1794.5 - "Effects of War"

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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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1794.5
Effects of War
"Philanthropos"
The Cambridge Intelligencer (February 22, 1794)

Hic matres uniferaeque nurus, hic chara Sororum.
Pectora maerentum, puerique parentibus orbi
Dirum execrantur bellum!

VIRGIL[1]

Come proud unfeeling pomp—Come luxury,
And ye, who thoughtless frolic in the round
Of mirth and joy, or revel out the night
Where dissipation mads her festive sons!
A scene I will disclose—a piteous scene—
At sight of which proud pomp shall shrink aghast,
The tear shall start from the chang'd eye of mirth,
And from the unnerv'd bacchanalian hand,
The cup shall fall untasted to the ground.
Behold yon wretched hovel! once the seat
Of industry and health, content and love.
There the poor labourer, from his daily toil
Releas'd at eve, enjoy'd his little home.
With every sweet endearment his fond wife
Welcom'd his glad return; rejoic'd to share
A father's smile, the little prattlers strove
To climb his knee, and play'd their gambols rough.
Thoughtless of future ills each parent smil'd,
Gaz'd on the pledges of their mutual love
With heartfelt joy, and thought them wealth enough;
Blest was the cot with innocence and peace.
Alas! how chang'd! each smiling joy is fled,
Fled to return no more,—while sickness, want,
Famine, and all the complicated woes,
That haunt the desolating steps of war,
With dismal gloom o'erspread the sadden'd scene.
See on yon wretched bed! which ill excludes
Rude winter's piercing blast, with sickness wan.
A wife, a mother lies; oft had she spar'd
The hard earn'd morsel from her famish'd lips,
To save her children from untimely death;
Long had she struggled with the cruel force
Of sickness, preying on her tender frame,
Too carefully conceal'd lest she should add
Another pang t'encrease her partner's woes;
She sinks at last, and feels the icy grasp
Of desolation waste her feeble frame:
Resign'd she welcomes death, nor heaves a sigh,
Save for her husband's and her children's fate.
In vain to shield her sinking in his arms,
And ward the dart a wretched husband strives;
She clasps his hand, and looks a last adieu!
In speechless agony he stands, while death
Remorseless mocks his prayer, and strikes the blow.
See o'er the clay-cold corpse he hands,—despair
Rolls in his eye, and anguish fills his soul!
Have we no HOWARD[2] left,—Heaven's messenger
To poverty distrest, to pour the balm
Of comfort on affliction's wounded heart?
But here the stores of charity would fail,
Lo commerce sickens, and the toiling hand
Of industry droops lifeless, unemploy'd;
Dire is the curse, and wide the ruin spreads,
War sounds an echoing blast, and havoc stalks around!
Britannia weeping mourns her hapless sons,
But frowns indignant at a nation's wrongs.
Despots delight in war, to them 'tis sport,
A Royal Game—their subjects lives the stake.
But why will brother against brother lift
The murderous steel, to gratify the pride
Of one ambitious man, yclep'd a King.
If we must fight, let freemen fight with slaves;
Hurl'd from their thrones let despots feel the force
Of Britain's vengeful thunder, nor insult
The RIGHTS of NATIONS, and the RIGHTS of MAN.
Tremble, ye tyrants, for your doom is seal'd!
Tremble, ye slaves, for ye shall bite the dust!
Triumphant freedom, in her blood-stain'd vest,
Despots combin'd, drags at her chariot-wheels,
And nobly manumits a world enslav'd!

Coll. Feb. 12, 1794.


Notes

1. "Here mothers and their sons' unhappy brides, here the loving hearts of sorrowing sisters, and boys bereft of sires, call curses on the fell war." Aeneid, II, 215-217.

2. John Howard (1726?-1790) was a noted philanthropist who concerned himself with conditions in prisons, lazarettos, hospitals, and schools.

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Published @ RC

September 2004