EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND ELEVEN.
Still the loud death drum, thundering from afar,O'er the vext nations pours the storm of war:To the stern call still Britain bends her ear,Feeds the fierce strife, the alternate hope and fear;Bravely, though vainly, dares to strive with Fate,And seeks by turns to prop each sinking state.Colossal Power with overwhelming force Bears down each fort of Freedom in its course;Prostrate she lies beneath the Despot's sway,While the hushed nations curse him—and obey,
Bounteous in vain, with frantic man at strife,Glad Nature pours the means—the joys of life;In vain with orange blossoms scents the gale,The hills with olives clothes, with corn the vale;Man calls to Famine, nor invokes in vain,Disease and Rapine follow in her train;The tramp of marching hosts disturbs the plough,The sword, not sickle, reaps the harvest now,And where the Soldier gleans the scant supply.The helpless Peasant but retires to die;No laws his hut from licensed outrage shield, And war's least horror is the ensanguined field.
Fruitful in vain, the matron counts with prideThe blooming youths that grace her honoured side;No son returns to press her widow'd hand,Her fallen blossoms strew a foreign strand.—Fruitful in vain, she boasts her virgin race,Whom cultured arts adorn and gentlest grace;Defrauded of its homage, Beauty mourns,And the rose withers on its virgin thorns.Frequent, some stream obscure, some uncouth nameBy deeds of blood is lifted into fame;Oft o'er the daily page some soft-one bendsTo learn the fate of husband, brothers, friends,Or the spread map with anxious eye explores, Its dotted boundaries and penciled shores,Asks where the spot that wrecked her bliss is found,And learns its name but to detest the sound.
And thinks't thou, Britain, still to sit at ease,An island Queen amidst thy subject seas,While the vext billows, in their distant roar,But soothe thy slumbers, and but kiss thy shore?To sport in wars, while danger keeps aloof,Thy grassy turf unbruised by hostile hoof?So sing thy flatterers; but, Britain, know,Thou who hast shared the guilt must share the woe.Nor distant is the hour; low murmurs spread,And whispered fears, creating what they dread;Ruin, as with an earthquake shock, is here, There, the heart-witherings of unuttered fear,And that sad death, whence most affection bleeds,Which sickness, only of the soul, precedes.Thy baseless wealth dissolves in air away,Like mists that melt before the morning ray:No more on crowded mart or busy streetFriends, meeting friends, with cheerful hurry greet;Sad, on the ground thy princely merchants bendTheir altered looks, and evil days portend,And fold their arms, and watch with anxious breastThe tempest blackening in the distant West.
Yes, thou must droop; thy Midas dream is o'er;The golden tide of Commerce leaves thy shore,Leaves thee to prove the alternate ills that haunt Enfeebling Luxury and ghastly Want;Leaves thee, perhaps, to visit distant lands,And deal the gifts of Heaven with equal hands....