BRITANNIA. A POEM.
1 AS on the sea-beat shore Britannia sat,
2 Of her degenerate sons the faded fame,
3 Deep in her anxious heart, revolving sad:
4 Bare was her throbbing bosom to the gale,
5 That hoarse, and hollow, from the bleak surge blew;
6 Loose flow'd her tresses; rent her azure robe.
7 Hung o'er the deep from her majestic brow
8 She tore the laurel, and she tore the bay. [Page 65]
9 Nor ceas'd the copious grief to bathe her cheek;
10 Nor ceas'd her sobs to murmur to the Main.
11 Peace discontented nigh, departing, stretch'd
12 Her dove-like wings. And War, tho' greatly rous'd,
13 Yet mourn'd his fetter'd hands. While thus the Queen
14 Of nations spoke; and what she said the Muse
15 Recorded, faithful, in unbidden verse.
16 Even not yon sail, that, from the sky-mixt wave,
17 Dawns on the sight, and wafts the Royal Youth,
18 A freight of future glory to my shore;
19 Even not the flattering view of golden days,
20 And rising periods yet of bright renown,
21 Beneath the Parents, and their endless line
22 Thro' late revolving time, can sooth my rage;
23 While, unchastis'd, the insulting Spaniard dares
24 Infest the trading flood, full of vain War
25 Despise my Navies, and my Merchants seize;
26 As, trusting to false peace, they fearless roam
27 The world of waters wild, made, by the toil,
28 And liberal blood of glorious ages, mine:[Page 66]
29 Nor bursts my sleeping thunder on their head.
30 Whence this unwonted patience? this weak doubt?
31 This tame beseeching of rejected peace?
32 This meek forbearance? this unnative fear,
33 To generous Britons never known before?
34 And fail'd my Fleets for this; on Indian tides
35 To float, unactive, with the veering winds?
36 The mockery of war! while hot disease,
37 And sloth distemper'd, swept off burning crowds,
38 For action ardent; and amid the deep,
39 Inglorious, sunk them in a watry grave.
40 There now they lie beneath the rowling flood,
41 Far from their friends, and country unaveng'd;
42 And back the weeping war-ship comes again,
43 Dispirited, and thin; her sons asham'd
44 Thus idly to review their native shore;
45 With not one glory sparkling in their eye,
46 One triumph on their tongue. A passenger,
47 The violated Merchant comes along;
48 That far-sought wealth, for which the noxious gale
49 He drew, and sweat beneath Equator suns,[Page 67]
50 By lawless force detain'd; a force that soon
51 Would melt away, and every spoil resign,
52 Were once the British lyon heard to roar.
53 Whence is it that the proud Iberian thus,
54 In their own well-asserted element,
55 Dares rouze to wrath the Masters of the Main?
56 Who told him, that the big incumbent war
57 Would not, ere this, have roll'd his trembling ports
58 In smoaky ruin? and his guilty stores,
59 Won by the ravage of a butcher'd world,
60 Yet unatton'd, sunk in the swallowing deep,
61 Or led the glittering prize into the Thames?
62 There was a time (Oh let my languid sons
63 Resume their spirit at the rouzing thought!)
64 When all the pride of Spain, in one dread fleet,
65 Swell'd o'er the lab'ring surge; like a whole heaven
66 Of clouds, wide-roll'd before the boundless breeze.
67 Gaily the splendid Armament along
68 Exultant plough'd, reflecting a red gleam,
69 As sunk the sun, o'er all the flaming vast;[Page 68]
70 Tall, gorgeous, and elate; drunk with the dream
71 Of easy conquest; while their bloated war,
72 Stretch'd out from sky to sky, the gather'd force
73 Of ages held in its capacious womb.
74 But soon, regardless of the cumbrous pomp,
75 My dauntless Britons came, a gloomy few,
76 With tempest black, the goodly scene deform'd,
77 And laid their glory waste. The bolts of fate
78 Resistless thunder'd thro' their yielding sides;
79 Fierce o'er their beauty blaz'd the lurid flame;
80 And seiz'd in horrid grasp, or shatter'd wide,
81 Amid the mighty waters, deep they sunk.
82 Then too from every promontory chill,
83 Rank fen, and cavern where the wild wave works,
84 I swept confederate winds, and swell'd a storm.
85 Round the glad isle, snatch'd by the vengeful blast,
86 The scatter'd remnants drove; on the blind shelve,
87 And pointed rock, that marks the indented shore,
88 Relentless dash'd, where loud the Northern Main
89 Howls thro' the fractur'd Caledonian isles.
90 Such were the dawnings of my liquid reign;
91 But since how vast it grew, how absolute,
92 Even in those troubled times, when dreadful Blake
93 Aw'd angry Nations with the British Name,
94 Let every humbled state, let Europe say,
95 Sustain'd, and ballanc'd, by my naval arm.
96 Ah what must these immortal spirits think
97 Of your poor shifts? These, for their country's good,
98 Who fac'd the blackest danger, knew no fear,
99 No mean submission, but commanded peace.
100 Ah how with indignation must they burn?
101 (If ought, but joy, can touch etherial breasts)
102 With shame? with grief? to see their feeble sons
103 Shrink from that empire o'er the conquer'd feas,
104 For which their wisdom plan'd, their councils glow'd,
105 And their veins bled thro' many a toiling age.
106 Oh first of human blessings! and supreme!
107 Fair Peace! how lovely, how delightful thou!
108 By whose wide tie, the kindred sons of men,[Page 70]
109 Like brothers live, in amity combin'd,
110 And unsuspicious faith; while honest toil
111 Gives every joy, and to those joys a right,
112 Which idle, barbarous Rapine but usurps.
113 Pure is thy reign; when, unaccurs'd by blood,
114 Nought, save the sweetness of indulgent showers,
115 Trickling distils into the vernant glebe;
116 Instead of mangled carcasses, sad-seen,
117 When the blythe sheaves lie scatter'd o'er the field,
118 When only shining shares, the crooked knife,
119 And hooks imprint the vegetable wound;
120 When the land blushes with the rose alone,
121 The falling fruitage, and the bleeding vine.
122 Oh, Peace! thou source, and soul of social life;
123 Beneath whose calm, inspiring influence,
124 Science his views enlarges, Art refines,
125 And swelling Commerce opens all her ports;
126 Blest be the Man divine, who gives us Thee!
127 Who bids the trumpet hush his horrid clang,
128 Nor blow the giddy nations into rage;
129 Who sheaths the murderous blade; the deadly gun[Page 71]
130 Into the well-pil'd armory returns;
131 And, every vigour from the work of death,
132 To grateful industry converting, makes
133 The country flourish, and the city smile.
134 Unviolated, him the virgin sings;
135 And him the smiling mother to her train.
136 Of him the shepherd, in the peaceful dale,
137 Chaunts; and, the treasures of his labour sure,
138 The husbandman of him, as at the plough,
139 Or team, he toils. With him the sailor sooths,
140 Beneath the trembling moon, the midnight wave;
141 And the full city, warm, from street to street,
142 And shop to shop, responsive, rings of him.
143 Nor joys one land alone; his praise extends
144 Far as the sun rolls the diffusive day;
145 Far as the breeze can bare the gifts of peace,
146 Till all the happy nations catch the song.
147 What would not Peace! the Patriot bear for thee?
148 What painful patience? What incessant care?
149 What mixt anxiety? What sleepless toil? [Page 72]
150 Even from the rash protected what reproach?
151 For he thy value knows; thy friendship he
152 To human nature: but the better thou,
153 The richer of delight, sometimes the more
154 Inevitable War, when russian force
155 Awakes the fury of an injur'd state.
156 Then the good easy man, whom reason rules;
157 Who, while unhurt, knew nor offence, nor harm,
158 Rouz'd by bold insult, and injurious rage,
159 With sharp, and sudden check, th' astonish'd sons
160 Of violence confounds; firm as his cause,
161 His bolder heart; in awful justice clad;
162 His eyes effulging a peculiar fire:
163 And, as he charges thro' the prostrate war,
164 His keen arm teaches faithless men, no more
165 To dare the sacred vengeance of the just.
166 And what, my thoughtless sons, should fire you more,
167 Than when your weil-earn'd empire of the deep
168 The least beginning injury receives?
169 What better cause can call your lightning forth? [Page 73]
170 Your thunder wake? Your dearest life demand?
171 What better cause, than when your country sees
172 The sly destruction at her vitals aim'd?
173 For oh it much imports you, 'tis your all,
174 To keep your Trade intire, intire the force,
175 And honour of your Fleets; o'er that to watch,
176 Even with a hand severe, and jealous eye.
177 In intercourse be gentle, generous, just,
178 By wisdom polish'd, and of manners fair;
179 But on the sea be terrible, untam'd,
180 Unconquerable still: let none escape,
181 Who shall but aim to touch your glory there.
182 Is there the man, into the lyon's den
183 Who dares intrude, to snatch his young away?
184 And is a Briton seiz'd? and seiz'd beneath
185 The slumbring terrors of a British Fleet?
186 Then ardent rise! Oh great in vengeance rise;
187 O'erturn the proud, teach rapine to restore:
188 And as you ride sublimely round the world,
189 Make every vessel stoop, make every state
190 At once their welfare and their duty know. [Page 74]
191 This is your glory; this your wisdom; this
192 The native power for which you were design'd
193 By fate, when fate design'd the firmest state,
194 That e'er was seated on the subject sea;
195 A state, alone, where Liberty should live,
196 In these late times, this evening of mankind,
197 When Athens, Rome, and Carthage are no more,
198 The world almost in slavish sloth dissolv'd.
199 For this, these rocks around your coast were thrown;
200 For this, your oaks, peculiar harden'd, shoot
201 Strong into sturdy growth; for this, your hearts
202 Swell with a sullen courage, growing still
203 As danger grows; and strength, and toil for this
204 Are liberal pour'd o'er all the fervent land.
205 Then cherish this, this unexpensive power,
206 Undangerous to the publick ever prompt,
207 By lavish Nature thrust into your hand:
208 And, unencumber'd with the bulk immense
209 Of conquest, whence huge empires rose and fell,
210 Self-crush'd, extend your reign from shore to shore,
211 Where-e'er the wind your high behests can blow,[Page 75]
212 And fix it deep on this eternal base.
213 For should the sliding fabrrick once give way,
214 Soon slacken'd quite, and past recovery broke,
215 It gathers ruin as it rolls along,
216 Steep-rushing down to that devouring gulph,
217 Where many a mighty empire buried lies.
218 And should the big redundant flood of Trade,
219 In which ten thousand thousand Labours join
220 Their several currents, till the boundless tide
221 Rolls in a radiant deluge o'er the land,
222 Should this bright stream, the least inflected, point
223 Its course another way, o'er other lands
224 The various treasure would resistless pour,
225 Ne'er to be won again; its antient tract
226 Left a vile channel, desolate, and dead,
227 With all around a miserable waste.
228 Not Egypt, were, her better heaven, the Nile
229 Turn'd in the pride of flow; when o'er his rocks,
230 And roaring cataracts, beyond the reach
231 Of dizzy vision pil'd, in one wide flash
232 An Ethiopian deluge foams amain;[Page 76]
233 (Whence wond'ring fable trac'd him from the sky)
234 Even not that prime of earth, where harvests crowd
235 On untill'd harvests, all the teeming year,
236 If of the fat o'erflowing culture robb'd,
237 Were then a more uncomfortable wild,
238 Steril, and void; than of her trade depriv'd,
239 Britons, your boasted isle: her Princes sunk;
240 Her high-built honour moulder'd to the dust;
241 Unnerv'd her force; her spirit vanish'd quite;
242 With rapid wing her riches fled away;
243 Her unfrequented ports alone the sign
244 Of what she was; her Merchants scatter'd wide;
245 Her hollow shops shut up; and in her streets,
246 Her fields, woods, markets, villages, and roads,
247 The cheerful voice of labour heard no more.
248 Oh let not then waste Luxury impair
249 That manly soul of toil, which strings your nerves,
250 And your own proper happiness creates!
251 Oh let not the soft, penetrating plague[Page 77]
252 Creep on the free-born mind! and working there,
253 With the sharp tooth of many a new-form'd want,
254 Endless, and idle all, eat out the heart
255 Of Liberty; the high conception blast;
256 The noble sentiment, the impatient scorn
257 Of base subjection, and the swelling wish
258 For general good, erazing from the mind:
259 While nought save narrow Selfishness succeeds,
260 And low design, the sneaking passions all
261 Let loose, and reigning in the rankled breast.
262 Induc'd at last, by scarce-perceiv'd degrees,
263 Sapping the very frame of government,
264 And life, a total dissolution comes;
265 Sloth, ignorance, dejection, flattery, fear,
266 Oppression raging o'er the waste he makes;
267 The human being almost quite extinct;
268 And the whole state in broad Corruption sinks.
269 Oh shun that gulph: that gaping ruin shun!
270 And countless ages roll it far away
271 From you, ye heaven-belov'd! may Liberty,[Page 78]
272 The light of life! the sun of human kind!
273 Whence Heroes, Bards, and Patriots borrow flame,
274 Even where the keen depressive North descends,
275 Still spread, exalt, and actuate your powers!
276 While slavish Southern climates beam in vain.
277 And may a publick spirit from the Throne,
278 Where every Virtue sits, go copious forth
279 Live o'er the land! the finer Arts inspire;
280 Make thoughtful Science raise his pensive head,
281 Blow the fresh Bay, bid Industry rejoice,
282 And the rough Sons of lowest Labour smile.
283 As when, profuse of Spring, the loosen'd West
284 Lifts up the pining year, and balmy breathes
285 Youth, life, and love, and beauty o'er the world.
286 But haste we from these melancholly shores,
287 Nor to deaf winds, and waves, our fruitless plaint
288 Pour weak; the country claims our active aid;
289 That let us roam; and where we find a spark
290 Of publick virtue, blow it into flame.
291 And now my sons, the sons of freedom! meet[Page 79]
292 In awful senate; thither let us fly;
293 Burn in the Patriot's thought, flow from his tongue
294 In fearless truth; myself, transform'd, preside,
295 And shed the spirit of Britannia round.
296 This said; her fleeting form, and airy train,
297 Sunk in the gale; and nought but ragged rocks
298 Rush'd on the broken eye; and nought was heard
299 But the rough cadence of the dashing wave.