1802.6 - "Ode, to France"

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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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1802.6
Ode, to France
Edward Rushton [1]
The Morning Chronicle (August 24, 1802)

    Canst you, who burst with proud disdain
    Each high-wrought link in Slavery's Chain;
    Canst thou, who cleans'd with noble rage
    The Augean Filth of many an age;
    Can'st thou, whose might vengeance hurl'd
    Destruction on thy foes—the World,
    Yet bade th' Infuriate slaughter cease
    When vanquish'd Despots whin'd for Peace;
Canst thou, O, FRANCE, from heights like these descend,
And, with each nerve unbrac'd, to BONAPARTE bend![2]

    Was it for this thy Warriors rose,
    And paralys'd vast hordes of Foes;
    For this, all prodigal of life,
    They rush'd amid the bellowing strife,
    And, like the Desart's burning breath,
    Where'er they rush'd they scatter'd Death;
    For this, with many a gaping wound,
    Thy daring Sons have strew' d the ground,
And, girt with smoking gore and hills of slain,
Have gloried in their CAUSE, and spurn'd th' Oppressor's Chain!

    When BRITAIN join'd th' unjust array,
    And her proud Navy plough'd the sea,
    Was it for this beneath the wave
    Thy Seamen found a watry grave;
    For this, when all around was wreck,
    And mingled horrors stain'd the deck,
    When slowly settling towards their fate,
    While the broad banners wav'd elate—
Was it for this they "Vive la Nation!" cried,
Scorn'd the submissive act, and felt th' o'erwhelming tide!

    Was it for this the sorrowing Sire
    Has seen his bleeding Boy expire;
    For this the matron sad and pale
    Has told her Son's disastrous tale;
    For this the Widow oft has prest
    With tears the Nursling to her breast;
    Was it to lift th' ambitious Soul
    Of ONE above the Law's controul
That thus dire War left millions to deplore,
And the broad Earth and Seas were ting'd with Human Gore!

    No!—Fearless FRANCE shall ne'er be found
    Like the huge Brute on India's ground,
    That thro' the ranks impetuous sweeps
    And loads the field with mangled heaps,
    But yet, each scene of carnage o'er,
    Obeys THAT Goad he felt before!
    No:—Fearless FRANCE shall still maintain
    Those Rights which millions died to gain;
And soon, tho' Laurel Wreaths her Chains adorn,
Shall shew a grov'ling world that Chains ARE STILL
                          HER SCORN!

    Oh, FRANCE, thine energetic Soul
    Will never brook UNJUST controul,
    Will never crouch to Slav'ry's load
    Nor bear th' Oppressor's iron goad!
    No:—FRANCE, who bade her Monarch fall,
    Will ne'er before this Idol crawl;
    Will ne'er receive with abject awe
    A MARTIAL DESPOT's WILL as LAW!
No!—Banish fear, ye Friends of Human Kind—
FRANCE to a Giant's Arm unites a tow'ring Mind!

    He who o'erwhelms his Country's Foe,
    Yet lays his Country's Freedom low,
    Must fear, tho' girt with Guards and State,
    From each bold arm THE STROKE OF FATE:
    And Thou, usurping Warrior—Thou
    To whom the weak, the timid bow—
    Thou SPLENDID CURSE, whose actions prove
    That States can be undone by LOVE:
Thou Foe to Man, upheld by Martial breath,
Thy march is on a Mine, thy ev'ry dream is Death.

    And, when this Meteor's baleful rays
    Are lost in Freedom's ardent blaze—
    Yes:—when indignant FRANCE shall rise,
    Her form all nerve, all fire her eyes,
    And scorning e'en the Bayonet's sway,
    Shall sweep this impious scourge away,
    Then with degraded mien no more
    Shall Man his Fellow-man adore;
Then o'er his powers shall PRINCIPLE preside,
And the bright star of Truth shall prove his polar guide!

Liverpool


1. Edward Rushton (1756-1814), a bookseller and poet. At the age of eleven, Rushton was apprenticed to a firm of West India shippers. When he was seventeen, he went on a slave trading expedition to Guinea. Disgusted at the way the Negroes were treated, he reproached the Captain and was accused of mutiny. Rushton lost his sight on this voyage caring for the Negroes who were stricken with opthalmia. In 1782 he published The Dismembered Empire, condemnatory of the American war. In 1787 he published West Indian Eclogues. After the French Revolution, Rushton founded a philosophical and literary society at Liverpool. His son, also Edward Rushton, became a leading member of the Reform Party in England later in the nineteenth century.

2. Napoleon became consul for life on August 2, 1802.

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September 2004

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