1799.4 - "On the Consecration of the Colours of The Military Association of --------"

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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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1799.4
On the Consecration of the Colours of
The Military Association of
———
"X. Y."
The Monthly Magazine, XII (January 1799), pp. 41-42

                    Priest.

While Sabbath bells to worship chime,
And voices chaunt the measur'd rhyme,
What means the drums tumultuous beat,
And answering tread of marshall'd feet?
Why flash against our tapering spires?
The burnish'd steels' reflected spires?
With silken banners proud and gay
Where bend the ranks their impious way?
And why, so near the house of pray'r,
Are clashing cymbals toss'd in air?
Away—'Tis dire Ambition's brood!
Close, close the gates to men of blood.
    Not this the same, nor our's the rite
In which the sons of war delight;
Of hecatombs no slaughter'd store
The marble altars float with gore;
No priest with bloody fingers dy'd
Deep in the gasping victim's side,
In life's recesses curious pries
To search the secrets of the skies;
Our lips no holy curses breathe,
Our hands no guilty laurels wreathe,
And much ye must your banners low'r
To enter thro' our arched door.
    Here stands the font, in whose pure wave
From sinful taint our babes we lave:
There heaves the turf, beneath whose sod
Our sainted fathers rest in God.
Here peaceful broods the mystic dove,
And brethren share the feast of love;
The walls in letter'd tablets teach,
And monumental marbles preach:
Low sighs from contrite breasts exhale,
Incessant pleadings heav'n assail;
Clear voice to voice responsive calls,
The dew of grace like manna falls,
And when we close these hallow'd gates,
Aloof each worldly passion waits.
Then what have we with war to do?
Sons of earth, 'tis made for you!

                    Soldier.

    O think not us, who here intrude,
The nurselings of Ambition's brood.
Of martial garb, but peaceful hearts,
The sons of industry and arts,
No sordid hire pollutes our hands,
No thirst of plunder fires our bands;
The civic sword each Briton wields,
Defends his hearths, his altars, fields.
If foes presumptuous dare invade,
To us our country cries for aid;
To us their hands our children spread,
We guard from wrong the nuptial bed;
From us, the joys of home who feel,
Like lightning falls the vengeful steel.
    Dejected, if a people mourn,
Their trampled rights, their charters torn,
And secret swell with high disdain
Beneath Oppression's galling chain;
The murmur strikes our jealous ears,
We feel their groans, we catch their fears;
To us afflicted Freedom calls,
By us the crested tyrant falls.
'Tis ours the sword alone to draw
For order, liberty, and law,
And well the hands that plow the soil
Shall guard the produce of their toil.
     Then let us, while such vows we seal,
Here on your hallow'd threshold kneel;
And reverent thus our banners low'r,
To enter thro' your arched door. [1]


Notes

1. The poem is prefaced by the following letter:

To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine.

SIR, The following lines were written on contemplating that heterogeneous mixture of war and religion which has been for some time so fashionable. War and religion incorporate like oil and vinegar; they may be beat up together, but they do not unite kindly. There is however one description of the military, whose professional duty includes nothing in it inimical to the purest spirit of christianity. When a Citizen is armed for the defence of his country, he has more need, as Uncle Toby observes, to pray to God than any man alive; and he may consecrate his colours with a safe conscience. ——Some friends, to whom I have read the following lines, are pleased to object that the parties are not altogether such as I have represented them; that our priests do now and then breathe holy curses, and that our military associations have not quite that ardent love for liberty which they are here supposed to have. To this I can only say, that if they will not accept it as a representation of what is, they must take it as a hint of what ought to be.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

X. Y.

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Published @ RC

September 2004