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Poem by James Beattie


On reading the Declaration of War in 1756


While Peace uprear'd aloft her graceful head,
And o'er the world her balmy blessings shed:
While laurel'd Science flourish'd in her reign:
While undisturb'd the merchant plough'd the main;
Wide o'er the trackless ocean ply'd the oar,
And fraught with treasure gain'd his native shore:
While Britons, bless'd beyond the human race,
Enjoy'd the sweets of liberty and peace;
And the broad falchion beat into a share:
While in the peaceful vale the happy swains
Till'd the fat glebe, and reap'd the honest gains;
And graceful youths and blooming maids were seen
In mazy dance glide swift along the green;
Or rais'd to rapture, Peace and Plenty sung;
With Peace and Plenty ev'ry valley rung:
The trumpet's angry clang was heard no more,
No hostile cannon thunder'd round the shore,
Nor were our slumbers broke by War's alarms,
Nor the wide champaign gleam'd with glitt'ring arms:
While happy prospects bless'd our ravish'd eyes,
See, unprovok'd, th' ambitious Gaul arise.
See, Britons, see, before the faithless Gaul
What provinces lie waste, what numbers fall!
Murders and monstrous cruelty prevail,
And scarce one left to tell th' amazing tale!
What guiltless blood has stain'd Americ's shore!
What black barbarity, unhear'd before,
Has spread around its more than brutal rage,
Has spar'd nor tender youth nor stooping age!
All grim in blood see the destroying foe
Pour on, exulting at the scenes of wo!
See, all around the raging flames arise,
And send the village blazing to the skies!
See the soft virgin in proud triumph born,
The infant from its mother's bosom torn,
Dash'd with unpitying hands against the floor,
Its quiv'ring members swim in tides of gore!Ч
Hark! Ч grov'ling in the dust the father's groan!
The childless mother's unavailing moan,
The piercing shriek, the shrill bewailing cry,
Join'd to the victor's shouts, invade the rending sky.

Fir'd by your country's wrongs, arise to arms,
Ye brave, whose breasts a British spirit warms!
Defend the best of kings, your rights assert,
And let the faithless find their just desert.
HAWKE and BOSCAWEN! clad in terrors go,
And hurl red vengeance on the treach'rous foe.
Far as the sea extends his watry reign,
Tell to the world, BRITANNIA rules the main;
Proclaim, that, by the fix'd decree of Heav'n,
To her the empire of the sea was giv'n:
This send in thunder to each hostile ear,
Let haughty nations tremble when they hear.
Go, first of heroes! prove your matchless might,
Your souls undaunted in the rage of fight:
With vengeance just pursue your country's foes,
With vengeance due to sad Americ's woes.Ч
See, see! those murder'd ghosts arise to view,
Point to their goary wounds, and call on you!
Defac'd with blood see the sad train arise!
Pale, ghastly Horror stares tremendous in their eyes!

O thou SUPREME! whose hand the thunder forms,
Wings the red lightning, and awakes the storms;
Whose sword or lays the peaceful waves asleep,
Or into mountains heaves the roaring deep;
At whose command the kingdoms rise and fall,
Whose awful nod o'erturns the trembling ball;
Makes horrid war and boist'rous tumult cease,
And glads the nations with the sweets of peace!
With great success O crown our just design,
And let thy face upon our armies shine;
In the dread day of danger and dismay,
Propitious point to victory the way;
Still War's alarms once more, and let thy smile
With peace and plenty crown BRITANNIA'S isle.



James Beattie


James Beattie's other poems:
  1. Elegy (Tir'D with the Busy Crouds)
  2. An Eclogue. In the Manner of Mr. Gay
  3. Verses occasioned by the Death of the Revd. Mr. Charles Churchill
  4. An Epitaph
  5. Law


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