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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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1797.8
Lines
Written by Anna Seward,
After Reading Southey's "Joan of Arc."
[1]
Anna Seward
The European Magazine, XXXII (August 1797), pp. 118-119

Base is the purpose of this Epic Song,
Baneful its powers: but, oh, the Poesy
("What can it less when Sun-born GENIUS sings?")[2]
Wraps in reluctant ecstasy the soul
Where Poesy is felt! e'en tho' it paint,
In all the lurid traits of NERO's heart,
The high heroic spirit of that Monarch
Who grac'd the Crown he wore, BRITANNIA's Boast—
"HARRY OF MONMOUTH!"—He who ne'er expos'd
His ardent legions on the deathful plain
Where flam'd not his broad shield, and his
                    white plumes
Play'd in the battle's van. What claim'd
                       he then
From France, at the sword's point, but ceded
                        rights?
Howe'er perfidiously withheld, tho' pledg'd
For aye to England, after the proud day
Of Cressy'd thund'ring[3] field. Then GALLIA'S
                         Star
Sunk—and the Planet of the "argent Shores"
Rose glitt'ring on the Zenith's azure height,
What time, upon the broken spears of France,
And prostrate helms, immortal GLORY stood—
And, with the Lilies of that vaunting clime,
Like a gay Bride, entwin'd the victor brows
Of our great Edward.[4] Oh, unnat'ral Boy;
Oh, beardless Paricide!—thy treach'rous
                        Muse
In Comet splendour, in MEDUSA'S beauty
Balefully deck'd, an impious task essays,
Lab'ring to turn to deadliest Aconite
The Laurel wreaths of Azincour; to brand
The hallow'd lustre of thy ENGLAND'S name
With slavish Meanness, with rapacious Avarice,
And the Wolf's rage. ENGLAND, whose martial
                        fire
Applauding ages have pronounc'd, adorn'd
With fair Munificence, and temper'd still
By dove ey'd Mercy's sway. O, dark of heart
As luminous of fancy, quit, for shame
Quit, th' insidious pretence to Virtue—
To Gospel Faith, and Piety! Dry thy tears
For age-past woes (they are the Crocodile's);
And o'er the murder of the ROYAL VICTIMS,
And o'er the Christian Faith's apostacy,
With blood of Innocents, and Martyr-flames
Witness'd in France, cry—"VIVE LA LIBERTE!"
Dip thy young hands in her ensanguin'd chalice,
Brimm'd with the gore of Age, Infants, and
                     Beauty,
And, throwing her RED CAP aloft in air,
Laugh with the fierce Hyena!


Notes

1. Compare this to Seward's jubilant sonnet of 1789 celebrating the fall of the Bastille, To France on Her Present Exertions.

2. [Author's note]: "The Song was partial; but the harmony
                              "(What could it less when Spirits immortal sung?)
                              "Suspended Hell."—MILTON'S PAR. LOST.

3. [Author's note]: "Cannon were first used by the English at the Battle of Cressy.—See RAPIN."

4. Edward III defeated the French at Crécy on August 26, 1346. this battle marked the joint participation of the yeomanry and the aristocracy in war, and gave the English a unique military power and new social orientation.

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