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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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1796.12
On the Death of Lieutenant-Colonel Buller,
Killed in Flanders in 1795

“Mr. Sheridan”
[Richard Brinsley Sheridan][1]
The European Magazine, XXIX (1796), pp. 398-399

Written by Mr. Sheridan,
At the Request of His Present Lady.

Scarce hush'd the sigh, scarce dried the ling'ring
                            tear,
Affection pour'd upon a Brother's bier;[2]
Another loss bid LAURA's sorrows flow,
As keen in anguish as a sister's woe.
    Unknown to me the object of her grief—
I dare not counsel, did she ask relief;
Yet may the wish no vain intrusion prove,
To share her grief, for all who shar'd her love.

    Yet, GALLANT VICTIM! in this HATEFUL
                           STRIFE,
Which PRIDE maintains 'gainst MAN'S and
                     FREEDOM's LIFE,
If quick and sensible to LAURA'S worth,
Thy heart's first comment was affection's
                            birth;
If thy soul's day rose only in her sight,
And absence was thy clouded spirit's night,
If 'mid whatever busy tumults thrown
Thy silent thoughts still turn'd to her alone;
If, while ambition seem'd each art to move,
Thy secret hope was LAURA, Peace, and Love;
If such thy feelings, and thy dying prayer,
To wish that happiness thou could'st not share;
Let me with kindred claim thy name revere,
And GIVE THY MEMORY A BROTHER'S TEAR!

    But, ah! not tears alone fill LAURA's eyes,
RESENTMENT KINDLES WITH AFFLICTION'S SIGHS:
Insulted Patience borrows Passion's breath,
To CURSE THE PLOTTERS OF THESE SCENES OF DEATH!
Yet sooth'd to Peace, sweet mourner, tranquil be,
And every harsh emotion leave to me!
Remember, sad and soft regret be thine,
The WRATH OF HATE, the BLOW OF VENGEANCE MINE.

    And oh, by Heav'n! THAT HOUR SHALL SURELY COME,
When, fell destroyers! ye shall meet your doom!
Yes, MISCREANT STATESMEN! by the proud disdain
Which honour feels at base CORRUPTION's REIGN,
By the loud clamours of a NATION's WOES,
By the still pang DOMESTIC SORROW KNOWS,
By ALL THAT HOPE HAS LOST OR TERROR FEARS,
By ENGLAND's INJURIES, and LAURA's TEARS:
The hour shall come, when, Fraud's short
                        triumphs past,
A PEOPLE's VENGEANCE shall strike home at last!!!

    Then, then shall fell Remorse, the dastard
                            fiend,
Who ne'er pollutes the noble Soldier's end,
And dark Despair around the SCAFFOLD wait,
And NOT ONE LOOK DEPLORE the TRAITOR'S FATE!
But while Remembrance shakes his coward frame,
And starts of Pride contend with inward shame;
The mute reproach, or execration loud,
Of SOBER JUSTICE, or the SCOFFING CROWD,
Alike shall hail the BLOW that seals his doom,
And GIVES TO INFAMY HIS MEM'RY AND HIS TOMB.

    Turn from the hateful scene, dear LAURA,
                            turn,
And thy lov'd Friend with milder sorrow mourn!
Still dwell upon his fate; for still thou'lt find
The contrast lovely, and 'twill soothe thy mind—!
Fall'n with the brave, e'er number'd with the slain—
His mind UNWOUNDED CALMS HIS BODY'S PAIN!
Half rais'd he leans. See FRIENDSHIP bending o'er,
Her sigh suppress'd, as to his view she bore
Thy much-lov'd image: whose all-soothing smile
Could Pain disarm, and Death's last pang
                            beguile—!

    Hopeless, but not dismay'd, with fearless eye
He reads the doom that tells him "HE MUST
                            "DIE—"
Lays his BRAVE HAND UPON HIS BLEEDING BREAST,
And FEELS HIS GLORY WHILE HE FINDS HIS REST!
Resigns the transient breath which Nature gave,
And SURE OF PROUDER LIFE O'ERLOOKS THE
                            GRAVE.—
Sweet is THE MEED that waits his laurel'd
                            BIER,
'Tis Valour's HOPE, 'tis Honour's PRAISE
                            SINCERE,
'Tis FRIENDSHIP's SIGH, and gentle BEAUTY's
                            TEAR!!


Notes

1. Richard Brinsley Sheridan was a member of the Whig Party and actively opposed the war. See next poem, Lines Occasioned by Mr. Sheridan's Poem on the Death of Col. Buller, for a rebuttal of Sheridan's political views.

2. [Author's note]: "MRS. SHERIDAN had just lost a brother."

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September 2004