1794.23 - "Half-Pay"

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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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1794.23
Half-Pay
"A. Rambler"
[Capt. Jos. Badworth][1]
The Gentleman's Magazine, LXIV (December 1794), p. 1129

        Written at Gibraltar, on a
        very stormy evening, with
        the melancholy prospect of
        going upon half-pay.

I.

What is't to toil amidst the din of war,
To talk of honour, or a dreadful fear,
To live on hope, the shadow'd best we have,
With ling'ring wounds that torture to the grave!
Yet even hope, delusive hope, is fled,
Half-pay must cover a once-bleeding head!
A fate too oft the worn-out soldier meets,
Such too the friendless of our British fleets;
Not like those idle baskers in the sun,
Who reap the profits that the brave had won,
Who never knew, nor ever wish'd to know,
What 'tis to struggle 'gainst a hardy foe;
But men, whose actions with the war forgot,
Slip from the Minister's Protean thought.
Alas! 'tis painful such a change to tell,
To bid our friends in arms a longing, last, farewell!

II.

Soldiers, and Brother Soldiers, doubly dear,
The time will come we meet no longer here;
No more is heard the thund'ring cannon's roar;
Calpe is silent; Echo says no more;
No more terrific to Iberia now,
Yet scournful frowns with dark unalter'd brow;
Her harden'd front at rest from fruitless rage,
Whilst Hist'ry plants her in the choicest page.
But halt!—Carnage is o'er, and we must go
To other climes; ah! where we cannot know.
Chance must direct, parent of hidden wiles,
To guess—as useless as past Fortune's smiles;
But, wheresoe'er it is, we part with pain,
For separation breaks the soldier's chain.
Alas! 'tis rueful such a change to tell,
To bid our friends in arms a longing, last, farewell!

III.

Oft has been heard, when fight imbrues the plain
(Where many a gallant Englishman is slain),
The loudest plaudits through the country rise,
And empty approbation is the prize;
Such as a nation on her ROCK bestow'd,
When no rich manna[2] from the fount o'er-flow'd;
Promotion lost, and hard the soldier's fare,
For thanks alone are nothing more than air.
And now fair Peace her genial influence sends
To stop the glut of war, when foes are friends,
The time so wish'd-for by each hostile side,
The downy time that life should be enjoy'd;
Ah! then it is the soldier droops alone,
Retires with penury, and lives unknown.
Alas! 'tis painful such a change to tell,
To bid our friends in arms a longing, last, farewell!

IV.

Should all the little stock be starv'd Half-pay,
Hope gleans no comfort from the coming day;
(Hope always was a shadow in my breast,
Nor e'er dropp'd anchor near some place of rest;)
Onward Time drags; relations now no more,
Who would have added to the scanty store;
Some (not a few) whom fortune so much chang'd,
Their wealth as useless as their hearts estrang'd;
Whilst the old soldier sickens at his fate,
In the lone dulness of forlorn retreat.
Yet, should he hear again of War's alarms,
And Britain's voice call forth her sons "to arms!"
His breast would glow with retrospective fire,
For the true brave ne'er willingly retire.—
Alas! 'tis painful such a change to tell,
To bid our friends in arms a longing, last, farewell!

V.

Ah! should old Time the embers quench, and say,
"Thou canst no more, thine ev'ry hair is gray;
"Thy veins start high above the palsied hand,
"That once with vig'rous nerve obey'd command;
"Thy head hangs drooping o'er thy furrow'd breast,
"Where once the tender passion was—a guest;
"Trem'lous thy speech; scarce canst thou find  
                                    thy way;
"And faithful tell'st thy story thrice a day;
"Thy legs, the crutches to thy tott'ring frame,
"The body's feeble partnership proclaim;
"Therefore, my vet'ran, thou must now no more;
"Thy zeal is only left, thy pow'rs are o'er;
"Let the bold youth, whose bosoms pant for fame,
"Come forth exulting in the British name;
"Such should advance, with prudence for a guide,
"Proud of their country, such their country's pride;
"Give them the wishes of thy worn-out breast,
"But let thy head in calm oblivion rest.
"Go! to thyself re-think thy actions past,
"Weigh ev'ry hour, prepare to meet the last;
"By such great means make happiness thy own:
"In youth thou serv'd'st thy King; in age serve
God alone!"


Notes

1. The author of this poem is identified in the same issue of The Gentleman's Magazine, p. 1128, as Capt. Jos. Badworth, late Lieutenant of the 72nd, or Royal Manchester Volunteers in the Bengal Artillary, and the North Hants Militia, author of The Siege of Gibralter and A Fortnight's Ramble to the Lakes.

2. [Author's note]: "At that time subalterns had only about six pounds bat and forage money.

It is notorious that no officers ever had less promotion than those of the old garrison of Gibralter, the regiments having more brevet field officers than any in the service, and promotion being refused out of the garrison."

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September 2004

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