By Betty T. Bennett
- This is a collection of British poetry written during the years 1793 through 1815. Its special significance lies in the fact that its theme is war and war was, if we take the mass of poetry of the period into account, perhaps the principal poetic subject in an age in which society was being restructured in terms of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, industrialization. The three hundred and fifty poems presented here, selected from more than three thousand poems collected from contemporary publications, are representative of the massive number of war poems which were then widely circulated, but which have not been previously collected, or edited, or, with some exceptions, reprinted. They have been selected to illustrate not only the attitudes of the poets toward the war, which is of importance to a full understanding of the historical background of Romanticism, but they also trace in a broad, popular spectrum the development of the poetic styles of Romanticism. Their continuity of subject matter is especially useful in revealing this development.
- War was the single most important fact of British life from 1793 to 1815. The poetry of the major Romantic writers concerned with the war—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley—reflects this imperfectly because their war poetry constitutes only a part of the total poetic response. To understand in full historical context both poetic and public attitudes toward the war and the poetic means developed by the poets themselves to embody their feelings, it is necessary to see the corpus of war poetry as a whole. This collection does not include the works of the major Romantic poets, since they are readily accessible; rather, it is intended to offer, in its overview of the influence and effects of war on the age, new perspectives on these poets and their responses, both poetic and political.
- Among the many war poems that appeared in journals and newspapers, there are some which were published anonymously or are identified by initials or pseudonyms. Included in this group are unsigned verses by minor poets as well as well-known poets, such as Leigh Hunt and Coleridge. The authors of a number of these poems have been identified in this study, often through multiple publication. For example, Walcheren Expedition; or, the Englishman's Lament for the Loss of His Countrymen appeared anonymously in The Examiner  and in The Morning Chronicle. However, The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry reprinted the poem and gave the author as Leigh Hunt. In the case of the poet who signed himself "Hafiz," The Gentleman's Magazine noted in the December, 1801 issue that both "Hafiz" and "T.S." were signatures of Thomas Stott of Dromore, Ireland. Despite this identification, Stott's many verses continued to appear under "Hafiz" or "T.S." In a few instances, works appeared in periodicals and newspapers which have not been included in the collected works of a poet, such as Leigh Hunt's The Field of Battle and The Olive of Peace. Footnotes to particular poems include information on multiple publication as well as other unusual publishing history, and, wherever possible, identify authors not named at the time of original publication.
- The representative verses in this collection have been gathered from a variety of sources, chiefly from newspapers, such as The Morning Chronicle, The Examiner, The Cambridge Intelligencer, The Morning Post, The Champion; from periodicals, such as The European Magazine, The Gentleman's Magazine, The Scots Magazine (Edinburgh), and Exshaw's Gentleman's and London Magazine (Dublin), The Anti-Jacobin, The Monthly Magazine, The New Monthly Magazine. This main body of poetry is supplemented by works from contemporary anthologies, collections, individually published poems, and broadsides. The periodicals and newspapers, however, are the chief source, since it was through their pages that most poets reached the public. As Walter Graham has pointed out, "nearly every literary periodical of note has had its section devoted to the muse"  and it was common practice for newspapers to print poems, or, in some instances, include poetry as a part of the paper's regular format. This was true of The Morning Post, The Courier, The Examiner and The Morning Chronicle.
- The Introduction to this collection is in four parts. The first speaks to the nature of the poetry included. The second is historical and discusses the relation of politics and poetry in terms of the publishing practices of the journals in which most of this poetry appeared. The third section details the shifting ideologies of "liberty" and "justice" around which the poems revolve. Finally, the poems have a literary significance apart from their subject matter. The fourth part of the Introduction discusses the poems as a crucial link in the development of Romantic poetic styles. These popular poems illustrate the transition from Percy's Reliques and Burns to Wordsworth and Coleridge. They reflect the evolution of styles, subject matter, and attitudes that have come to be called Romantic.
- The poems are annotated sufficiently, it is hoped, for their significance to be understood by the contemporary reader. Information is given, where possible, about lesser known poets. Often all that seems to be known about some of the poets are their names and titles of other works. It is hoped that readers may be familiar with some of these figures, and may share their information, thereby filling in some of the biographical gaps. The poems are arranged chronologically according to the year in which they first appeared and full imprint data is included with the text. Titles in brackets indicate that the poem was published without a title; sub-titles in brackets, however, are as they appeared in the original. The poems are reproduced with no editorial emendation, since the variant punctuation and spelling cause no major difficulties in reading the poems while allowing the reader to become acquainted with some of the publishing practices of the day. In instances where meaning may be confused, a bracketed [sic] or a footnote is given for clarification.
- This collection is offered not in any sense as definitive, but rather as an exploration of a relatively untapped resource of Romantic studies. The shortcomings in the collection are my own; however, those aspects which may enlighten and inform have come about through the assistance of a number of people and institutions, whom I am pleased to here acknowledge. First, I am grateful to Kenneth N. Cameron, who guided me into the age of Romanticism, and has been a constant example of excellence in scholarship and human compassion. My gratitude is due also to Donald H. Reiman for his careful reading of the manuscript and his many suggestions about form and substance. For furnishing me with poems and information, I thank David V. Erdman and Roland Bartel. For kindly permitting the use of their facilities and collections, I thank the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library, the New York Public Library, the Yale University Library, the Princeton University Library, the Library of Congress, the British Museum, the Bodleian, and the Library of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In particular, I wish to thank Norman O. Jung of the Stony Brook Library for accompanying me in long, sometimes unfruitful, searches for details about the poetry and poets. For her diligent accuracy in typing, I thank Lynn C. Kelly. The initial manuscript was completed with the aid and advice of Joseph T. Bennett, and read and commented on by Paul J. Dolan. The final manuscript was read and commented on by Rosalind A. Teicher who, along with Ruth A. Dolan, gave many words of encouragement. To all, I am particularly grateful.
- Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to my sons Peter and Matthew to whom "dining-room table" has become synonymous with "desk," for their patience and love and peacefulness in a war-zone.
Betty T. Bennett
State University of New York
at Stony Brook
I. British Poets and The War Between Britain and France
- From the fall of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 throughout the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, which continued almost without cessation until Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo on June 18, 1815, British poets responded to war activities to an extent unprecedented in British history. Blake's The French Revolution, passages of Wordsworth's The Prelude as well as a number of his sonnets, Coleridge's France: An Ode and Fears in Solitude, Byron's Napoleon's Farewell and parts of Childe Harold, and Shelley's Henry and Louisa are among the best known representatives of this poetic response. But many of these poems were unpublished during the war period. Furthermore, these poems have generally been examined within the context of the total body of work of the principal Romantic poets, an approach which has served to obscure the fact that the war was a primary poetic preoccupation of the age. However important, the war poems by the major poets constitute a small segment of a vast body of contemporary verse both in favor of and opposed to the war. To understand more fully the larger, generalized tradition of Romanticism, one must consider the more specific, topical tradition of war verse which influenced and was influenced by both the greater and lesser Romantic poets.
- The quality of the war verses varies greatly, ranging from plainly nationalistic songs, which embody rhetorical effect rather than intrinsic poetic merit, to the most seriously intended works of art with their metaphoric use of the war experience. As many varieties of poetic mode as possible are included within this collection to present the poetically as well as the politically revolutionary aspects of the period. The doggerel and the simple call-to-arms in song, for example, are not only historical facts of the time; they are the out-growth of the will to write for an ever-expanding, more democratic audience, one that for the first time included the workingman. Nationalistic verse had been written before, but with the growth of the popular periodical press and with both readers and writers of poetry drawn from the middle and the working classes, the simple stanza-plus-refrain form acquired a poetic respectability which it had not previously had. The virtue of this form was its accessibility to readers accustomed to the simple rhythms and repetitive patterns of the familiar jingle or nursery rhyme as well as to the popular ballads customarily found in chap books  and broadsides.
- The French Revolution provided a ready focus for British poets. Even before the Revolution took place, the thinking which inspired it—the writings of Voltaire, Rousseau, and others—had excited many minds in Britain, and there was wide-spread sympathy for victims of Bourbon oppression. This attitude may be attributed to the more republican nature of British political philosophy which was buttressed by the recent revolt against Britain itself by the American colonies. The American Revolution seemed to have had many of the same republican objectives as the French, and the favorable considerations it provoked in some British minds were readily applied to French revolutionary action. The overthrow of the Bastille was regarded as the overthrow of the feudal, tyrannic rule of the Bourbons, and poets celebrated it in these terms immediately and for some years to follow. The famous "Swan of Litchfield," Anna Seward wrote Sonnet to France on Her Present Exertions which appeared in at least six publications from August through October 1789;  Cowper's section in The Task which prophetically anticipated the destruction of the Bastille was reprinted in at least two periodicals;  Coleridge wrote the Destruction of the Bastille (first published in 1834);  and there appeared a spate of unsigned works in newspapers and periodicals expressing the same sentiments. The approbation accorded the fall of the Bastille was also expressed in Britain through annual festivities held on the fourteenth of July, a day celebrated by many Whigs and radicals alike during the early years of the French Republic. The tenacity with which some
Britons held to the significance of the event is further demonstrated by the fact that some Britons marked the date with poetic celebration even after Britain and France were at war and the ideals of the Revolution had become tarnished.
- The initial positive response in Britain to the French Revolution altered as the excesses of the revolutionary tribunals were reported. In terms of the poetry, the approval of earlier events in France perceptibly changed in 1792 with the imprisonment of the King and Queen of France, and particularly in 1793 with the execution of the royal couple and Britain's official entry into the war against the Republic of France. Much of the anti-revolutionary poetry centered upon the plight of the deposed monarchs. Edmund Burke's personal and highly sentimental view of the Queen, "glittering like the morning-star, full of life, and splendor, and joy,"  fixed an image which could be used to full effect by the anti-revolutionary poets. Burke's representation of Marie Antoinette as the principal figure in a tragedy about the death of chivalry in which the "glory of Europe is extinguished forever," was rebutted by Thomas Paine's more factual account in The Rights of Man,  but Burke's tragic queen, the wife and mother, proved more appealing, and the majority of British poets dealt with the Queen sympathetically. Stanzas supposed to be Written Whilst the Late Queen of France was Sleeping, by Her Attendant in the Temple is typical of the poetry which echoed Burke's image of the Queen. A rare instance of an attack on the French Queen was Blake's notebook ballad, Let the Brothels of Paris be opened, in which the Queen is personally held responsible for the suffering of the French people:
The Queen of France just touchd this Globe
And the Pestilence darted from her robe. 
Blake's poem was not published at that time but, as David V. Erdman suggests, although Blake's works "did not reach the awakening citizens who were reading Paine and rushing together in republican societies, they did nevertheless reflect the stir and tumult of that awakening." 
- Wordsworth and Coleridge reflect that awakening as well. The young "revolutionary and radical"  Wordsworth's personal and political involvement in the French Revolution is well documented, but it is too often overshadowed by the portrait of "the level-headed elderly man, shrewdly practical, settling down to an uneventful domestic life, a confirmed Tory in politics."  The fact is that Wordsworth's response to the Revolution was sympathetic and supportive:
. . . I gradually withdrew
Into a noisier world, and thus ere long
Became a patriot; and my heart was all
Given to the people, and my love was theirs. 
Although Wordsworth reacted against the excesses of the Revolutionary Tribunals, there is little evidence that he ever reacted against his faith in man. His belief in Utopian institutions may have been destroyed by his experience with France, but his somewhat mystical belief in the elemental passions and sentiments of common people remained intact and it was this belief rather than a political philosophy, which led him into sympathy with the French Revolution in the first place.
- Coleridge treated the Revolution and the subsequent war with France in prose and verse. Philosophically wary of the ideals of Rousseau and his concept of "natural religion," Coleridge was concerned with analyzing the philosophical foundations of the Revolution. France: An Ode, 1798 is a poetical version of Coleridge's political philosophy, and in the fifth stanza of that poem he expresses his notion that the ideal of freedom belongs to the individual and cannot be found in a society or in the institutions of human government. In Fears in Solitude, 1798, Coleridge presented the dilemma of war: the poem is forceful in describing the horrors of warfare but admits the necessity for Britons to "repel an impious foe." Coleridge believed that Britain's war against Napoleon was a struggle of those who possessed a higher conception of liberty and justice against a materialist foe.
- Southey, like Wordsworth and Coleridge, began as an anti-war poet who gradually reversed his position to become a staunch supporter of the war. His early anti-tyrannic Joan of Arc drew fire from Anna Seward in The European Magazine, 1797 and his The Soldier's Wife was parodied in The Anti-Jacobin. The 1799 Annual Anthology, which was edited by Southey, printed his The Soldier's Funeral and The Battle of Blenheim. But this and the 1800 Annual Anthology, which published war verse by Coleridge as well,  contained poems written during the pre-Napoleonic stage of the protracted war, though Southey had already come to favor the war against France. The biting irony of The Battle of Blenheim directed—as was so much of Southey's war poetry—against the inhumanity of war stands in striking contrast to his vindictive Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte, in January 1814 in which he argues against the peace negotiations and in favor of the complete destruction of Napoleon:
When innocent blood
From the four corners of the world cries out
For justice upon one accursed head. 
- Although the change in Southey's view of the war occurred long before he became poet-laureate in 1813, he was attacked by Leigh Hunt,  among others, for his political reversal. His shift from radical politics to a "Philanthropic brand of Toryism"  can be seen as a response to the change in 1796 in the character of the war itself. What had begun as a revolution against French tyranny in 1796 was seen as a war which seemed to have as its goal total European domination by France. The concept of one tyranny being substituted for another became the subject matter of Southey's war poetry, as well as that of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and others. Nevertheless, the selections of Southey included here, particularly the earlier works, proved not only popular but influential.
- While Thomas Campbell was not so prolific a war poet as Southey, his work was often reprinted and his war verses provided a model which was imitated by others. Although Campbell consistently supported Britain, he maintained a poetic objectivity which enabled him to deal artistically and compassionately with the scourges of war, as in The Soldier's Dream.
- The role of Robert Burns as a war poet must be considered in terms of his influence on the poetry of the period in general, and part four of this introduction will deal with his contribution in some detail. Burns died in 1796, and the few war poems he wrote were of mixed quality, from the touching The Soldier's Return to the nationalistic The Dumfries Volunteers, but all his poetry was well received and well circulated during this period.
- The war was so popular a subject that a commentator in The Analytical Review noted in 1793 that it was treated by "every hireling scribbler." The poets concerned themselves with the events of the war in such topical poems as Nelson's Victory: An Ode, on Nelson's defeat of the French in Egypt; they treated the effects of the war on individuals, as Amelia Opie's The Orphan Boy's Tale or on the country as in January, 1795; and frequently poets offered philosophical poems on the subject as in The Age of War. Poems were sometimes frankly hortatory as English, Scots, and Irishmen: A Patriotic Address to the Inhabitants of the United Kingdom, July, 1803, by John Mayne; they ranged from the satiric A Modern Ballad to the unabashedly sentimental The Generous Soldier by Mr. Booker, 1800.
- Generally poetry columns contained at least one poem on the war and some poems were published and circulated as broadsides as well, such as The Ploughman's Ditty; Being an Answer to that Foolish Question, What Have the Poor to Lose? which was printed in at least four periodicals and as a broadside. In addition, periodical verses were occasionally reprinted and circulated in book form: The Spirit of the Public Journals  was a collection of brief prose passages and verse specifically gathered from newspapers, and The Anti-Gallican  was a collection of prose and verse gathered from broadsides as well as from newspapers and periodicals.
- The Spirit of the Public Journals, unlike most publications of the period, avoided political distinctions or partisan connections in its editorial policy. Instead, it published a cross-section of all jeux d'esprits of the popular journals, although there is a notable absence of material from radical publications. In the early editions of The Spirit of the Public Journals such anti-war poems as The Fruits of the War and A Fast Day Hymn  appeared, but by the turn of the century, although selections from both Whig and Tory publications continued to appear, there is no discernable difference in attitude towards the war. By that time, both Whigs and Tories generally agreed that it was a necessity, if not a duty, for Britain to defeat Napoleon and put to rest once and for all the French threat to British liberty.
- The Anti-Gallican, on the other hand, was clearly intended to bolster the war morale of its readers. It reproduces approximately two hundred verses, in addition to many prose pieces, on the threatened invasion of Britain by France. Many of the pieces date from before 1803, the year Britain felt that invasion was imminent, but they are consistent in their hostility towards the French and their insistence on the necessity of continuing the struggle to defend Britain. The collection, printed partially for J. Asperne,  draws upon many of the broadsides which Asperne printed in 1803—to which he frequently appends the suggestion that they be distributed among the poor by those who could afford to do so in order to rouse the lower classes against the French. Included in The Anti-Gallican are Wordsworth's Anticipation, Burn's The Dumfries Volunteers, and Campbell's The Soldier's Dream.
- The broadside itself was a popular way of circulating war verses during the war period. It has been noted that although periodicals gained in prestige during the eighteenth century, "the broadside stubbornly held its ground in the service not only of hack writers but of poets of name" and continued to do so into the nineteenth century. In addition to the previously mentioned Ploughman's Ditty,  poems which appeared in broadsides as well as periodicals or collections include John Mayne's English, Scots, and Irishmen  and several works by Leigh Hunt which were published in a special form of broadside known as Bellman's verses,  verses printed as a broadside and sold to Bellmen or Beadles  for distribution as New Year's gifts. Hunt occasionally reprinted these verses in one of his newspapers: Orange Boven appeared as a Bellman's Verse for 1814  and in The Examiner on January 23, 1814.
- Shelley also made use of the broadside to circulate war verses. His early opposition to the war, as well as to the aristocracy and Napoleon, is demonstrated in his Esdaile Note-Book poems, The Crisis, To the Emperors of Russia and Austria who eyed the battle from the heights whilst Buonaparte was active in the thickest of the fight, and Henry and Louisa. Influenced by Coleridge's and Southey's The Devil's Thoughts,  Shelley wrote an anti-establishment, anti-war ballad entitled The Devil's Walk and had it printed as a broadside,  which resulted in the arrest of Shelley's servant as he was distributing the broadside.
- Although the broadside was employed to some effect, the chief medium of publication of war poetry were the magazines and newspapers, which provided poets concerned with the war a steady outlet for their encomiums, their warnings, their arguments. Opposition to the war and acclamation for the war were based on a variety of grounds: political, ethical, religious, economic, humanitarian, nationalistic, moralistic. Content and approach vary not only from poet to poet, but according to the political stance of the medium in which the poems are found. To understand the frequency of particular points of view, it is necessary to examine the influence of politics on the publishing practices of the day.
II. Politics and Poetry
- In the aftermath of the French Revolution, a new term was introduced into British political nomenclature. The term "Jacobin," derived from the French political club established in 1789 to develop and maintain egalitarian government, was found to be a useful pejorative designation and was applied indiscriminately to those who sympathized with the Revolution as well as to British republicans, radicals, and Whigs. In fact, all who opposed the policies of the Tory government found themselves attacked as Jacobins.
- The terms designating the two major political parties in Britain during this period, the Tories and the Whigs, had themselves been pejorative appellations used in 1679 during the struggle to exclude James, Duke of York, from succession to the throne. From the Revolution of 1688-89 until the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the Whig and Tory parties maintained a political balance of power and opposition in England. After 1714, however, with the crowning of the Whig nominee George I as king, and the flight of the Tory leader Bolingbroke to France, the Tories declined as a political party. The situation was changed in 1784, when the young Pitt became leader of a new Tory party which represented the interests of the country gentry and the powerful merchant classes. The Whig party, as opposition under the leadership of Charles James Fox, was made up of dissenters, shopkeepers, and the burgeoning industrialists.
- Pitt's Tory government was firmly opposed to the Revolution in France and took a position of defending and maintaining the status quo. The Whigs, on the other hand, desired electoral, parliamentary, and philanthropic reform, and were more open to social change. Many Whigs supported the Revolution and opposed the war with France, though the more conservative among them supported the policies of the Pitt government. Thus, the rather imprecise term "Jacobin" was used to suggest all those who sympathized with France and to designate those who opposed Pitt's policies: radicals, republicans, and Whigs alike. Jacobinism was even extended to impute the morals as well as the politics of opponents of the Pitt government. Indeed, the term carried so much negative weight that Wordsworth and Coleridge published the Lyrical Ballads anonymously because they were aware that they were "marked out as Jacobins." Coleridge gives the term some precision in an article in The Morning Post of October 21, 1802, entitled "Once a Jacobin Always a Jacobin," in which he states that the term has been applied to "all who, from whatever cause, opposed the late war and the late ministry." However, this is a definition of the term by "bigots alarmed and detected culprits." More properly, he maintains, a Jacobin is one who affirms:
that no legislature can be rightful or good which did not proceed from universal suffrage. In the power and under the control of a legislature so chosen he places all and everything, with the exception of the natural rights of man and the means appointed for the preservation and exercise of these rights, by a direct vote of the nation itself—that is to say, by a constitution. Finally, the Jacobin deems it both justifiable and expedient to effect these requisite changes in faulty governments by absolute revolutions, and considers no violences as properly rebellious or criminal which are the means of giving to a nation the power of declaring and enforcing its sovereign will...
- Coleridge intended to sum up and at the same time criticize the views of Rousseau which, rather imperfectly understood, were those which the French Revolution had sought to put into practice. The article attempts to define a total Jacobin creed and to indicate that only advocates of despotism did not subscribe to some of the tenets of Jacobinism. While arguing that he was not a Jacobin, Coleridge tries to dispel the emotion which had become attached to the term.
- In the context of the poetry in this collection, "Jacobin" tells less about those who are attacked in satire, or who are impugned in more serious poetry, than it does about the Tory position of those who attack or impugn. Since, throughout the period, the Jacobin label is often used without discrimination, the term "radical" might be substituted as a more appropriate and encompassing designation for those who opposed government policies. The range of opposition was broad—altering as the war progressed —and the term "radical" in this discussion is intended to include all factions which supported the French Revolution as well as those which desired major governmental reform in England.
- While there were radical thinkers in Britain before the French Revolution, the radicals were, for the most part, loosely organized and unenfranchised. Those with any political power at all belonged to the tradition of Whig "commonwealthmen," and, in fact, the radicals were not organized into a specific political party until 1820. It was the French Revolution which became a catalystic agent for those in England who were dissatisfied with the British government. The Revolution became synonymous to many with the struggle of the British working class for better living conditions and more representative government. Dr. Richard Price's Sermon, A Discourse on the Love of Our Country (November 4, 1789), in support of the Revolution was greeted enthusiastically by a number of radicals and by liberal Whigs. Not all liberal Whigs, however, accepted Price's stand, and Edmund Burke was to take him to task in his Reflections Upon the Revolution in France. A significant number of radical thinkers took the opportunity afforded by the French Revolution to press for consideration of the working class and the need for reform. The Second Part of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, in calling the aristocracy into account, effected a bridge between the old tradition of Whig "commonwealthmen" and the radicals. The strong disapproval of the monarchy and of aristocratic hereditary principles was related to the economic hardships of the poor. Much of the anti-war poetry written during this early phase renders these sentiments in verse, as in Effects of War published in The Cambridge Intelligencer, February 22, 1794. The opposition was quick to attack those poets who opposed the war on such grounds, and
verses in favor of the war linked support of France with destruction of the British establishment.
- The argument that the war was being conducted by men "Too high to stoop, too proud to feel,/ For England's bleeding woes" who are disinterested in the "thousands begging at their gates,/ Or welt'ring in their gore," but who are more concerned with "gaudy luxries" and "a scarf or garter blue,"  is prevalent in the anti-war poetry throughout the war years. In fact, the image of an aristocratic class indifferent to the suffering of the poor became so prevalent that it is used in later years of the war even by poets who do not necessarily oppose government policies. For example, a poet in The Scots Magazine in 1802, speaks in the voice of The Beggar Girl orphaned by the war:
To the Rich, by whom Virtue's too often
I tell my sad story—and crave for relief:
But Wealth seldom feels for a wretch unpro-
'Tis Poverty only partakes of her grief!
Ah, little they think that the thousands they
On the playthings of Folly and fripp'ries
Would relieve the keen wants of the wretched
While the soft tear of pity would soothe
- Debating societies in which the working man participated were formed sporadically in England from 1776 on. Although there had been such clubs in Sheffield, Derby, and Manchester, it was not until the London Corresponding Society was founded in January 1792 that they were organized into a significant vocal group. This Society, which held meetings at "The Bell" tavern off the Strand, was composed of artisans, small shopkeepers, tradesmen, journeymen, printers, engravers, young attorneys, apothecaries, teachers, journalists, surgeons, and Dissenting clergy. It was a popular radical society, rather than a strictly working-class debating society, and it was formed to discuss the current events and to attempt to influence government. The aristocratic opponents of the radical groups were quick to form "counter-revolutionary" organizations directed against them. "Church and King" clubs proliferated. (It was a "Church and King" club which caused a riot in Birmingham in the summer of 1791 by interrupting a dinner in celebration of the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille.) The position of the "Church and King" groups is enunciated in Church and King, a Song of 1793:
True Freedom is a temp'rate treat,
Not savage mirth, not frantic noise;
'Tis the brisk pulse's vital beat;
'Tis not the fever that destroys.
Let Britons then united sing,
Old England's Glory,—Church and King.
- The violence and the scare tactics of "Church and King" mobs did not succeed in repressing the early radical groups but on the contrary helped publicize the activities of anti-war factions. Men like John Thelwall, Thomas Spence, Thomas Hardy and other advocates of the rights of the working class voiced their beliefs at meetings and in broadsides and pamphlets. Their work resulted in poetic response both from sympathizers and detractors. The detractors, for the most part, resorted to satire, much of it personal, such as On Mister Surgeon Thelwall which implies that Thelwall in his profession as a surgeon has dealings with the illegal "resurrection men," i.e. those who stole newly buried bodies to sell for medical experimentation. Since Thelwall is such an unsavory character, the satirist suggests, it is no wonder that he is sympathetic to the democratic ideals of the French Revolution. Other detractors, however, resorted to simple invective, as John Shilettoe in his 1795 Portrait of a Jacobin, calling the radicals "a MASS of every FILTH combin'd!/ The horror of the HUMAN KIND!" Those who sympathized with the French ideals attempted to respond in poetic terms to the insinuations of the "Church and King" mobs. The editor of The Cambridge Intelligencer, for example, on September 14, 1793 extracted the lines entitled The Bishop of London's Opinion on War from a poem which the bishop, Dr. Porteous, had written while a student at Cambridge. The lines suggest a response to Burke and the reaction to the death of the French king:
__________________One murder makes a
Millions a Hero: Princes are privileged
To kill, and numbers sanctify the crime.
Ah! Why will Kings forget that they are
And men that they are brethren? Why delight
In HUMAN SACRIFICE?
The author of the Sonnet to W. Wilberforce calls upon the philanthropist to:
. . .teach a guilty Court the Rights of Man;
Not made to suffer only, and to bleed—
Though he has bled of late, and largely too,
At their command,—Tell them that GOD design'd
A nobler object when he made mankind,
And trace the noble purpose to their view.
- In the beginning of their existence, the radical artisan groups were supported by the agitation of the ever-increasing manufacturing class and by religious groups such as the Methodist New Connexion, the so-called "Tom Paine Methodists." As the establishment perceived that the reform groups were increasing in strength, the semi-official agency for intimidation of reformers, the Association for Protecting Liberty and Property against Republicans and Levellers, was formed in the 1790's. From 1794 to 1804 there was steady repression of reformers in England: so-called Jacobins were arrested and tried; the London Corresponding Society was outlawed; the Rights of Man was banned, and meetings were prohibited. However, as E. P. Thompson points out:
. . . after the success of Rights of Man, the radicalism and terror of the French Revolution, and the onset of Pitt's repression, it was the plebian Corresponding Society which alone stood up against the counter-revolutionary wars. And these plebian groups, small as they were in 1796, did nevertheless make up an "underground" tradition which ran through to the end of the Wars. 
- Both the establishment and the radical opposition attempted to stir up public opinion by means of pamphlets, broadsides, and public meetings, but recognized that the quickest and most effective means of reaching large segments of the public was through newspapers and periodicals. Political bias determined what was published, and it was political consideration rather than artistic merit which was the overriding criterion in the selection of verse.
- All the newspapers were committed to a particular party and, more often than not, this commitment was purchased in the form of a regular stipend from a political party or faction which then exercised control over the publication. Lucyle Werkmeister, in summing up the situation as it was in 1789, points out that both the government and the opposition each controlled seven newspapers. The government had The Daily Advertiser, The Public Advertiser, The Public Ledger, The Times, The World, The Star, and The Diary, or Woodfall's Register; the opposition maintained The Gazetter, The General Advertiser, The Morning Herald, The Morning Post, The Morning Chronicle, the "spurious Star," and The Argus. 
- The change in ownership of a newspaper could mean a reversal of its political stance and a parallel change in the character of the poetry which it published. One such instance was The Courier which, during its Whig years 1792-1799,  printed anti-ministerial as well as anti-war poetry. In 1799, however, the paper was purchased by Daniel Stuart and Thomas George Street. Stuart, who already owned the then radical Morning Post, left The Courier in the hands of Street. Street, a Tory or, as an enemy called him, an "anythingarian," proceeded to make The Courier into the chief government organ in London.
- The Morning Post, a journal which published Wordsworth and Coleridge as well as a host of other poets, was put on the payroll of Carleton House  in 1789 when its editors threatened to make much of the Prince Regent's secret marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert. However the newspaper did not long remain in government hands. In 1795 it was purchased by Daniel Stuart who made The Post a leading Whig-radical journal. Stuart gave his support to Addington's government from 1802 to 1803, and an anti-Napoleonic, pro-ministerial position was maintained by The Post after Stuart sold it in 1803.
- The leading organ of governmental opposition throughout the war years was The Morning Chronicle, edited and owned by James Perry. Unlike so many of the papers of the day, The Morning Chronicle remained consistent in its adherence to the Whig position. Initially the paper opposed the war, but it altered its policy during the uneasy peace created by the Treaty of Amiens (1802-1803), as did Charles James Fox, leader of the Whig opposition, to support the war against Napoleon. Nevertheless, The Morning Chronicle maintained its staunch condemnation of the Tory party in general, and often printed prose and poetry critical of what it considered to be the war-mongering policies of the Tories. Indeed, after the Battle of Waterloo, The Morning Chronicle printed a poem entitled Napoleon by P. Cornwall, who prefaced a letter to the editor to his verse complaining that even the most "liberal-minded" men in the ministry were vilifying Buonaparte and stating that The Morning Chronicle was "the only corner left in the world of politics where one may hear both sides of the question."
- John Walter, editor and proprietor of The Times, was in the pay of the Tory government until 1799 when his subsidy stopped. However, from 1801-1804, the Times supported Addington's Tory government not for a subsidy but for a government promise that the Times would be the only paper to have immediate access to government information regarding events on the Continent. Thus, the Times was perhaps the first of the newspapers to cede a financial subsidy in favor of prior intelligence. By 1814 newspapers had become more financially independent of direct government financing, with prior intelligence and the indirect subsidy of government advertising generally taking the place of the more obvious, direct financial control.
- The Tory government, in the interest of gaining as much support as possible for its war policy, attempted to control newspapers not only through direct purchase but through restrictive laws. Although the long range effect of the Libel Act of 1792 was beneficial to the press, in that the government could no longer arbitrarily suppress publications and imprison newspapermen, but had to grant them full trial before a jury of their peers, the immediate effect of the act was to increase press prosecutions. The price of newspapers rose throughout the period as the government tried to halt circulation of anti-Tory journals by increasing the fee for the required newspaper stamps. The 1798 Newspaper Act not only raised the cost of stamps; it required that all newspapers be registered with the government.
- Despite these measures, newspapers continued to flourish, and the government attempted to find still other methods of control. By 1812 there were at least eighteen Sunday newspapers. These were attacked on the basis of violating the Sabbath, but actually they incurred disfavor because they were mostly democratic in nature and disapproved of governmental positions.
- As the war continued it became increasingly difficult for newspapers to obtain information from the continent. The government took full advantage of this situation to apply pressure on journals to print only what government policy favored or run the risk of obtaining no information at all. Attempted control of newspapers by the government reached beyond London into Scotland, Ireland, and the English provinces. Scottish "Jacobins" who were active in pursuit of reform found no support from the press  at the beginning of the nineteenth century since newspapers in Scotland were controlled by the government and Scotland did not have a truly independent newspaper until 1817.
- The situation in Ireland differed in that most newspapers before the Union of 1800 were anti-English. The French, aware of the hostility between Ireland and England, attempted several landings in Ireland with the aid of Irish radicals. The landings, however, were unsuccessful. After the Union of 1800, the attitude of many Irish newspapers seemed more sympathetic to the British cause, but it has been suggested that this was due to "the lavish bribery resorted to by the government" rather than "any change in the sentiment of the people." 
- As for the provincial newspapers, in the early years of the war radical or Whig-radical journals were founded in opposition to the war and to the Tory government. Coleridge's Watchman (1796), James Montgomery's Sheffield Iris (1794-1824), and Benjamin Flower's Cambridge Intelligencer (1793-1800) are outstanding examples of the small provincial newspapers that were more than advertising sheets. After 1796, however, these papers found little support, and the provincial newspapers generally consisted of little more than advertisements, many of them governmental, and such poetry and news as the government saw fit to circulate.
- Throughout the war, magazines and reviews as well as newspapers were established specifically to treat the war issue. Coleridge founded the Watchman to protest against Pitt's war policy and agitate for government reform. In Norwich, a group of anti-war advocates joined together to publish The Cabinet (1795), a journal which recalled the ideals of the French Revolution and its initial cause of liberty. On the other side of the political scale were such journals as The Anti-Gallican Monitor (1811), The Tomahawk (1795-1796), and The Anti-Jacobin (1797-1798), whose sole purposes were to publish poetry and prose favoring the war and attack detractors of war policy. One issue of The Anti-Jacobin, for example, described The Cambridge Intelligencer as "more false than the Morning Post, more blasphemous than the Morning Chronicle, and more devoted to the cause of Anarchy and Blood than that exploded vehicle of idiot frenzy, the Courier."
- The Anti-Jacobin was by far the most outstanding of these publications, its reputation based not upon its prose but upon the superior quality of its satiric verse. Organized and contributed to by William Gifford, George Canning, and John Hookman Frere,  this weekly was quite popular, and poetry from The Anti-Jacobin has been republished at least four times since it was first collected in 1799. The "Introduction" to the poetry section of the first issue of The Anti-Jacobin offers a statement explanatory of its policy of publishing mostly satire. Moreover, it gives an ironically candid statement on the quality of Tory vs. radical poetry:
But whether it be that good Morals, and what We should call good Politics, are inconsistent with the spirit of true Poetry—whether "the Muses still with Freedom found" have an aversion to regular Governments, and require a frame and
system of protection less complicated than King, Lords, and Commons;—
"Whether primordial nonesense springs
In the wild War of Democratic strife,"
and there only—or for whatever other reason it may be, whether physical, or moral, or philosophical (which last is understood to mean something more than the other two, though exactly what, it is difficult to say), We have not been able to find one good and true Poet, of sound principle and sober practice, upon whom we could rely for furnishing us with a handsome quantity of good and approved Verse—such Verse as our Readers might be expected to get by heart and to sing, as MONGE describes the little children of Sparta, and Athens singing the songs of Freedom, in expectation of the coming of the Great Nation.
In this difficulty, We have had no choice but either to provide no Poetry at all,—a shabby expedient,—or to go to the only market where it is to be had good and ready made, that of the Jacobíns—an ex-pedient full of danger, and not to be used but with the utmost caution and delicacy. 
- Crane Brinton's statement that "literature was often blamed as the effective bond between Jacobins"  is well underscored by the testimony of the editors of The Anti-Jacobin. It is certainly true that literature qua literature played an important role in unifying "Jacobin" sentiment, and it is equally true that the literary productions of the "Jacobin" writers were often superior to those of their political adversaries. However, it is well to remember that "Jacobins" were as often Whigs as republicans, and their poetry appeared both in the opposition as well as in the more radical press. Coleridge, who was at first marked out as a Jacobin, contributed poetry on the war to anti-war papers and later to the government press: from 1794 his work appeared in Flower's Cambridge Intelligencer; in 1794-1795 his series of sonnets to radical men appeared in The Morning Chronicle; from 1797 on he contributed to The Morning Post. During the peace created by the Treat of Amiens, Coleridge wrote anti-Napoleonic works for The Courier  and The Morning Post. He believed these contributions were instrumental in the rupture of the treaty, and his belief is supported by the fact that The Morning Post "was said by Fox to have helped bring about the renewal of the war in May 1803."
- Among the younger generation of poets, Byron, Shelley, Hunt, and Moore were opposed to Pitt and those who carried out his policies. Both Shelley and Byron believed in the necessity of fundamental reform in government, their agitation against the Tories based largely on what they considered to be the immorality of the war. It was clear even before Napoleon's defeat that Britain and her allies intended to restore the Bourbons to the throne of France, thus totally defeating the democratic spirit of the French Revolution. Byron's disappointment and disillusion at the outcome of the war were expressed in two poems printed in periodicals; The Champion, The European Magazine, The Morning Chronicle, and The Examiner  all published his Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte in which he gives to the defeated Emperor:
Thanks for that lesson—it will teach
To after-warriors more
Than high Philosophy can preach,
And vainly preach'd before.
That spell upon the minds of men
Breaks never to unite again,
That led them to adore
Those Pagod things of sabre sway,
With fronts of brass and feet of clay.
The only note of hope struck in the poem occurs in the concluding stanza:
Where may the wearied eye repose,
When gazing on the Great;
Where neither guilty glory glows,
Nor despicable state?
Yes—one—the first—the last—the best—
The Cincinnatus of the West,
Whom envy dared not hate,
Bequeath'd the name of Washington,
To make man blush there was but one!
Byron's compassionate Napoleon's Farewell (which is discussed in the next section of this introduction) appeared in The Morning Chronicle and The Examiner. All the journals which published these two poems were Whig affiliated.
- Because of the large extent to which politics determined publication, poetic response to the war cannot be measured by a statistical evaluation of the thousands of war verses printed. The radical press, effectively hampered by the vilification campaign launched by the government as well as by restrictive laws, was in a difficult position from the beginning of the war. To oppose the war was to subject oneself to accusations of treason and the violence of "Church and King" mobs. The Whig press, on the other hand, continued and prospered, backed as it was by the established opposition party.
- The majority of the verses published favored the war, but surely this can be attributed to the strong hand of the Tory government  as well as to the changes in France's revolutionary and war objectives. The poems in this edition have been gathered from Tory, Whig, and radical publications. In selecting the works, an attempt has been made to draw upon all political viewpoints, and less emphasis has been given to numerical response (Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, for example, evoked hundreds of verses praising the event, all of almost equal dullness) in favor of offering a wide range of poetic response.
III. The Flight for "Liberty" and "Justice"
- From the time of the "Glorious Revolution" throughout the eighteenth century, England, the sole European country governed by a monarchy established as the result of a successful rebellion, regarded itself as the bastion of "liberty" and "justice." Maintaining this tradition, the poets of the war years were consistent advocates of these two principles. Since poets who supported the war as well as those who opposed it use the same terms, some distinction must be made between them according to the context in which the terms are used. Certainly the use of "liberty" in the lines:
Yet, happy Britain!—with proportion'd
Guard the just balance of thy three Estates;
For, in that balance only, canst thou find
Order and rule, with Liberty combin'd.
Cautions to England
differs greatly from the concept expressed by the author of Ode, Written on the opening of the Last Campaign:
. . . if on this hour
The fate of Freedom shall depend—
If o'er this earth th' Eternal Pow'r
The scale of Justice now extend.
For then, O Spring, thy sun shall see
The patriot flame triumphant shine;
GALLIA shall bid the world be free,
And WAR his blood-stain'd throne resign!
And, again, from the ironic use of the term in the satiric The Soldier's Friend of 1797:
Liberty's friends thus all learn to amalgamate,
Freedom's volcanic explosion prepares itself,
Despots shall bow to the Fasces of Liberty,...
And all three differ from that employed by the author of the 1797 Mutiny at Portsmouth:
The Genius of Britain went hovering round,
For she fear'd that fair Freedom had fled,
But she found, to her joy that she was
not quite gone,
But remain'd with the Fleet at Spithead.
- Although "liberty" and "justice" (and synonymous expressions) are common to much of the war poetry, the principles underlying the terms vary according to the poet's position on the war and on the policies of the government. The author of Cautions to England is concerned with maintaining the status quo and is most likely a Tory. The author of the Ode is probably a Jacobin. The satire above is opposed to sympathy with France and to democratic notions of any kind. But what of the Mutiny at Portsmouth? An author who finds "Freedom" dwelling with the mutinous sailors at Spithead (April 15, 1797) may be considered radical, but in the case of the sailor's widow who is alleged to have written the poem, she may be without political ties altogether. Instead, she may well be continuing in a British tradition of rebellion as a means of obtaining justice.
- To the British citizen of the 1790's, the liberty to rebel had historic roots; there had been rebellions in 1753, 1768, and 1780. The right of rebellion against government action of which the citizenry disapproved or "the right of resistance" as it was termed by the lawyers was "an integral part of the national tradition." This national tradition included other freedoms as well. The Revolution of 1688 had confirmed the Saxon laws  and the British counted in their heritage freedom from foreign domination, freedom allowed by a constitutional monarchy, "freedom from arbitrary arrest, trial by jury, equality before the law, the freedom of the home from arbitrary entrance and search,"  and, within limitations, freedom to think, believe, and speak as one liked. The English also believed in the freedom to oppose parliamentary decisions (either by demonstration or by petition), and to participate in elections, even when unenfranchised, through the liberty of "huzzaing at elections."
- However, by the end of the eighteenth century, more and more Britons, especially from the middle and working classes, were no longer satisfied with participation in elections by parading and huzzaing. As the previous section points out, the French Revolution was seen by many Britons as a dramatic representation of citizens of a foreign state attempting to gain liberties which the English already held. In Britain, a wave of democratic agitation broke out, partly in sympathy with the Revolution in France and partly to remind the government at home that long called for electoral reform was due. Although there were those in Britain who were critical of some aspects of their own government, the majority of Britons in 1789 felt as did a writer in The Edinburgh Review some eighteen years later, "All civilized Governments may be divided into free and arbitrary: or, more accurately,. . . into the Government of England and the other European Governments."
- It is not surprising, then, that at the outset of the French Revolution a wide spectrum of British poets sympathized with its objectives and could write about them comfortably, believing that the British and the French sought the same goals. Advocates of republican doctrine as well as those who believed in limited monarchy (the Whig "commonwealthman") flocked to Paris both before the 1793 declaration of war between Britain and France and during the peace period created by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802-1803. When Wordsworth and his friend Robert Jones went to the continent in 1790, they were welcomed by the French as representatives of liberty. Helen Maria Williams also traveled to Paris in 1790, to remain in France for the rest of her life, retaining her beliefs in the ultimate success of the ideas of the Revolution. Her Ode to Peace testifies to her faith in ultimate liberty resultant from the Revolution. This faith remained unbroken despite the fact that she was twice arrested by the French: in 1793 she incurred the disfavor of the Republican regime; in 1802 Napoleon had her arrested in irritation at her not having mentioned him by name in her well-circulated Ode.
- The initial reaction of many British poets to the Revolution was that it was a means of bringing liberty to France, and the 1789-1792 period is marked by a number of verses written about the destruction of the Bastille as symbolic of new liberty. This initial reaction was not confined to poets alone; Charles James Fox, leader of the Whig opposition, wanted Britain to accept and recognize democratic France. However, the bloodshed involved in establishing the new republic, and the various French internal battles which led to further bloodshed, complicated the issue of French liberty for the British. Some poets, such as Anna Seward in her 1789 Sonnet to France on Her Present Exertions, immediately defended the destructive elements of the Revolution as a necessary but temporary condition in the process of the establishment of a new political state:
Thou, that where Freedom's sacred fountains
Which spring effulgent, tho' with crimson
On transatlantic shores, and widening plains
Hast, in their living waters, washed away
Those cankering spots, shed by tyrannic sway
On thy long drooping lilies, English veins
Swell with the tide of exultation gay,
To see thee spurn thy deeply-galling chains.
Wordsworth, in the 1850 Prelude, gives a more temperate justification of the Revolutionary bloodletting:
. . . When a taunt
Was taken up by scoffers in their pride,
Saying, "Behold the harvest that we reap
From popular government and equality,"
I clearly saw that neither these nor aught
Of wild belief engrafted on their names
By false philosophy had caused the woe,
But a terrific reservoir of guilt
And ignorance filled up from age to age,
That could no longer hold its loathsome
But burst and spread in deluge through the
(X, 11. 470-480) 
Despite attempts to explain and justify the events which followed the Revolution, as the internal tumult in France continued many of those who supported British liberty and who were basically anti-aristocratic came to believe that the result of the Revolution was to substitute one form of tyranny for another. The dilemma presented by France's complete renunciation of monarch and church and the execution of the King and Queen was brought to a head by the British declaration of war with France in 1793. For many British, there was no alternative but to support their own country against what was viewed as the threatened loss of British liberty. Spurred by fear, many Britons came to agree with the sentiments expressed in Dr. Mavor's 1793 Sonnet to Rational Liberty:
No tyrant's frown, no traitor's harlot
My free born soul shall awe, my sense
shall ne'er beguile.
Rais'd on the throne of LAW and RIGHT,
O ever shield thy favourite land!
While Anarchy, with wild affright,
Flies to GALLIA'S frantic strand.
O check these scenes of dire uproar—
Revenge thy prostituted name!
And far, O far, from BRITAIN'S shore
Drive the foul deeds that clothe
thy charms with shame.
Others, in sympathy with the reaction depicted by Thomas Day in The Disgusted Patriot, decided to retire to "solitude indignant" and "leave the world to courtiers, priests, and kings."
- The war brought a marked increase in the number of poems concerned with both British and French liberty. The mocking satire of The Humble Petition of the British Jacobins to their Brethren of France, which hits at the French who "Mirth and murder so merrily blend" and then goes on to attack the British who support the ideals of the Revolution and invite then to spread to Britain, is a prime example of the hostile attitude which became increasingly prevalent as the war continued.
- From 1793 it was left to an ever decreasing minority to support the original tenets of the Revolution. Among these was Wordsworth, who was shocked by the war and the fact that he supported not his own country but its enemy. Even in the 1850 Prelude Wordsworth portrays the complex emotion he felt when:
. . . with open
Britain opposed the liberties of France.
This threw me first out of the pale of love;
Soured and corrupted, upwards to the
My sentiments; was not, as hitherto,
A swallowing up of lesser things in great,
But change of them into their contraries;
And thus a way was opened for mistakes
And false conclusions, in degree as gross,
In kind more dangerous. What had been a
Was now a shame; my likings and my loves
Ran in new channels, leaving old ones dry;
And hence a blow that, in maturer age,
Would have but touched the judgment struck
Into sensations near the heart: meantime,
As from the first, wild theories were
To whose pretensions, sedulously urged,
I had but lent a careless ear, assured
That time was ready to set all things
And that the multitude, so long oppressed,
Would be oppressed no more.
(XI, 11. 174-194)
Not until Napoleon assumed the title of Emperor did Wordsworth finally give up his hopes in the ideals of the Revolution. When the Pope was summoned to crown Napoleon, Wordsworth considered it:
This last opprobrium, when we see a
That once looked up in faith, as if to
For manna, take a lesson from the dog
Returning to his vomit . . . .
(XI, 11. 361-364)
- Coleridge, faced with the same problem of divided allegiance, was less a friend to France than an enemy of his own country's Tory government. Indeed, he accused Pitt, in the pages of The Watchman, as Pitt had accused Lord North, of being "at war with a nation of patriots." Furthermore, in his Religious Musings (1796) Coleridge indicates that the "Giant Frenzy" of the early days of the French Revolution was a part of divine apocalyptic justice and, as such, was a reaction to "The Great, the Rich, the Mighty Men,/The Kings and Chief Captains of the World." However, as the events in France progressed and when the French took repressive measures against the right of assembly and the printing of political news, Coleridge grew out of sympathy with the French. Napoleon's entry into Switzerland and the pillaging of Italy by the French troops proved the turning point for Coleridge. After 1798 he supported the war against Napoleon.
- Much of the poetry written in 1793-1796 against the war with France generally regarded the war as one in which the monarch and the Pitt government of Britain conspired with Austria and Prussia to preserve their own thrones. The resentment on the part of many Britons was two-fold. It was felt that Britain, a constitutional monarchy, should not support a war fought by totalitarian monarchs to reinstate a totalitarian government in France, and also there was sympathy for the Revolution's ideal of liberty.
- The twenty-six years from the fall of the Bastille to Waterloo was a period of almost unremitting war. The ideals of the French Revolution were practically forgotten in the course of the Napoleonic Wars. The first generation of romantic poets experienced the fervor of witnessing the establishment of a republican state in Europe, and then suffered the disappointment and disillusionment caused by the turn in France's objectives. The next generation of poets, including Byron and Shelley, had the advantage of historical perspective. Untouched by the genuine threats of invasion (Napoleon kept troops stationed across the Channel until 1805), they were able to regard the ideals of the Revolution with unqualified admiration. They recognized that the Revolution had to struggle for survival from the very beginning against the monarchs of Europe, a view expressed in Shelley's A Translation of The Marsellois Hymn:
Tremble, Kings! despised of Man!
Ye traitors to your country—
Tremble! your parricidal plan
At length shall meet its destiny.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Frenchmen! on the guilty brave
Pour your vengeful energy.—
Yet in your triumph, pitying save
The unwilling slaves of tyranny;
But let the gore-stained despots bleed. 
Shelley was opposed to aristocracy in general and to Napoleon in particular. In To The Emperors of Russia and Austria who eyed the battle of Austerlitz from the heights whilst Buonaparte was active in the thickest of the fight, Shelley addresses the Emperors as "Coward Chiefs" and bids them "Think ye on the restless fiend who haunts/ The tumult of yon gory field" concluding:
Yet may your terrors rest secure.
Thou, Northern chief, why starest thou?
Pale Austria, calm those fears. Be sure
The tyrant needs such slaves as you.
Think ye the world would bear his sway
Were dastards such as you away?
No! they would pluck his plumage gay
Torn from a nation's woe
And lay him in the obvious gloom
Where Freedom now prepares your tomb. 
- Byron, on the other hand, makes it quite clear in his Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte that he admired the heroic qualities in Napoleon, but was disappointed that he "forsooth must be a king":
Thine evil deeds are writ in gore,
Nor written thus in vain—
Thy triumphs tell of fame no more,
Or deepen every stain:
If thou hadst died as honour dies,
Some new Napoleon might arise,
To shame the world again—
But who would soar the solar height,
To set in such a starless night?
- To both Shelley and Byron the war represented the efforts of a group of tyrants leagued to defeat one tyrant. The poets' radical stand on the war was based on their accurate assessment that Napoleon's defeat would reinstate a Bourbon regime in France and would, on a Continental scale, retard the establishment of government on the basis of liberty and justice.
- Byron, Shelley, and other young radicals concerned themselves with international as well as national reform. The majority of Britons, however, had endured the privations of many years of war and were far more concerned with conditions at home. The French were seen by the majority of British citizens as the enemy to be defeated and, perhaps, punished. At the root of this enmity one finds not the bloody aftermath of the Revolution and the subsequent tyranny of Napoleon, but the threat of invasion by the French, potential intrusion on the English freedom.
- From the declaration of war on France, the British, through the careful propaganda of the Pitt government, were led to expect invasion by the enemy. This propaganda campaign was undoubtedly waged by the Pitt government to lessen the democratic agitation in Britain by uniting Britons against an enemy threat. A "Letter from DAVID DUNGEON to His COUSIN BILLY PIT" in The Cambridge Intelligencer of September 7, 1793 presents this viewpoint satirically:
Allow me therefore, dear Cousin, to trespass on your well-known modesty, by congratulating you on the success of that scheme by which you fascinated two-thirds of the inhabitants of Britain, and turned the thoughts of the Swinish Multitude,  from grunting threats of Reform and complaints against taxes and oppression, to squeaking vengeance on the French for injuries which they never meant, and for plots into which they never entered.
- The threatened invasion of Britain by the French served as a stimulus to British nationalism at the outbreak of the war, but the threat came to be a very real one. While France was still under the Republic a small band of Frenchmen landed in Ireland. And in July 1796, plans for the invasion of Ireland were drawn up by the French, with the expectation of aid from the rebellious Irish under Wolfe Tone. At the close of the year, a fleet under the command of the French General Hoche actually embarked for Ireland, but turned back due to inclement weather. In 1797, a small band of Frenchmen reached Wales, only to be quickly captured. Not until February, 1798, when Napoleon turned his "Army of England" from Brest towards Egypt, did the British nave any relief from their fear of invasion. However, this proved to be a respite before the last and most alarming threat of all when the Treaty of Amiens failed in 1803.
- Scores of verses appeared with each new sign of invasion and were widely circulated. The repetitive theme of these often satiric verses is the combined threat to King, to God, and to Womanhood. A Word to the Wise is an early example of this popular type of warning verse. Not satisfied with picturing the plight of British women should the French succeed, the author sets up a comparison between French and British women. The former are referred to as "fish wives" and of questionable moral fibre:
But our ladies are virtuous, our ladies
Which is more than they tell us your French-
- In no year during the war were more of these warning verses produced than in 1803 when it was believed invasion was imminent. Wordsworth's response to the threat was Anticipation in which he foresaw a "mighty Victory," where "On British ground the Invaders are laid low." Anticipation was one of hundreds of poems written on the subject, and it was common for journals such as The Gentleman's Magazine to fill poetry columns almost exclusively with war verses throughout 1803. French troops remained on the coast until August 1805, but by 1804 the general alarm had considerably lessened. 
- With the immediacy of invasion gone, there yet remained the possibility of French victory on the Continent, and renewed threat of the domination of Europe by the French. This possibility was just as much a threat to British liberty as the immediate prospect of invasion and poets continued to use the threat to King, God, and Womanhood to keep alive the defence of British liberty until the end of the war.
- Many of those who objected to the war labeled it a "Church and King" enterprise because the clergy of the Church of England, as part of the establishment, failed to take action by speaking out against the war. As Roland Bartel has pointed out in "English Clergymen and Laymen on the Principle of War, 1789-1802":
Judging by publications announced in contemporary journals, the church remained incredibly silent, for the records fail to show a single pulpit declaration against the war during the first four years of the French Revolution when optimism about world peace was at a peak in England. It is true that after England entered the war a few clergymen denounced the evils of war but then it was too late. 
True, The Bishop of London's Opinion on War, published in 1793, laments the fact that "Monarchs dream of universal empire, growing up from universal ruin" but these lines were not written in response to the war. They were extracted from a lengthy prizewinning poem, Death, written when the bishop, Dr. Porteus, had been a student at Cambridge in 1759. Porteus, far from opposing the war, was a staunch anti-Jacobin and preached against the Rights of Man. In general, the Church of England played an active role in supporting the government's policies on war, and clergymen often wrote call-to-arms verses, such as the War Song by the Reverend Richard Mant of Oxford. Disappointment in the church's position was voiced both in satire, such as Impromptu on the Late Fast and in earnest prayer-like poems such as Hymn sung at a meeting of "Friends of Peace and Reform." Most often, those who opposed the war belonged to dissenting religious groups and suffered from limited liberty due to their religious belief. The group which met at Sheffield to observe the official Fast Day during March, 1794 was a group composed of the working class and dissenters. Between five and six thousand persons held an open-air meeting, during which they heard a lecture written by a "labouring mechanic," preceded by a prayer and concluded with the above mentioned Hymn in which they called upon God to:
Make bare thine Arm, great King of Kings!
That Arm alone Salvation brings,
That Wonder-working Arm which broke,
From Israel's Neck th' Egyptian Yoke.
Burst every Dungeon, every Chain;
Give injur'd Slaves their Rights again;
Let TRUTH prevail, let Discord cease;
Speak—and the World shall smile in PEACE! 
- Another important "liberty" which developed during the war years was "Free Trade." Indeed, it was during the Napoleonic Wars that the British commercial interests were converted to the cause of Free Trade. After the destruction of the French fleet at Trafalgar, Napoleon sought to destroy Britain commercially by organizing an economic blockade of the British Isles. In 1806, the Decrees of Berlin prohibited all commerce with Britain and ordered the arrest of British subjects found on French territory as well as the seizure of British vessels and cargoes in Continental waters. More severe decrees followed  in a concentrated attempt to bring the British into submission by destroying them financially. The British reaction to the economic boycott was to seek markets elsewhere; to import from the Far East and from the markets in North and South America. The British also responded to Napoleon's blockade by a tariff policy which attempted to prohibit all neutral countries from trade with France unless their ships put in at an English port and paid a high duty to the English Exchequer; the high duty rate applied to English goods as well. British manufacturers were immediately against this policy, and the government bowed before them and opened to Free Trade a number of German and Italian ports. The restrictions put upon neutrals dealing with France, however, was the chief cause of the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.
- A growing number of poems during this period deal with commerce, linking the protection of trade and commerce to the protection of God and Country. This is strikingly represented in an ode written in 1812 by a clergyman, the Reverend John Black, addressed To the Sons of Britain and America. In bidding an end to the war between Britain and America, the clergyman argues first in terms of the numbers who will die in the fighting. If this argument does not prevail, he warns:
Reflect, how Commerce must decline,
The loom stand still, and Want assail
The many that must starving pine;
And burdens weigh each nation down,
And wild Despair with fury frown.
It is only in the last stanza that the clergyman-poet mentions religion.
- There were those for whom the preoccupation with commerce in Great Britain at this time seemed somewhat of an embarrassment. The author of an article in The Monthly Mirror protested:
The present ruler of France has called Great Britain a nation of shopkeepers; but if it had been his fortune, instead of gathering together unwilling conscripts, to have superintended the voluntary contributions to the MONTHLY MIRROR, we think he would have denominated us a nation of poets. 
Not all protests were so mild and good-humored. John Thelwall felt that Commerce was a "monopolizing fiend" which bred inhumane monsters at home and sent abroad the voice of war "to bellow hideous discord through the World." Blake, too, considered the trade expansion, which was heightened by the Napoleonic Wars, "Fiends of Commerce," which led to war and destruction. Scattered throughout the period are poems which accuse those in power—the Tories—of continuing the war for their own profit. A New Song to an Old Tune pictures Pitt and his circle as conspiring to beat Napoleon in order to raise prices on the stockmarket; the author of an 1813 poem hits at industries supported by the war and war profiteering in his title War the Source of Riches.
- However, the majority of war poems on this theme view commerce as the very heart of British greatness. The well-known jibe of Napoleon, noted by the author of the article in The Monthly Mirror quoted above, "L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers"  had a resounding response in the verse of the day. The verse writers ignored the contempt in Napoleon's statement and, like the author of To Buonaparte, refused to "a charge contradict so extremely correct." Furthermore, many poems, such as The Want, accused Napoleon and the French of using warfare as a means of developing their own commerce and industry.
- Although Napoleon threatened English commerce by his system of embargoes on British goods, he found it necessary to violate his own system. His troops required clothing and boots and in order to supply these wants, Napoleon imported British cloth and leather by way of Hamburg "in perfect safety and at half-price."
- The accelerated growth of industry and the development of commerce was a potentially divisive issue between industrialists and the working-class. A strong effort was made to convince British workers that the Revolution had reduced the amount of liberty held by the French under the monarchy and as the war continued, more and more poetry called upon all classes to join forces in order to defeat their common foe. For example, the 1804 A New Song on the Renewed Threat of Invasion calls upon farmers, artisans, tailors, blacksmiths as well as merchants and bankers—"For, Trade is our Sheet-anchor"—to unite; taking no chances, it also lists "Quaker, Churchman, Presbyterian."
- The universality of this and other call to arms verses represents not so much a political swing towards democracy as a literal call-to-arms to the workingman. In the early years of the war, British troops were commonly gathered through impressment or through a variety of deceitful and devious practices called "crimping." These methods raised a great outcry, and poets wrote of hardships endured both by those kidnapped or otherwise forced into service and by the families of those men. The Tender's Hold Or, Sailor's Complaint was a popular poem on the subject. Wordsworth's Guilt and Sorrow (1793-1794) tells the privations of:
A Sailor he, who many a wretched hour
Hath told; for, landing after labour hard,
Full long endured in hope of just reward,
He to an arméd fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless
'Gainst all that in his heart, or theirs
perhaps, say nay. 
Shelley's The Voyage (1812) concludes with the sailor's return home, only to be impressed again and told:
. . . "oh! your wife
"Died this time year in the House of Industry
"Your young ones all are dead, except one
"Stubborn as you—Parish apprentice now" 
- In 1793, seventy-five per cent of the crews on British vessels consisted of prisoners of war, convicts, etc. forced into service. In 1794, "crimping houses" in Holborn, the City, Clerkenwell, and Shoreditch were wrecked by rioters. As a result of the public condemnation of government recruiting practices, the government found itself caught between the strong position of those who opposed the prevalent unjust methods of conscription and the ever escalating need for men in the British armed forces, particularly the Navy. The solution resolved upon in 1799 and maintained until 1815 was to offer militiamen bounty money to join the regular British forces. This was considered the most feasible approach since compulsory military service was regarded as out of the question at this time.
- Throughout the war period, journals and newspapers published verses in praise of the fighting forces, and considerable anger was aroused when military decisions led to the needless destruction of British troops, as at Walcheren in August 1810. Forty-thousand men sent to the Continent had succeeded in capturing Flushing. Instead of continuing their march towards Antwerp, they remained immobile and plagued by epidemic diseases unrelieved due to lack of provisions, the men perished by the thousands. When, at the end of September, they set sail, they had lost 106 men in battle and 4,000 from disease. The incompetence of the military inspired highly critical poetry, particularly in the Whig press, none more bitter than Leigh Hunt's Walcheren Expedition; Or, the Englishman's Lament for the Loss of His Countrymen and Thomas Clio Rickman's Extempore on the Invasion of Walcheren. The government was so embarrassed by this expedition that they ordered home Peter Finnerty, the Irish radical journalist, to whom they had granted permission to report on the expedition for The Morning Chronicle.
- British poetry of the war years demanded liberty and justice not only for themselves but for British allies and neutral nations as well. When the British fleet attacked neutral Denmark in September 1807, many poems appeared deprecating a war policy which led to the deaths of more than two thousand Danish citizens. The Morning Chronicle published Ode On the Big-Endiuns in 1807, Song on the New Affair of Copenhagen, and A Danish Tale in 1808, the last a parody of Southey's The Battle of Blenheim. Burton R. Pollin notes that Southey in private correspondence considered the act an atrocity, whereas Coleridge defended the attack in The Friend. Another poet to respond in the negative was the youthful Shelley, whose Fragment of a Poem the original idea of which was suggested by the cowardly and infamous bombardment of Copenhagen  leaves no doubt of the author's anguish and his contempt for British war policy.
- Even greater was the outcry against the "Convention of Cintra" of August 1808. In March 1808 Spain was invaded by the French under the guise of protecting the coast from the British. The Spanish monarchs, first Charles IV and then his son Ferdinand, abdicated, and Napoleon placed his brother Joseph on the throne. This resulted in a general uprising against the French on the part of the Spanish people, and Britain entered the fray on the side of Spain. The British, commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley (who had also participated in the attack on Copenhagen), defeated the French at Vimeiro, Portugal. Instead of continuing the war to a complete rout, Wellesley's superior, Sir Hew Dalrymple, agreed to permit the defeated French General Jurot and his troops not only to leave unmolested, but also to carry with them booty as well as supplies. This led to cries of outrage in England,  with the strongest protest appearing in the Whig press. The Morning Chronicle published scores of poems on the events in Portugal many of which, like Catch,  are angry satires which hold Wellesley and Dalrymple as well as the entire ministry responsible. Catch is written in the form of a song with each verse attributed to the People, Sir Arthur, Sir Hew, and the Ministers. The People conclude:
We heed you not a feather;
You're drivellers altogether!
And we'll hang you altogether up; yes, you,
Sirs, and you!
There are also poetic expressions of sorrow and disappointment at the events surrounding Cintra, such as the simply-worded, ballad-like An Imitation:
There, sharing one destiny
Under a nameless stone,
Let the Knights Cintra, three,
Mingle their dust alone.
Shame and dishonour sit,
By their graves ever,
Blessings shall hollow it—
The Courier, although a strong Tory supporter in 1808, also criticized the Convention, much to the surprise of the ministry.
- Byron expressed his view of the Convention of Cintra in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published in 1812:
And ever since that martial synod met,
Britannia sickens, Cintra! at thy name;
And folks in office at the mention fret,
And fain would blush, if blush they could,
How will posterity the deed proclaim!
Will not our own and fellow-nations sneer,
To view these champions cheated of their
By foes in flight o'erthrown, yet victors
Where Scorn her finger points through many
a coming year?
(Canto I, xxxvi)
But perhaps the most famous protest, although not well known to readers in its day,  is Wordsworth's pamphlet Concerning the Convention of Cintra. Wordsworth and Coleridge were by then firm supporters of the war against France. The pamphlet, which Coleridge helped write and which Thomas De Quincey saw through the press, regarded the treatment accorded the French troops as unnecessarily kind and detrimental to Spanish and Portuguese nationalism. It suggested that the national feeling of these peoples had to be aroused in order to defeat Napoleon. Thus, Wordsworth and Coleridge who, at the beginning of their careers, had been considered radicals for their pro-revolutionary, anti-war position had become advocates and advisors on methods of waging war.
- During the war years the question, in the British press, of any single nation's love of liberty seems almost always to have been decided by that nation's fighting allegiance at the moment, for the period was marked by shifting alliances and separate peace treaties. For example, in 1796-97, Britain sent the Earl of Malmesbury to Lillie to negotiate since its allies Prussia and Austria had already signed treaties with France. Hostilities between Britain and France were initially somewhat diminished, and poems appeared hailing an impending peace. The failure of the negotiations, however, engendered not only an ever-increasing militancy against France; it also evoked hostility towards Austria and Prussia which was voiced in poetry until 1798, at which time an alliance was concluded between Russia and Great Britain to which Austria, Naples, Portugal, and the Ottoman Eire were parties.
- To understand the various attitudes of British poetry towards Spain, it is necessary to trace Spain's shifting alliances during the war years.
- At war with France from 1793, Spain was defeated and signed a peace treaty in April 1795; in August 1796 Spain became an ally of France. Until the 1808 uprising of the Spanish against the French and the ensuing Peninsular War in which Britain and Spain were allied, Spain was depicted in British poetry as a land governed by a tyrannic monarch and a repressive, corrupt church. After 1808, however, Spain is treated in numerous poems as a nation which defends liberty. This attitude seems to continue throughout the remaining war years, although the end of the war in Spain brought back the Bourbon regime and the Inquisition.
- Towards the end of war, a number of poems deal with the continuation of the slave trade in Spain and Portugal,  suggesting that nations which seek their own freedom should support freedom for others.
- The British ideal of justice occasionally found voice even in the manner of treatment of Napoleon and the French after their defeat. In contrast to the many poems of celebration, there were some like the Epistle from Tom Cribb to Big Ben  which dealt with the problem of a conqueror's peace and the effect it would have not only on France but on all Europe. However, towards the end of the war it was the unusual poem which expressed dismay at the thought of reinstating the Bourbons in France. Napoleon had become synonymous with tyranny to the British, and he is the principal object of attack in poem after poem. If mercy towards the French is suggested, it is usually after the poet carefully differentiates between the people of France and their leader. When Byron's dramatic monologue Napoleon's Farewell was published in The Examiner, the editors took the precaution of appending the following explanatory note:
We scarcely need remind our readers, that there are points in the following spirited Lines, with which our opinions do not accord; and indeed the Author himself has told us, that he rather adapted them to what may be considered as the speaker's feelings, than his own.
The poem is unusually sympathetic to Napoleon, "The last single Captive to millions in war":
Farewell to thee, France! when thy diadem
I made thee the gem and the wonder of earth,—
But thy weakness decrees I should leave as I
Decay'd in thy glory, and sunk in thy worth.
Oh! for the veteran hearts that were wasted
In strife with the storm, when their battles
Then the Eagle, whose gaze in that moment
Had still soar'd with eyes fix'd on victory's
- The explanatory note is consistent with The Examiner's view of the war and Napoleon. Although the paper, begun in 1808, was considered liberal in the sense that it was an outspoken medium for criticism of maladministration in Britain, it was firmly committed from its inception to the defeat of Napoleon.
- The final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo made the continental monarchs more powerful than before the Revolution. The Ancien Regime under Louis XVIII was restored in France, a Bourbon was again on the Spanish throne, and Napoleon was to spend his days in closely guarded exile on the island of Saint Helena. While British poets jubilantly celebrated the victory and the end of the war, there is also an air of exhaustion in the poetry. Certainly one reason for this was the disappointment and dismay at the failure of the first Treaty of Paris of May 1814. "The Hundred Days" in which Napoleon again waged war forced Britain to reassemble her armies; the long-awaited peace had lasted only until March 1815 and Britain was again at war. After Waterloo, the exile imposed on Napoleon seemed to secure the peace. Wordsworth's 1815 Ode suggests that the victory at Waterloo was not sustained because praise was given to men for that victory and not to God:
To THEE—To THEE,
Just God of christianised Humanity,
Shall praises be poured forth, and thanks
That Thou has brought our warfare to an end,
And that we need no second victory! 
- However joyful the British were, there was still the recognition on the part of this nation which cherished its ideals of liberty and justice that these ideals were, at least at that time, restricted to their own nation. Among the Whigs and the radicals there was an uneasiness because Britain had joined Prussia, Austria, and Russia in the Quadruple Alliance to prevent further violations of the Treaty of Paris.
- Britons had looked forward to the end of the war for alleviation of economic hardships—the high cost of food and the high income tax particularly. Instead, an economic depression followed. Thousands were out of work, and there was agitation in proportions unknown in Britain before. If the ideals of British liberty and justice—the ideals also of the French Revolution—seemed to have lost hold on the Continent, in Britain they found new support. The end of the war signified the beginning of an unflagging struggle by the working and middle classes for liberty and justice, a struggle which was to continue throughout the nineteenth century.
IV. War Poetry and Romanticism
- The Lyrical Ballads, published anonymously by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798, have long been considered the demarcation line which divides the "romantic age" from the "age of sensibility" as well as from the earlier "Augustan age." In recent years, attempts have been made to reconsider the position and influence of the Lyrical Ballads arising from a natural uneasiness about assigning the beginning of any literary movement to a pinpoint in time. Critics, such as Mary Moorman in her biography of Wordsworth and Emile Legouis in "Some Remarks on the Composition of the Lyrical Ballads of 1798," have noted but not underscored the fact that the ballad was a popular poetic mode of the day prior to the composition of the Lyrical Ballads. The significant study by Robert Mayo on the question of the originality of the Lyrical Ballads, which contains a variety of forms including ballad, ode, and blank verse, buttresses its argument that they were neither revolutionary in form nor in content by citing lists of similar poems selected from several periodicals of the 1790's. Mayo's study is confined to the ten year period before the Lyrical Ballads, and does not consider the multitude of ballad-like verse written after 1798. Nor does he treat the content of the ballads that appeared in periodicals beyond their similarity to the Lyrical Ballads.
- A study of British periodicals from 1789 through 1815 makes it readily apparent that the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars were a major topic and inspiration for poetry not only for the nine years preceding the Lyrical Ballads but for the sixteen war years that followed. The question which arises from this nexus of poetry and war centers on the role of the war poetry in the development of romanticism.
- Due to the duration of hostilities, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and their contemporaries had the experience of contributing to a movement which in turn circled back and influenced them. It is not simply that the Ballads had been anticipated by earlier newspaper and periodical verse, but that the Ballads themselves are part of a larger movement which developed out of the social and political conditions of the period.
- To begin with, it is essential to understand what was meant by the term "ballad" during the 1790's. Charles Ryskamp points out that the word carried a far broader definition than is generally realized; that, in fact, "ballad" was then synonymous with "song":
Under "Ballad" in the Encyclopedia Brittanica of 1797 we read only of "a kind of song, adapted to the capacity of the lower class of people; who, being mightily taken with this species of poetry, are thereby not a little influenced in the conduct of their lives. Hence we find, that seditious and designing men never fail to spread ballads among the people, with a view to gain then over to their side."
To this definition add the words of Wordsworth and Coleridge in their Advertisement published with the 1798 edition of the Ballads:
The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure.
Note that the experiment consists not in "if" middle and lower class conversational language is suited to poetic expression but, rather, "how far" it is suited. The reason for this is evident to anyone who reads the journals and periodicals of the 1790's. Experimentation with every-day language was commonplace; variations on the ballad, blank-verse, and the ode were commonplace. Because of the impact of the Revolution and the subsequent wars, it is not surprising to find that war is central to the many variations in form and language. Indeed, the incorporation of everyday speech patterns stems at least in part from the plethora of nationalistic war ballads and odes that were addressed to the middle and working classes. Furthermore, the favored subjects of the period—the beggar, the orphan, the widow, the sailor and soldier and veteran, the country cottage—were largely derived from the war experience.
- The French Revolution and the romantic era are alike not in their suddenness but in their elemental democracy. Signs of discontent in France were recognized for years before the overthrow of the Bastille and, as the war poetry in this edition indicates, signs of romanticism were quite apparent during the decade preceding the Lyrical Ballads. Romantic literature was essentially an evolutionary not a revolutionary process. Its roots are found in the rejection of the heroic couplet of Pope and Johnson by poets of the second half of the eighteenth century. A cursory look at the period recalls Macpherson's Poems of Ossian (1762-63), Hurd's Letters of Chivalry and Romance (1765), Chatterton's Rowley poems (1777), Cowper's Olney Hymns and The Diverting History of John Gilpin (1782), Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1750) the hymns of Charles and John Wesley which began to appear in 1739 and, perhaps most significantly, Percy's Reliques (1765) and the works of Robert Burns. These and other contemporaries rejected the emphasis on clarity, mimesis, objectivity, balance, and the aristocratic in favor of ambiguity, subjectivity, the exotic, the simple, and the sentimental. The seemingly antithetical turn to both the exotic and the simple is explicable when evaluated in terms of their equi-distance from neo-classical aristocratic standards and topics of poetry.
- The period of English literature that spanned the latter half of the eighteenth century is generically referred to as "the age of sensibility" or "the age of sentiment." Used as such, the terms are synonymous; they refer to an age that relied on the senses as the means of perceiving all knowledge. This belief in the "quickness and acuteness of apprehension or feeling"  was supported by the theory that people are innately good, and, if not led astray by "bad education, false religion, or faulty social institutions,"  their own senses would lead them to a state of perfect understanding. This perfect understanding would naturally develop sympathetic feelings towards the problems of fellow creatures, and the result is that the ideal human being would feel, weep, and be charitable.
- Along with the utilitarian aspect of this extension of brotherhood (and wealth), which was based on Locke and was developed early in the century in the teachings of Collier and Shaftsbury, there developed the need to instruct the "new man," that is, the then-evolving bourgeoisie and trade-aristocracy, how to "properly feel." One outgrowth of the notion of "proper feelings" was sentimentalism in its modern, pejorative sense: "an overindulgence in emotion, especially the conscious effort to induce emotion in order to analyze or enjoy it." Thus, the term "sentimentality" applied to the eighteenth-century refers to a range of emotions, from realistic benevolence to romantic titillation. However, underlying the variable of sentimentalism is a fairly uniform philosophic rationale: the novelists and the poets of the period, including the most sensational, viewed their work as a means of pleasurable moral instruction.
- The war poetry of the last decade of the century had much the same principles operative, but there is a noticeable change in authors and audience. What had begun as a response on the part of the wealthy and well-educated to instruct the middle class in sensibility filtered through to the lower class as well. We have already noted the growth of newspapers and periodicals directed toward the working class in the 1790's. So, too, writing poetry became less the exclusive sphere of the upper strata of society. Although there remained remnants of benevolence in the act, it was not uncommon for the well-educated to "discover" and encourage poets among the working class. James Hogg  was referred to as "The Ettrick Shepherd;" Burns was regarded and celebrated as an unread rustic, a legend that still clings today despite the many scholarly works that disprove it. This collection of war poetry includes selected verses by other members of the working â class, for example William Cunningham, whose poem On the Peace, appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine with a lengthy footnote giving credit to his mentors, the poet T. S. Stott (Hafiz) and the Bishop of Dromore, for encouraging his writing. The footnote reveals that Cunningham's change from loom operator to student in the Diocesan Grammar School was effectuated by the Bishop of Dromore. To the contemporary reader, this note of endorsement carried particular weight for the Bishop of Dromore was Thomas Percy, the one man perhaps most instrumental in introducing the ballad into eighteenth-century literature.
- In 1765 Percy published his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, a collection of ballads dating from before Chaucer to the period of Charles I,  including verses by Scottish poets. Contained in the Reliques are a variety of poetic structures and subject matter. The xaxa four line ballad stanza structure of Chevy Chase  and The Battle of Otterbourne  is dominant in the collection, but also there are other stanza forms such as eight line stanzas which rhyme xaxaxbxb, as in Hardyknute;  three line aaa structures, as in Verses by King Charles I;  six line ababcc verse such as My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is;  the abab quatrain doubled, that is abababab as in Robin and Makyne  and the xaxa quatrain doubled, as in Plain Truth and Blind Ignorance,  as well as any number of other variations in stanza length and rhyme scheme. These variations, and more, are later found in the war poetry. To the Tyrants Infesting France (abab); The Tender's Hold (ababcdcd); [All Hail the Shouting Trumpet] (xaxaxbxb); Poor Tom (xaxa) are a few examples of the many verses which duplicate the variations found in Percy's Reliques. The
significance of the war poetry is not structural innovation, for there were few poets who were truly experimental at this time. Blake is the great exception; however, his poetry did not reach a contemporary audience, and even Blake was influenced by the ballad revival as his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience indicate.
- Percy's Reliques was well-known to the educated eighteenth-century reader, but it was the poetry written in response to the war which was the chief means of popularizing the ballad and its variants. Never before in British literary history had one topic evoked so diverse and so extensive a response. Nor had poetry concerned with one subject ever before reached so wide an audience. Printed in newspapers, magazines, and broadsides, the war verse reached the middle and working classes, and was designed to engage their sentiments and emotions in a language which they could understand. Percy's theory in the Reliques that the Saxon bard, speaking to the people in simple poetic forms, was a powerful political and moral force is applicable to the war poets as well in the sense that the poets, in creating a popular poetry, saw themselves as addressing and educating the populace on a vital national question.
- While many of the poems in the Reliques conform to a generalized description of the ballad as a condensed, objectified narrative containing repetition and elements of the mysterious or the super-natural, there are many works in the collection that do not adhere to this formula. Several of the ballads are personal and use the first-person voice: An Elegy on Henry, Fourth Earl of Northumberland;  The Tower of Doctrine;  The Aged Lover Renounceth Love;  and Jane Shore  all employ the first-person voice and are concerned more with emotional response to events than objective narration of events. Furthermore, the collection contains a number of explicit dialogues, ranging from Plain Truth and Blind Ignorance,  fashioned after the traditional Medieval dialogue, to the dramatic The Nut-Browne Mayd  or the Browningesque A Ballad of Luther, the Pope, a Cardinal, and a Husbandman.
- Just as the war poetry often utilized rhyme schemes derived from Percy, so, too, it duplicated the traditional objectivity of the ballad, as in The Soldier, 1795; the dialogue, Dialogue Betwixt Peace and War, 1799; the first person narrative, The Orphan Sailor-Boy, 1803. While the forms exist in the Reliques and the war poetry alike, there is a notable difference in emphasis. The Reliques offer a majority of objective ballads; the war poetry consists far more of verse written from a personalized and frankly emotional point of view. For example, in Hardyknute, a poem that passed for some years as "ancient" although it may have been written in the early eighteenth century, the plight of the widow is considered in one stanza of a forty-two stanza ballad:
On Norways coast the widowit dame
May wash the rocks with tears,
May lang luik ow'r the shipless seas
Before her mate appears.
Cease, Emma, cease to hope in vain;
Thy lord lyes in the clay;
The valiant Scots nae revers thole
to carry life away.
During the 1793-1815 period, it is far more common for entire poems to treat the experience of the war widow. In The Widow, 1795:
Alternate Hope, alternate Fear,
In NANCY'S constant bosom reign:
In vain she dropp'd the pearly tear—
Hope sooth'd her constant heart in vain:
Her WILLIAM'S fate was told; she heard and
Cast up to Heav'n her eyes—then bow'd and died.
Anna's Complaint, 1795, combines the war widow's sorrow:
On Thanet's rock, beneath whose steep,
Impetuous rolls the foaming deep,
A lowly maid to grief consign'd,
Thus pour'd the sorrow of her mind:
And while her streaming eyes pursue
Of Gallia's cliffs the misty view,
Accurst she cries that guilty shore,
Whence William shall return no more.
Thou, cruel war, what has thou done!
Thro' thee the mother mourns her son,
The orphan joins the widow's cries,
And torn from love—the lover dies.
with anti war-propaganda:
Fair-sounding words my love deceiv'd,
The great ones talk'd, and he believ'd,
That war would fame and treasure bring,
That glory call'd to serve the king.
- A more self-evident quality of the ballads included in Percy's collection (and sometimes overlooked because it is obvious) has to do with poetic diction. The ballad by its very nature employs condensed, concise, and simple diction. As a popular form of verse, the ballad is directed to an oral audience, and the diction of the ballad is close to that of common speech. However, the diction employed by the ballads collected by Percy is antiquarian, that is, the simple speech of an earlier age. The effect of this was to encourage poets in two directions: there were poems which sought to imitate archaic language, such as Imitation of the Ancient Ballad, 1807, and at the same time, an ever-increasing tendency towards simple speech patterns. Certainly the Reliques can be seen as a major influence in the period's turning away from the Latinate diction prescribed by Augustan theorists.
- As the century continued, poets inclined more and more toward the dual standards of archaic and modern common speech. In 1786, a key poetic work appeared that seemed to draw at once on the ancient and the simple—Robert Burn's Kilmarnock poems. Beginning with Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and Robert Fergusson (1750-1774),  the use of the Scottish vernacular had been revived in Scotland. The publication of the Reliques encouraged David Herd, a Scots antiquarian, to publish his excellent collection of Scots ballads The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. Now First Collected in One Body (1769). Burns, inspired by Fergusson's Scots poems,  developed a poetic style that incorporated English grammar and syntax with Scottish and English vocabulary. The impact Burns had on the world of British letters in the last decade of the eighteenth-century was extraordinary and dramatic. His poetry was reprinted in English as well as Scottish periodicals. That he was known and admired by English newspaper readers is demonstrated by Peter Stuart's offer to Burns to become a regular contributor to The Star. Mary Moorman, in discussing Burns and Wordsworth, suggests: "It is almost impossible to overestimate the effect of Burns's poems on Wordsworth." Critics have also traced Burns's influence on Coleridge, Southey, Campbell, and Scott.
- Wordsworth's own testimony to his regard for Burns is expressed in his poem At the Grave of Burns, 1808:
I mourned with thousands, but as one
More deeply grieved, for He was gone
Whose light I hailed when first it shone,
And showed my youth
How Verse may build a princely throne
On humble truth.
Leigh Hunt paid homage to Burns in his Ode to the Memory of Robert Burns which imitates Burns's use of English syntax with Scottish vocabulary:
But in the grave na wealthy scorn
Frowns on the Muse's blushing morn;
Nor fra' her tear-dew'd brow is torn
The wither'd wreath;
That cherish'd by no dews, forlorn,
Shrunk into death!
Yet shouldst thou scorn a hundred deaths,
On Scotia's wild red-blossom'd heaths,
For Burns they weave immortal wreaths;
Fra' ev'ry grove
His lay each ruby lip soft breaths,
That talks o' love!
Adieu, wi' a' thy wood-notes wild,
Thy rural pipe sae sweetly mild,
Thy song that mony a sigh beguil'd
In Sorrow's breast;
Adieu, Misfortune's tuneful child,
Thou'rt gane to rest!
- Burns influenced the well-known poets of the period and the mass of newspaper and periodical verse writers. For example, on February 28, 1804 The Hull Packet, a provincial English newspaper, reported the proceedings of a meeting of Burns's admirers and printed an Ode on the Anniversary of the Birthday of Burns:
While Gaul's martial Demon, inflated with
Of Invasion sends threat after threat o'er the
And the Sons of the Britons with Banners
By Patience heroic astonish the world:
In wielding our arms, and our glasses by
We will spend the convivial hours;
And fir'd by the bold independence of
Wake our social, our patriot powers:
And till the loud roar of the battle shall cease,
Round the chaplet of war wreath the garland
The 1804 Anti-Gallican reprinted a Parody of Burns's For a' that and a' that along with Burns's 1795 The Dumfries Volunteers.
- Burns's influence on his contemporaries was due to his ability to write poetry which all classes of society could read and appreciate and to his never-failing celebration of the spirit of the individual. He was an early supporter of the French Revolution until the French became aggressors. In 1792, in his capacity of exciseman, he had purchased a cannon confiscated from a smuggler and sent it to the French legislative body with an encouraging letter. Burns's reversal of attitude toward the French was consistent with his egalitarian ideals. While his 1795 poem to the Dumfries Volunteers demonstrates his support of the war against France, it is balanced by his well known democratic song, also written in 1795, For a' that and a' that  (based on a Jacobite song of the same title) which sets up a comparison between wealthy men of rank and working men:
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and a' that.
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their
A Man's a Man for a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, and a' that;
The honest man, though e'er saw poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.
- Before the Religues, ballads were considered the products of minor and uneducated poets and had been consigned to special collections of antiquarians. The ballad existed as a verbal tradition, as it still does, and in broadside form, but until Percy, David Herd, and their followers, the ballad, in any of its variations, was not regarded as a serious art form. Burns treated the ballad as a serious art form. His was the outstanding example to his contemporaries and to the following generations of poets who used direct realistic diction and dealt with people and places of a real world. His poetry demonstrated a democratic political attitude in an age of political upheaval and reassessment, an age in which the "rights of man" came to be a vital issue.
- The influence which brought Burns to his poetic as well as political position—and this is to set aside the fact of his great artistic accomplishment—were also operative on other poets of the age. The French Revolution served as a poetic and a political stimulus to a populace firmly entrenched in concepts of a constitutionally limited monarchy which guaranteed its subjects certain rights and liberties, and who were newly re-evaluating their government as it in fact existed. This re-evaluation did not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Britain required a new form of government or that Britain's position in the war was untenable. In fact, the majority of war verse published in newspapers and periodicals supported Britain's fight against France though, as has been noted, the reasons for this stem from government control as well as political attitude.
- Most of the nationalistic war verse imitates one or another variation of ballad structure, for example, Church and King, 1793:
Go, democratic Demons, go!
In France your horrid banquet keep!
Feast on degraded Prelates' woe,
And drink the tears that Monarchs weep!
Chorus.—While Britons still united sing,
Old England's Glory,—Church and King.
"Hark! the loud peal, the thund'ring gun,
"Another glorious field is won,
"Another wreath crowns WELLINGTON,
"And Freedom's sacred cause.
God of my fathers! guide my way
Amidst the Battle's fierce alarms;
Grant me to see, this dreadful day,
The triumph of my Country's arms.
And John Mayne's well-circulated English, Scots, and Irishmen, 1803:
ENGLISH, SCOTS, and IRISHMEN,
All that are in VALOUR'S ken!
Shield your KING; and flock agen
Where his sacred Banners fly!
Now's the day, and now's the hour,
Frenchmen would the Land devour—
Will ye wait till they come o'er
To give ye Chains and Slavery?
- No doubt the haste required in writing topical verse as well as the desire to reach a broad audience contributed to the popular use of the stanza plus refrain pattern. This type of war song, commonly hawked as broadsheets and popularized through newspapers and periodicals to an ever-increasing working and middle-class readership, furthered the idea, however unintentionally, of the place of unadorned speech in verse.
- Since the war verses were written prior to, and after, the Lyrical Ballads, the experiment "to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure" must be understood in terms of an age that produced a multitude of verse written in the language of the middle and working classes. The prevalence of the war verse in the journals of the day may have even contributed to the experimental notion behind the Lyrical Ballads. However, the object of the Ballads was not merely to use simple language, it was to use it in a way that gave "poetic pleasure" whereas the emphasis in much of the war verse was less on poetic pleasure than on political motivation.
- Before the war, an obvious distance is found between the poet and subject in almost all the poetry which dealt with the common man. This is especially true in the popular sentimental poetry of the latter eighteenth century. Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, 1751, presents the rural way of life in almost idyllic terms:
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The poet, however, partakes neither of the "homely joys" nor of the realm of "Grandeur." He recognizes beauty in the simplicity of country-life, but fails to look beyond its apparent calm to the constant struggle for survival which marked the lives of so many of Britain's lower classes. What the poet sees from the country churchyard seems to be those aspects of the "simple" life which might comfort him. Where he is concerned with the actual lives he comments upon, it is in terms of comparison with an urban world which he castigates for its shrines to "Luxury and Pride." George Crabbe (1754-1832) in The Village, 1783, is an exception in the period. He depicts village life as one of hardship and frustration, drawing on the experience of his own life as a member of a poor family in the bleak town of Aldeburgh.
- The poets of the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars brought closer together the experience of the subject of the poetry, the reader, and the poet. The change that occurred cannot be discussed in terms of a movement from the position that the purpose of poetry was "to instruct" towards a position that poetry was "to delight." Much of the war poetry, as well as other poetry of the period, was clearly didactic in purpose. Neither can the change which occurred be demonstrated by dividing pre-war poets from post-war poets in terms of subject matter. Rather, it is primarily the kind and degree of response which differentiated Romanticism from the age which preceded it.
- The change which occurred in poetry was one of intensity combined with a basic discontent for surface appearances. And these were two qualities of the political climate as well. The American colonies had successfully rebelled against Britain; the impoverished French had rebelled against the Bourbons; and in Britain there was growing agitation for government reform by the middle and working classes. The rapidity with which old aristocratic social standards were being questioned brought re-evaluations and demands on all social levels. Poets, stirred by the needs and demands of the common people, began to write in terms of the democratizing spirit of the time. Poetry no longer idealized the condition of the poor but, in a more realistic vein, dealt with the hungry, the weary, the poorly-clothed and housed, the ill.
- Writing in an age which combined a penchant for the sentimental with the desire to treat more realistically the problems of ordinary people, it was natural for poets, particularly those who opposed the war, to focus upon the effects of the hostilities on the working classes. The declaration of war called for an immediate increase in the fighting forces, and methods of impressment and crimping (deceitful recruiting methods) became a poetic topic. The Tender's Hold; Or, Sailor's Complaint, 1794 is only one of many poems which deplored the impressing of seamen:
While Landmen wander uncontrol'd,
And boast the rights of Freemen,
Oh! view the tender's loathsome hold,
Where droop your injur'd Seamen:
Dragg'd by Oppression's savage grasp,
From ev'ry dear connection;
'Midst putrid air, Oh! see them gasp,
Oh! mark their deep dejection.
Blush then, Oh! blush ye pension'd host,
Who wallow in profusion,
For our foul cell proves all your boast
To be but mere delusion.
If Liberty be ours, Oh! say
Why are not all protected;
Why is the hand of ruffian sway
'Gainst Seamen thus directed?
Is this your proof of British rights?
Is this rewarding bravery?
Oh! shame to boast your Tars' exploits,
Yet doom those Tars to slavery.
The 1813 Crimp Serjeant first attacks the heroic image of war:
The bed of honour is a pretty spot,
For heroes to lie down and rot,
And war's a very noble game,
At which Kings play at arms and legs
Of soldiers, who thenceforward walk on pegs,
And Mister CROKER doth such feats proclaim—
So do Crimp Serjeants—'tis their bounden duty
To call grim-visaged carnage, Beauty;
After a narrative in which "poor PAT CLOD" is induced to join the army with lavish promises of rank and honor:
PAT took the shilling, and e'er three
He died in Portugal—a common soldier.
- As has been noted earlier, many poems were written about war widows or lovers parted by war. Quite often, the poems depict a wife or sweetheart searching for her soldier on battle sites, as in The Field of Battle, 1794:
Faintly bray'd the battle's roar,
Distant, down the hollow wind;
Panting terror fled before,
Wounds and death were left behind.
The war-fiend curs'd the sunken day,
That check'd his fierce pursuit too soon;
While, scarcely lighting to the prey,
Low hung, and lour'd, the bloody moon:
The field, so late the hero's pride,
Was now with various carnage spread;
And floated with a crimson tide,
That drench'd the dying and the dead!
The heroine of the poem, Maria, searches for her beloved Edgar and finally finds him "Half buried with the hostile dead,/ And bor'd with many a grisly wound;":
She knew—she sunk—the night-bird scream'd,
The moon withdrew her troubled light,
And left the fair, tho' fall'n she seem'd,
To worse than death—and deepest night!
Shelley's 1809 Henry and Louisa  is written in this vein, with an anti-religious theme added to the anti-war theme. Louisa, too, searches the battlefield:
"Where is my love!—my Henry—is he dead?"
Half-drowned in smothered anguish wildly
From her parched lips—"is my ador'd one
Knows none my Henry? War! thou source
In whose red blood I see these sands immerst,
Hast thou quite whelmed compassion's tear-
Where thy fierce tide rolls to slake Glory's
Finding Henry wounded and dying, Louisa willingly dies with him. Shelley depicts Louisa's death as an act of virtue based on love, and envisions a new anti-despotic movement as the result:
Shall Virtue perish? No;
Superior to Religion's tie,
Emancipate from misery,
Despising self, their souls can know
All the delight love can bestow
When Glory's phantom fades away
Before Affection's purer ray,
When tyrants cease to wield the rod
And slaves to tremble at their nod.
The Story of Henry and Louisa may have been derived from any number of poems which told the same tale, for it was an often used narrative from the outset of the war.
- In the 1795 Thomas and Kitty the widow is not only far from home "on Batavia's sea-beat shore," she has with her an infant who perishes from starvation:
Now, rage ye winds! 'tis but on me,
Pour on, ye rains—Ye thunders, reel!
My baby sleeps too sound to feel.
Drench'd with the rain,
I'll lay me by my Tom once more,
Tho' louder still the tempests roar,
And all the biting blasts sustain.
—Ah me! my shivering, fainting heart!
My Tom! my Tom! we shall not part.
Far from our home, from friends afar,
My Tom, my little babe, and I
Shall rest in one cold bed—Ah! ruthless War!
My heart!—O Heaven!—I faint, I die.
A child who either perishes with its parents as a result of war, or is left an unprotected orphan is yet another much used theme of the war verse. Wordsworth's The Female Vagrant, 1798,  tells the story of another woman who, like "Kitty" and "Maria," is the victim of war:
The pains and plagues that on our heads
Disease and famine, agony and fear,
In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
It would thy brain unsettle even to
All perished—all, in one remorseless
Husband and children! one by one, by
And ravenous plague, all perished:
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance
- The best of the war poetry closed the gap that had existed between poet and subject in eighteenth-century poetry before the French Revolution. Benevolence and condescension were swept aside as genuine interest in the subject matter took precedence over interest in creating a poem-experience which would allow the reader to feel "understanding" and "generous".
- In his 1800 "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,'' Wordsworth declared:
Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and, lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.
Wordsworth made Burns's democratic attitude an official tenet of a poetic creed. The poet as "a man speaking to men"  was a democratic ideal; "to keep the Reader in the company of flesh and blood"  was a poetic ideal. Both ideals give voice to principles underlying the war poetry which dealt compassionately and far more realistically with the common man. Poems like The Soldier 1795 juxtaposed individual conscience and religious fealty with the aims of war:
Tell me now thou gallante soldier,
Now thy lockes with age be hoarie,
Can'st thou praise thy wilde carriere,
Can'st thou call thy madnesse glorie?
To upholde some lordlinge proud,
Or king with curst ambition,
What soule murders hast thou done!
Sweet Christ, give thee contrition.
Amen, amen, thou reverent priest,
Thy Counsaile is most holie;
Thy wordes do teache repentante age,
To curse its manhood's follie.
But doubly curst be kinglie pride,
Makinge erthe one charnel,
Millions of masses dailie sayde
Stay not Hell's payees eternal.
Published in the anti-war Cabinet (1795), this poem vehemently expresses its opposition to war in terms of the responsibility of the individual for his acts, whether he be soldier or king. The romantic tendency to regard nobility not as an inherited condition but rather as an individual quality found in all ranks of society was bolstered by the war poetry which often placed the common man and the nobleman on the same plane.
- To counter the war poetry which emphasized the agonies and deprivations of war and the injustice permitted, even sanctioned by government, an opposite kind of poetry developed. Thousands of call-to-arms verses were written which celebrated the willingness of the common man to join the armed services:
Bob Rusty, who ne'er a rupee got
(He roundly swears that he ought not,)
Is in his hammock pent.
Safe moor'd, he hugs his swinging-bed,
Without a rag to bind his head,
Bob's night cap is CONTENT.
The heroism of the common man in battle:
From the main-deck to the quarter,
Strew'd with limbs and wet with blood,
Poor Tom Halliard, pale and wounded,
Crawl'd where his brave Captain stood.
"O, my noble Captain! tell me
Ere I'm borne a corpse away,
Have I done a Seaman's duty
On this great and glorious day?
"Tell a dying Sailor truly,
For my life is fleeting fast;
Have I done a Seaman's duty?
Can there aught my mem'ry blast?"
"Ah! brave Tom!" the Captain answer'd,
"Thou a Sailor's part hast done!
I revere thy wounds with sorrow—
Wounds by which our glory's won."
And the willing sacrifice of the working classes to defend their rights and property:
Because I'm but poor,
And slender my store,
That I've nothing to lose is the cry;
Let who will declare it,
I vow I can't bear it,
I give all such praters the lie.
Tho' my house is but small,
Yet to have none at all,
Would sure be a greater distress, Sir;
â Shall my garden so sweet,
And my orchard so neat,
Be the pride of a foreign oppressor?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Now do but reflect,
What I have to protect;
Then doubt if to fight I shall choose—
King, Church, Babes and Wife,
Laws, Liberty, Life,—
Now tell me I've nothing to lose. 
- To a large extent, the image of the common man presented in these verses is fictional. The common soldier generally had no property, and it was property which determined the right to vote. The object of many of these verses was to gain allegiance to the government's war policy (and so induce men to join the services) and generally to keep the war spirit of the populace at a pitch sufficient to offset the deprivations and suffering caused by the war.
- These poems, however, had an effect quite apart from what was intended. In their effort to enhance the role of the common man as soldier and citizen, they glorified the image of the individual as much as did the anti-war poetry. The epithets once reserved only for officers of the army and navy were applied to ordinary fighting men. They were ennobled not only in their military role, but given credit for excellent, albeit rough, intelligence, and sensitivity as well. In The British Soldier, 1813 for example, a soldier, having disobeyed his officer's command to shoot an enemy officer, argues:
"Chide not my chief, the gallant soldier
"Knit not your brows, oh cast that frown
"Your wishes to my feelings sacrifice,
"Nor harshly judge me if I disobey.
"Oh, I have seen the day when thousands
"Have join'd in th' inspiring battle cry;
"These scars, more eloquent than words,
"I did my part towards the victory.
"Then pardon, chieftain, if this once
"Refuse performing the too harsh decree;
"Oh pardon then, and in my feelings share,
"Unsoldier like I am, unchristian cannot
The officer perceives "beneath a rough war-beaten form,/ Nature's affections, and best virtue lie," and so he "could not punish, where reward was due."
- Ironically, the result of the effort to ennoble the position of the fighting man was less to bind him to notions of status quo, that is servitude and obedience without question, then to further democratize the working and middle classes. If the ordinary man demonstrated the capacity to respond intelligently and bravely in the defence of his nation why then might not the same ordinary man have a voice in government and a greater share of the national wealth.
- The war poetry, then, is an extensive body of verse which deals compassionately and sympathetically with the common man. The lyricism, emotionalism, simplicity of language and subject matter are the basic elements of Romanticism. This is true of war poetry both before and after the Lyrical Ballads and Wordsworth and Coleridge can be placed within this larger poetic movement.
- The many varieties of war verses are, to a great extent, imitations within the Percy-Burns ballad revival. The poets of the Lyrical Ballads, however, broke through what might have become a static poetic mode. They re-shaped and re-directed the qualities found in the war poetry in a way which evoked in the reader the emotional as well as the intellectual experience of the poem. Wordsworth and Coleridge, Shelley and Byron celebrated the individuality of the common man, but it was the popular war poetry that, for the first time in British literary history, put the common man center-stage.
New Bibliography of Additional War Poems
3. VII (1812), 249-251. Edmund Blunden in Leigh Hunt's "Examiner" Examined (New York and London, 1928), p. 13, also identified Hunt as the author of the poem, but notes it was not included in H. S. Milford's edition of Hunt's poetry.
I. BRITISH POETS AND THE WAR BETWEEN BRITAIN AND FRANCE
5. The Scots Magazine, LI (August, 1789), 399; The Gentleman's Magazine (August, 1789), 743; The European Magazine (September, 1789), 315; The Morning Chronicle, September 2, 1789; The Universal Magazine, LXXXV (September, 1789), 155; The Gentleman's and London Magazine (October, 1789), 552.
19. In the New Poet Laureate, Examiner, January 22, 1814. The Examiner of January 16, 1814 contained Southey's New Year's Ode with a parody by Hunt in which the line occurs: "Joy,—for all poets, joy!—who turn their coats."
25. James Asperne also published the European Magazine and London Review. Donald H. Reiman, in the RomanticsReviewed, (New York and London, 1972) II, 501, points out that Asperne's sign was "the Bible, Crown, and Constitution" which indicated the booksellers political stance.
36. Morning Post, September 6, 1799. The poem was later retitled The Devil's Walk. See Poems of S. T. Coleridge, pp. 319-320 n.
37. The Complete Poetical Works of Shelley, ed. George E. Woodberry (Boston, 1901), pp. 570-572.
II. POLITICS AND POETRY
2. The Irish term "Tory" suggested a Papist outlaw and was applied to those who supported the hereditary right of James despite his Roman Catholic faith. The Scots Gaelic term "Whig" was used of cattle and horse thieves and eventually connoted rebellion and Presbyterianism. It was applied to those who wished to exclude James from the throne.
5. For example, many of those who sympathized with France altered their position after the French invasion of neutral Switzerland in 1798. This did not mean, however, that they then supported the Pitt government.
9. Reflections on the Present War, by W. W. Deacon.
13. This group, composed of artisans and weavers, was led by Alexander Kilham. See J. Blackwell, Life of Alexander Kilham (London, 1838), p. 339 ff. for a discussion of the group's political activities.
18. Aspinall, p. 88; Fox Bourne, I, 274-275. It has been alleged that Street was in the pay of the Perceval government and that he changed the Courier's political stance without the knowledge of Stuart. There seems to be little evidence for this, since there are letters by Stuart priding himself on the management of the two papers, and the political influence he was able to exert through them. Fox Bourne, I, 275-276.
19. The Prince Regent, who became George IV in 1820, was given an independent income upon coming of age in 1783; Parliament also voted him funds to pay his debts and build Carlton House, where he entertained Whig society.
21. Fox Bourne, I, 273. Stuart's brother-in-law, James Mackintosh had been honorary secretary of the Society of Friends to the People, started in 1792 to carry on agitation against the policies of the Pitt government. Among the Society's members were Erskine, Sheridan, Grey, Tierney, Lauderdale, Whitbread, and other leading Whigs. In 1795 Mackintosh became Stuart's leading collaborator on the Morning Post.
III. THE FIGHT FOR "LIBERTY" AND "JUSTICE"
1. The anti-Jewish riots of 1753 had resulted in the Cabinet of Lord Hardwicke repealing the statute which gave the right of naturalization to Jews; the result of the riots against the government in 1768 was Wilkes's triumph over the opposition of the Court and the Cabinet. In 1780 anti-Catholic riots resulted in a four day uncontrollable pillage of London. See Elie Halévy, A History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century, I, England in 1815, trans. E. I. Watkin and D. A. Barker (New York, 1961), 148-152.
5. "Cockades and the liberty of huzzaing were things which every Englishman admired; they contributed to give him an idea of the rights he enjoyed and on the possession of which he prided himse1f." Courtenay's speech, H. of C., March 21, 1806, Parliamentary Debates, VI, 516-517.
18. In his Reflections on the Revolution in France Burke referred to the unlettered populace as the "swinish multitude," a phrase which was adopted and used ironically by defenders of egalitarian ideals. See Roland Bartel, "Shelley and Burke's Swinish Multitude," RSJ, XVIII (1969), 4-9; also, Carl Woodring, Politics in English Romantic Poetry (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), pp. 269-272.
31. This phrase is based on Adam Smith's lines in An Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannon (New York, 1937), p. 579. "To found a great empire for he sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers."
32. Halévy, I, 313. The Warning Drum, p.ll. English war profiteers also sent goods to Denmark and from there they were smuggled over the frontier. Napoleon frequently allowed importation of British goods at a high duty to build up his treasury.
43. Wellesley was awarded the title Viscount Wellington in September 1809 for withstanding the French at Talavera, a battle which finally protected Portugal from the French. In July, 1812, he was made Duke of Wellington for his services in Spain.
47. Wordsworth published about one-seventh of the finished pamphlet in the Courier on Dec. 27, 1808 and Jan. 13, 1809. The final version was not published until June, 1809, and the edition of 500 copies did not sell well. See Moorman, The Later Years, 140. Contemporary reviews appeared in the British Critic, 34 (September, 1809), the Eclectic Review, 5 (August, 1809), and the London Review, 2 (November, 1809). These reviews are included in the Romantics Reviewed, ed. Donald H. Reiman (New York and London; 1972).
49. Prussia was defeated and signed the Treaty of Basel with France in March 1795; Austria, also defeated, agreed to the preliminary Peace of Leoben in April 1797 which was finalized the following October by the Treaty of Campo Formio.
IV. WAR POETRY AND ROMANTICISM
17. Erdman, Prophet Against Empire, pp. 32-33. "Other Antiquaries, busy recovering neglected folksong and 'antique' poetry, brought live coals of inspiration to Blake. His first and later poems owe much to the antiquarian Bishop Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, an anthology begun in 1765 and augmented in 1775 with express indebtedness to the rich library of the Antiquary Society. In Blake's elevated conception of bardic power we can see the influence of Percy's thesis, hotly debated in the society, that Saxon minstrels and other ancient poets enjoyed tremendous political and moral eminence." See also: Margaret R. Lowery, Windows of the Morning (New Haven, 1940), pp. 160f.
25. Reliques, I, 356. In a footnote, Percy explains that the poem was written by a Mrs. Wardlaw "within the present century." However, he also cites evidence that implies Mrs. Wardlaw may have "retouched" and much enlarged what was indeed an old ballad.
27. In 1776 this work appeared in a revised, two-volume edition which excelled the original. See John Butt, "The Revival of Vernacular Scottish Poetry in the Eighteenth Century," From Sensibility to Romanticism, pp. 224-225.
36. Walter Scott wrote a patriotic song in 1814 based on this tune entitled For A' That an A' That. While the rhyme scheme and refrain are retained, the sentiments differ considerably.
43. Soldier BOB RUSTY'S Night Cap, 1797.
44. Poor Tom, 1798.
Published @ RC
- British war poetry
- historical and political contexts of poetry
- effects of war on the common man
- Betty T. Bennett
- Romantic-era periodicals and newspapers
- radical and conservative attitudes towards the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
- Marie Antoinette
- fear of invasion
- popular culture and literary Romanticism
- male and female poets
- poetry published anonymously
- subjectivity in poetry
- satire in poetry
- religious belief in poetry