1812.9 - "Thoughts Suggested by the Approach of a Regiment of Soldiers"

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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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1812.9
Thoughts
Suggested by the Approach of a Regiment

of Soldiers
“J. K. C.”
The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry, VII (1812), pp. 17-20

When I hear the gay bugle notes sounding from far,
    Or the clang of the trumpet from squadrons advancing;
When I see all the pomp and the splendor of war,
    In the banners that wave and the plumes that are dancing—
        When the sprightly fife and drum
        Nearer still and nearer come;
        Cymbals mingling clash and ring,
            Beating to the soldier's tread,
        Swords that meteor flashes fling,
            Gleaming o'er each Horseman's head—
    Then, oh then! the pride of story
        Memory bids in floods to roll;
    Then our fathers' deeds of glory
        Fill the thought, and fire the soul!
            Swift as pass the tramping lines,
                Fancy glows, and panting turns;
            Distant soon the pageant shines—
                Still she muses, still she burns—
            —Hark! that roar—the rushing fight!
            Battling armies are in sight!
            See! 'tis Albion's fire that glows!
            See! 'tis Gallia dares oppose!—
            Sons of Albion, Britons, on!
                Hurl your ardour on the foe!—
            Rout their legions—joy!—'tis done!
                Sons of Albion, mercy show!
—Cease, cease, my flush'd bosom, these dreams of the battle—
O canst thou see joy in the war-tempest's rattle?
And canst thou exult in the red tide that flows
With the blood of thy brethren—or e'en of thy foes?
Say, should'st thou not rather with awe-restrain'd breath,
Contemplate in tears the wild congress of death;
Ah! should'st thou not weep and lament to the cry
Of the wounded that groan, and the conquer'd that die?
        Dreadful war! no more I see
        Pomp and glory wait on thee!
O furl the proud banners that float o'er the plain,
Nor stain the green turf with the gore of the slain;
And bare not the steel that with meteor-like rays,
Athwart the bright ether all dreadfully plays,
For mine eye can no longer delight in its blaze.
Ah no! for my bosom now mournfully swells,
With the woes that the Breeze from the battle-field tells—
It tells that the sun-beams all brilliant that play'd
On the plumes and the spears of the gay cavalcade;
Of their faulchions and helms that emblazon'd the pride,
Shone as bright on the arms of the thousands who died—
It tells that those beams shone as clear on the day,
When each warrior slept on his death-bed of clay;
And it sighs, that sad breeze, as opprest with the groans,
Which the voice of the dying had mixt with its moans.
—Then now drear came the night o'er the late-swarming heath,
        While the grass whistled shrill to the hollow wind's breath;
        How silent save that—ah, how solemn and still!
        As arose the pale moon from the forest-dark hill:
        And shrunk not the beauteous queen of the night,
        Ah! shudder'd she not at yon terrible sight?
Alas! for she saw from the far-waving wood,
Her path o'er the plain track'd with horror and blood;
And the lone heath o'er which her soft lustre she shed,
Grimly glanc'd back her ray, bright from arms that were spread,
All broken and gory, beside the cold dead;
And long by the hearth of each warrior's home,
His children shall listen, and wish he were come;
And long shall that wish to each bosom be dear,
Ah! long in each eye shall it combat the tear.
Perhaps that same night, when beneath the keen blast,
Her soldier lay stiffen'd, and chill on the waste,
The wife would look out and contemplate the sky
Survey the mild moon-beam—and think with a sigh
That it shone on his tent, while he wakeful might lay,
Or be dreaming of her, and his home far away:
Then turning to join the gay ring round the fire,
She would smile with her children and talk of their sire;
If she wept for his boldness, or told of his might,
Each stripling youth glow'd to be with him in fight;
While with fervour more mild the soft daughter would burn,
As she pictur'd the joys of her father's return.
Fond maiden, ah no!—thy lov'd father no more
The threshold shall tread of his own humble door;
Go, comfort thy mother, for desolate now,
A lone widow, is she—and an orphan art thou!
And oh! with what anguish your bosoms will wail,
When, all rudely perchance, ye shall hear the sad tale;
Thus reft of your staff, your support, and your stay,
What sorrows may press on the future's dark way;
What tears of affliction may languidly flow,
What nights of despair, and what mornings of woe!
        Should poverty all but deny the raw shed,
        And pale want and disease ghastly glare round your bed,
        And the past rise in contrast—all gay with delight—
        Say what will ye think of the 'glorious fight?'
        Will ye too exult with the conqueror?—no!—
        For his laurels are cypress—his victory woe—
        And the trophies Ambition so joyous would read,
        Are the widow's lament, and the orphan's lone tear!
                Ah! sad war! no more I see
                Pomp and glory wait on thee!
These, these are the sorrows that flow from the battle:
    —Then heed not my soul the fam'd heroes of story;
—And pant not my bosom to join the war's rattle,
    Nor so proudly beat high with wild visions of glory.


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Published @ RC

September 2004