1797.5 - "Reason Uttering a Soliloquy Over A Field of Battle"

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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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Reason Uttering a Soliloquy Over
A Field of Battle

"J. S. Cobbold"
[John Spencer Cobbold][1]
The Gentleman's Magazine, LXVII (June 1797), pp. 511-512


When, Night's sable train departing,
    Phoebus usher'd in the day,
And his eye resplendent darting
    Did the rolling earth survey;


What a horrid scene of battle
    Mark'd the path of tort'ring pain!
Slaughter'd men and mangled cattle
   Strew'd the blood-empurpled plain.


In the midst stood Reason:—tresses,
    Loosely o'er her shoulders thrown,
Spoke a mind that grief oppresses,
    And her eyes with pity shone.


Long she stood, o'erwhelm'd in sorrow,
    Wept the havoc folly made,
Look'd a look of silent horror,
    Gently shook her head, and said,


"Frantic sons, didn't I implore ye
    "To restrain your mad career?
"Anxious long I hover'd o'er ye:—
    "Why in prudence wouldn't you hear?


"How, poor wretch, that liest extended
    "In the kindred blood thou'st spilt,
"How's thy little fortune mended?
    "Hast thou gained aught but guilt?


"What on earth could e'er induce thee
    "Thus to lift the murd'rous steel?
"What in heav'n can e'er excuse thee
    "Thus the deadly blow to deal?



"Did thy foeman e'er infest thee?
    "Strive thy fair repute to spoil?
"Maim thy cattle, or molest thee
    "By encroaching on thy soil?


"What tho' ocean one from other
    "Sever'd by interfluent tide;
"Was he less a Christian brother?
    "Was he less as man allied?


"When in his breast the bay'net enter'd,
    "Bled less pure his mangled vein?
"When his soul the iron enter'd,
    "Felt he one pang less of pain?


"Had the sea not interposed,
    "Hearts and hands might have combin'd
"Hands, that late in conflict closed,
    "Might in friendship's cause have join'd.


"Was it Fame thy courage whetted
"To the field where honour bled?—
"Few there are that get gazetted;
"Thou'rt forgotten soon as dead.


"Was it Honour's self allur'd thee?
"To thy bosom I appeal,
"Safe from death she had insur'd thee,
"What of honour could'st thou feel?


"Did Religion ask protection?
    "Of thine arms with her's above
"She disdains the curst connection;
    "Her's the arms of peace and love.



"But, if thy Country's wrongs inspir'd thee
    "To defend her righteous cause;
"Duty in the field requir'd thee,
    "Wield the sword that Justice draws.


"Ah! could War her horrors soften,
    "Pleading always self-defence!
"But, alas! 'tis murder often,
    "In disguise of fair pretence.


"Oft Oppression's chains she forges,
    "For her hapless, helpless, foes;
"All the crime, perhaps, she urges,
    "They're unable to oppose.


"Often Conquest's form assuming,
    "On she strides o'er earth's domain;
"Death precedes her, all-consuming,
    "Rapine follows in her train.


"Oft a Monarch's curst ambition
    "To eclipse a Rival's fame;
"Oft a crafty politician
    "Kindles her destructive flame.


"Cruel statesmen! crown'd with plenty,
    "While ye loll at home in ease,
"While ye feast on ev'ry dainty,
    "Little reck ye scenes like these.


"When in council ye assemble,
    "Ere the din of battle bray,
"Pause, for Heav'ns sake! pause, and tremble,
    "Ere you give the assenting aye.



"Souls and bodies hang dependent
    "On your fluctuating breath;
"Think what thousands, unrepentant,
    "You consign to timeless death.


"Speed, kind Heav'n, my pure intentions,
    "Sov'reign o'er the world to reign;
"War shall lose her proud pretensions,
    "And her trumpet clang in vain.


"Science shall unfurl her banners;
    "From the sword the plough-share rise;
"Arts, and peace, and gentle manners,
    "Reason's sons shall learn to prize."


Thus she said—and, half-averted,
    Fix'd intent her ling'ring eyes;
Then the plains of death deserted,
    And regain'd her native skies.


1. John Spencer Cobbold (1768-1837), divine and author of ecclesiastical essays.

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Published @ RC

September 2004