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Archive for October, 2016

William Wordsworth: Proclaimed heroes for strewing meadows with carcasses

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

William Wordsworth: Selections on peace and war

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William Wordsworth
From The Borderers

…we hear
Of towns in flames, fields ravaged, young and old
Driven out in troops to want and nakedness;
Then grasp our swords and rush upon a cure
That flatters us, because it asks not thought:
The deeper malady is better hid;
The world is poisoned at the heart.

***

One a King,
General or Cham, Sultan or Emperor,
Strews twenty acres of good meadow-ground
With carcases, in lineament and shape
And substance, nothing differing from his own,
But that they cannot stand up of themselves
Another sits i’ th’ sun, and by the hour
Floats kingcups in the brook – a Hero one
We call, and scorn the other as Time’s spendthrift…

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Charles Lamb: More-wasting War, insatiable of blood

October 21, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

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Charles Lamb

From Mille Viae Mortis

Here pallid Fear & dark Despair were seen.
And Fever here with looks forever lean,
Swoln Dropsy, halting Gout, profuse of woes,
And Madness fierce & hopeless of repose,
Wide-wasting Plague; but chief in honour stood
More-wasting War, insatiable of blood;
With starting eye-balls, eager for the word;
Already brandish’d was the glitt’ring sword.

From A Ballad:
Noting the Difference of Rich and Poor, in the Ways of a Rich Noble’s Palace and a Poor Workhouse

In peace, as in war, ’tis our young gallants’ pride,
To walk, each one i’ the streets, with a rapier by his side,
That none to do them injury may have pretence;
Wretched Age, in poverty, must brook offence.

From On An Infant Dying As Soon As Born

Why should kings and nobles have
Pictured trophies to their grave;
And we, churls, to thee deny
Thy pretty toys with thee to lie,
A more harmless vanity?

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John Keats: The fierce intoxicating tones of trumpets, drums and cannon

October 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Keats: Days innocent of scathing war

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John Keats
From Endymion

There are who lord it o’er their fellow-men
With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
Their baaing vanities, to browse away
The comfortable green and juicy hay
From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack’d
Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
Our gold and ripe-ear’d hopes. With not one tinge
Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
Able to face an owl’s, they still are dight
By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
To their spirit’s perch, their being’s high account,
Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones –
Amid the fierce intoxicating tones
Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour’d drums,
And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone –
Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks. –
Are then regalities all gilded masks?

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Robert Burns: Peace, thy olive wand extend and bid wild War his ravage end

October 13, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burns: I hate murder by flood or field

Robert Burns: Wars, the plagues of human life

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Robert Burns
From On the Seas and Far Away

Peace, thy olive wand extend,
And bid wild War his ravage end,
Man with brother Man to meet,
And as a brother kindly greet;
Then may heav’n with prosperous gales,
Fill my sailor’s welcome sails;
To my arms their charge convey,
My dear lad that’s far away.
On the seas and far away,
On stormy seas and far away;
To my arms their charge convey,
My dear lad that’s far away.

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Alexander Pope: War, horrid war, your thoughtful walks invades

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Alexander Pope: Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend

Alexander Pope: Where Peace scatters blessings from her dovelike 

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Alexander Pope

From Two Choruses to the Tragedy of Brutus

Ye shades, where sacred truth is sought,
Groves, where immortal sages taught,
Where heav’nly visions Plato fired,
And Epicurus lay inspired!
In vain your guiltless laurels stood
Unspotted long with human blood.
War, horrid war, your thoughtful walks invades,
And steel now glitters in the Muses’ shades.

***

From The Temple of Fame

Straight the black clarion sends a horrid sound,
Loud laughs burst out, and bitter scoffs fly round,
Whispers are heard, with taunts reviling loud,
And scornful hisses run thro’ the crowd.
Last, those who boast of mighty mischiefs done,
Enslave their country, or usurp a throne;
Or who their glory’s dire foundation lay’d
On Sov’reigns ruin’d, or on friends betray’d;
Calm, thinking villains, whom no faith could fix,
Of crooked counsels and dark politics;
Of these a gloomy tribe surround the throne,
And beg to make th’ immortal treasons known.
The trumpet roars, long flaky flames expire,
With sparks, that seem’d to set the world on fire.
At the dread sound, pale mortals stood aghast,
And startled nature trembled with the blast.

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Robert Burns: I hate murder by flood or field

October 9, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burns: Peace, thy olive wand extend and bid wild War his ravage end

Robert Burns: Wars, the plagues of human life

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Robert Burns
From I Murder Hate

I murder hate by flood or field,
Tho’ glory’s name may screen us;
In wars at home I’ll spend my blood –
Life-giving wars of Venus.
The deities that I adore
Are social Peace and Plenty;
I’m better pleas’d to make one more,
Than be the death of twenty.

***

Thanksgiving for a National Victory

Ye hypocrites! are these your pranks?
To murder men and give God thanks!
Desist, for shame! – proceed no further;
God won’t accept your thanks for Murther!

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Thomas Hood: Freelance soldiering

October 8, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hood: As gentle as sweet heaven’s dew beside the red and horrid drops of war

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Thomas Hood
From A Waterloo Ballad

“With kicks and cuts, and balls and blows,
I throb and ache all over;
I’m quite convinc’d the field of Mars
Is not a field of clover!

“O why did I a soldier turn
For any royal Guelph?
I might have been a Butcher, and
In business for myself!”

***

From Ode to Richard Martin

How many sing of wars,
Of Greek and Trojan jars –
The butcheries of men!
The Muse hath a “Perpetual Ruby Pen!”
Dabbling with heroes and the blood they spill;
But no one sings the man
That, like a pelican,
Nourishes Pity with his tender Bill!

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Thomas Campbell: Selections on peace and war

October 7, 2016 Leave a comment
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Robert Burns: Wars, the plagues of human life

October 6, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Robert Burns: I hate murder by flood or field

Robert Burns: Peace, thy olive wand extend and bid wild War his ravage end

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Robert Burns
From Nature’s Law – A Poem

Let other heroes boast their scars,
The marks of sturt and strife:
And other poets sing of wars,
The plagues of human life:

Shame fa’ the fun, wi’ sword and gun
To slap mankind like lumber!
I sing his name, and nobler fame,
Wha multiplies our number.

Ye Powers of peace, and peaceful song,
Look down with gracious eyes;
And bless auld Coila, large and long,
With multiplying joys;
Lang may she stand to prop the land,
The flow’r of ancient nations;
And Burnses spring, her fame to sing,
To endless generations!

***

From A Winter Night

“Blow, blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!
And freeze, thou bitter-biting frost!
Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows!
Not all your rage, as now united, shows
More hard unkindness unrelenting,
Vengeful malice unrepenting.
Than heaven-illumin’d Man on brother Man bestows!

“See stern Oppression’s iron grip,
Or mad Ambition’s gory hand,
Sending, like blood-hounds from the slip,
Woe, Want, and Murder o’er a land!
Ev’n in the peaceful rural vale,
Truth, weeping, tells the mournful tale,
How pamper’d Luxury, Flatt’ry by her side,
The parasite empoisoning her ear,
With all the servile wretches in the rear,
Looks o’er proud Property, extended wide;
And eyes the simple, rustic hind,
Whose toil upholds the glitt’ring show-
A creature of another kind,
Some coarser substance, unrefin’d –
Plac’d for her lordly use thus far, thus vile, below!

***

From Castle Gordon

Spicy forests, ever gray,
Shading from the burning ray
Hapless wretches sold to toil;
Or the ruthless native’s way,
Bent on slaughter, blood, and spoil:
Woods that ever verdant wave,
I leave the tyrant and the slave;
Give me the groves that lofty brave
The storms by Castle Gordon.

***

From On Scaring Some Water-Fowl In Loch-Turit

Conscious, blushing for our race,
Soon, too soon, your fears I trace,
Man, your proud, usurping foe,
Would be lord of all below:
Plumes himself in freedom’s pride,
Tyrant stern to all beside.

The eagle, from the cliffy brow,
Marking you his prey below,
In his breast no pity dwells,
Strong necessity compels:
But Man, to whom alone is giv’n
A ray direct from pitying Heav’n,
Glories in his heart humane-
And creatures for his pleasure slain!

In these savage, liquid plains,
Only known to wand’ring swains,
Where the mossy riv’let strays,
Far from human haunts and ways;
All on Nature you depend,
And life’s poor season peaceful spend.

Or, if man’s superior might
Dare invade your native right,
On the lofty ether borne,
Man with all his pow’rs you scorn;
Swiftly seek, on clanging wings,
Other lakes and other springs;
And the foe you cannot brave,
Scorn at least to be his slave.

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Thomas Campbell: Men will weep for him when many a guilty martial fame is dim

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campbell: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Campbell

From The Cherubs

On wings outspeeding mail or post,
Our sprites o’ertook the Imperial host;
In massacres it wallowed:
A noble nation met its hordes,
And broken fell their cause and swords,
Unfortunate, though hallowed.

They saw a late bombarded town,
It streets still warm with blood ran down;
Still smoked each burning rafter;
And hideously, ‘midst rape and sack,
The murderer’s laughter answered back
His prey’s convulsive laughter.

They saw the captive eye the dead,
With envy of his gory bed, –
Death’s quick reward of bravery:
They heard the clank of chains, and then
Saw thirty thousand bleeding men
Dragged manacled to slavery.

“Fie! fie!” the younger heavenly spark
Exclaimed – “we must have missed our mark,
And entered hell’s own portals:
Earth can’t be stained by crimes so black;
Nay, sure, we’ve got among a pack
Of fiends and not of mortals.”

“No,” said the elder; no such thing:
Fiends are not full enough to wring
The necks of one another: –
They know their interests too well:
Men fight; but every devil in hell
Lives friendly with his brother.”

***

From Lines Written In a Blank Leaf of La Perouse’s Voyages

His truth so touched romantic springs of thought,
That all my after-life his fate and fame
Entwined romance with La Perouse’s name. –
Fair were his ships, expert his gallant crews,
And glorious was the emprise of La Perouse, –
Humanely glorious! Men will weep for him,
When many a guilty martial fame is dim:
He ploughed the deep to bind no captive’s chain –
Pursued no repine – strewed no wreck with slain…

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Thomas Hood: As gentle as sweet heaven’s dew beside the red and horrid drops of war

October 4, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Hood: Freelance soldiering

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Thomas Hood
Selections

“Man even strives with Man, but we eschew
The guilty feud, and all fierce strifes abhor;
Nay, we are gentle as the sweet heaven’s dew
Beside the red and horrid drops of war,
Weeping the cruel hates men battle for,
Which worldly bosoms nourish in our spite:
For in the gentle breast we ne’er withdraw,
But only when all love hath taken flight,
And youth’s warm gracious heart is harden’d quite.”

***

“O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Caears with the dust:
Make tombs inscriptionless – raze each high name,
And waste old armors of renown with rust:
Do all of this, and thy revenge is just:
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
And check Ambition’s overweening lust,
That dares exterminating war with Time, –
But we are guiltless of that lofty crime.”

***

Whereas the blade flash’d on the dinted ground,
Down through his steadfast foe, yet made no scar
On that immortal Shade, or death-like wound;
But Time was long benumb’d, and stood a-jar,
And then with baffled rage took flight afar,
To weep his hurt in some Cimmerian gloom,
Or meaner fames (like mine) to mock and mar,
Or sharp his scythe for royal strokes of doom,
Whetting its edge on some old Caesar’s tomb.

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Alexander Pope: Where Peace scatters blessings from her dovelike wing

October 3, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Alexander Pope: Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend

Alexander Pope: War, horrid war, your thoughtful walks invades

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Alexander Pope
From Windsor Forest

‘Hail, sacred Peace! hail, long-expected days,
That Thames’s glory to the stars shall raise!
Tho’ Tiber’s streams immortal Rome behold,
Tho’ foaming Hermus swells with tides of gold,
From Heav’n itself tho’ sev’nfold Nilus flows,
And harvests on a hundred realms bestows;
These now no more shall be the Muse’s themes,
Lost in my fame, as in the sea their streams.
Let Volga’s banks with iron squadrons shine,
And groves of lances glitter on the Rhine;
Let barb’rous Ganges arm a servile train,
Be mine the blessings of a peaceful reign.
No more my sons shall dye with British blood
Red Iber’s sands, or Ister’s foaming flood:
Safe on my shore each unmolested swain
Shall tend the flocks, or reap the bearded grain;
The shady empire shall retain no trace
Of war or blood, but in the sylvan chase;
The trumpet sleep, while cheerful horns are blown,
And arms employ’d on birds and beasts alone.
Behold! th’ ascending villas on my side
Project long shadows o’er the crystal tide;
Behold! Augusta’s glitt’ring spires increase,
And temples rise, the beauteous works of Peace.’

***

‘O stretch thy reign, fair Peace! from shore to shore,
Till conquest cease, and slavery be no more;
Till the freed Indians in their native groves
Reap their own fruits, and woo their sable loves;
Peru once more a race of kings behold,
And other Mexicos be roof’d with gold.
Exiled by thee from earth to deepest Hell,
In brazen bonds shall barb’rous Discord dwell:
Gigantic Pride, pale Terror, gloomy Care,
And mad Ambition shall attend her there:
There purple Vengeance, bathed in gore, retires,
Her weapons blunted, and extinct her fires:
There hated Envy her own snakes shall feel,
And Persecution mourn her broken wheel:
There Faction roar, Rebellion bite her chain,
And gasping Furies thirst for blood in vain.’

***

‘My humble Muse, in unambitious strains,
Paints the green forests and the flowery plains,
Where Peace descending bids her olives spring,
And scatters blessings from her dovelike wing.’

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Thomas Campbell: Sending whirlwind warrants forth to rouse the slumbering fiends of war

October 2, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Campbell: Selections on peace and war

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Thomas Campbell

From Lines on Leaving a Scene in Bavaria

The world and falsehood left behind,
Thy votary shall bear elate,
(Triumphant o’er opposing Fate,)
His dark inspired mind.

But dost thou, Folly, mock the Muse
A wanderer’s mountain walk to sing,
Who shuns a warring world, nor woos
The vulture cover of its wing?
Then fly, thou cowering, shivering thing,
Back to the fostering world beguiled,
To waste in self-consuming strife
The loveless brotherhood of life,
Reviling and reviled!

Away, thou lover of the race
That hither chased yon weeping deer!
If Nature’s all majestic face
More pitiless than man’s appear;
Or if the wild winds seem more drear
Than man’s cold charities below,
Behold around his peopled plains,
Where’er the social savage reigns,
Exuberance of wo!

His art and honors wouldst thou seek
Emboss’d on grandeur’s giant walls?
Or hear his moral thunders speak
Where senates light their airy halls,
Where man his brother man enthralls;
Or sends his whirlwind warrants forth
To rouse the slumbering fiends of war,
To dye the blood-warm waves afar,
And desolate the earth?

From clime to clime pursue the scene.
And mark in all thy spacious way,
Where’er the tyrant man has been,
There Peace, the cherub, cannot stay;
In wilds and woodlands far away
She builds her solitary bower.
Where only anchorites have trod.
Or friendless men, to worship God,
Have wander’d for an hour.

In such a far forsaken vale, —
And such, sweet Eldurn vale, is thine, —
Afflicted nature shall inhale
Heaven-borrow’d thoughts and joys divine;
No longer wish, no more repine
For man’s neglect or woman’s scorn ;
Then wed thee to an exile’s lot.
For if the world hath loved thee not,
Its absence may be borne.

***

From Lines on Revisiting a Scottish River

One heart free tasting Nature’s breath and bloom
Is worth a thousand slaves to Mammon’s gains.
But whither goes that wealth, and gladdening whom?
See, left but life enough and breathing-room
The hunger and the hope of life to feel,
Yon pale Mechanic bending o’er his loom,
And Childhood’s self as at Ixion’s wheel,
From morn till midnight task’d to earn its little meal.

Is this Improvement? – where the human breed
Degenerates as they swarm and overflow,
Till Toil grows cheaper than the trodden weed,
And man competes with man, like foe with foe,
Till Death, that thins them, scarce seems public wo?
Improvement ! — smiles it in the poor man’s eyes,
Or blooms it on the cheek of Labor ? – No –

To gorge a few with Trade’s precarious prize.
We banish rural life, and breathe unwholesome skies.
Nor call that evil slight; God has not given
This passion to the heart of man in vain.
For Earth’s green face, th’ untainted air of Heaven,
And all the bliss of Nature’s rustic reign.
For not alone our frame imbibes a stain
From foetid skies; the spirit’s healthy pride
Fades in their gloom — And therefore I complain.
That thou no more through pastoral scenes shouldst glide.
My Wallace’s own stream, and once romantic Clyde!

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Samuel Johnson: Reason frowns on War’s unequal game

October 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Samuel Johnson: I to nobler themes aspire

Samuel Johnson: War is heaviest of national evils, a calamity in which every species of misery is involved

Samuel Johnson: War is the extremity of evil

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Samuel Johnson
From The Vanity of Human Wishes
The Tenth Satire of Juvenal, imitated

But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold
Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined,
And crowds with crimes the records of mankind
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws;
Wealth heap’d on wealth, nor truth, nor safety buys,
The dangers gather as the treasures rise.

Let history tell, where rival kings command,
And dubious title shakes the madded land,
When statutes glean the refuse of the sword,
How much more safe the vassal than the lord:
Low skulks the hind beneath the reach of power,
And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower;
Untouch’d his cottage, and his slumbers sound,
Though Confiscation’s vultures hover round.

The needy traveller, serene and gay,
Walks the wild heath, and sings his toil away.
Does envy seize thee? Crush the upbraiding joy,
Increase his riches, and his peace destroy –
Now fears in dire vicissitude invade,
The rustling brake alarms, and quivering shade;
Nor light nor darkness brings his pain relief,
One shows the plunder, and one hides the thief.
Yet still one general cry the sky assails,
And gain and grandeur load the tainted gales;
Few know the toiling statesman’s fear or care,
The insidious rival, and the gaping heir.

***

The festal blazes, the triumphal show,
The ravish’d standard, and the captive foe,
The senate’s thanks, the Gazette’s pompous tale,
With force resistless o’er the brave prevail.
Such bribes the rapid Greek o’er Asia whirl’d;
For such the steady Romans shook the world;
For such in distant lands the Britons shine,
And stain with blood the Danube or the Rhine;
This power has praise, that virtue scarce can warm,
Till Fame supplies the universal charm.
Yet Reason frowns on War’s unequal game,
Where wasted nations raise a single name,
And mortgaged ‘states their grandsires’ wreaths regret,
From age to age in everlasting debt;
Wreaths which at last the dear-bought right convey
To rust on medals, or on stones decay.

On what foundation stands the warrior’s pride,
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide;
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;
O’er love, o’er fear, extends his wide domain,
Unconquer’d lord of pleasure and of pain;
No joys to him pacific sceptres yield,
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their powers combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign;
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain:
‘Think nothing gain’d,’ he cries, ’till nought remain,
On Moscow’s walls till Gothic standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.’
The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
Stern Famine guards the solitary coast,
And Winter barricades the realms of Frost;
He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay;
Hide, blushing Glory! hide Pultowa’s day:
The vanquish’d hero leaves his broken bands,
And shows his miseries in distant lands;
Condemn’d a needy supplicant to wait,
While ladies interpose, and slaves debate.
But did not Chance at length her error mend?
Did no subverted empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
Or hostile millions press him to the ground?
His fall was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left the name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.

All times their scenes of pompous woe afford,
From Persia’s tyrant to Bavaria’s lord.
In gay hostility, and barbarous pride,
With half mankind embattled at his side,
Great Xerxes comes to seize the certain prey,
And starves exhausted regions in his way;
Attendant Flattery counts his myriads o’er,
Till counted myriads soothe his pride no more;
Fresh praise is tried, till madness fires his mind,
The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind;
New powers are claim’d, new powers are still bestow’d,
Till rude resistance lops the spreading god;
The daring Greeks deride the martial show,
And heap their valleys with the gaudy foe;
The insulted sea with humbler thoughts he gains,
A single skiff to speed his flight remains;
The encumber’d oar scarce leaves the dreaded coast
Through purple billows and a floating host.
The bold Bavarian, in a luckless hour,
Tries the dread summits of Casarean power,
With unexpected legions bursts away,
And sees defenceless realms receive his sway:
Short sway! fair Austria spreads her mournful charms,
The Queen, the Beauty, sets the world in arms;
From hill to hill the beacon’s rousing blaze
Spreads wide the hope of plunder and of praise;
The fierce Croatian, and the wild Hussar,
With all the sons of ravage, crowd the war;
The baffled prince, in Honour’s flattering bloom,
Of hasty greatness finds the fatal doom,
His foes’ derision, and his subjects’ blame,
And steals to death from anguish and from shame.

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