son of Admiral John Montague and brother of Admiral George Montague, was captain of the 74-gun Montague, one of the grand fleet under Howe during the campaign of 1793-94. He was killed in battle off Ushant on June 1, 1794.

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September 2004

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