1794
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to War.

Odes Moral and Descriptive. By the Rev. John Whitehouse, of St. John's College, Cambridge.

Rev. John Whitehouse


An allegorical ode in four stanzas, most likely suggested by William Collins's Ode to Peace. The manner is certainly Collins's: "A thousand vulture-forms beside | Stalk on before thee; bloated Pride | Thick-eyed Revenge, his soul on fire, | And Slaughter breathing threatenings dire, | Tumult, and Rage, and Fury fell, | And Cruelty, the imp of hell." Of the ten odes in John Whitehouse's collection (compare the title to Collins's "Odes Allegorical and Descriptive") the Ode to War was repeatedly singled out for quotation by reviewers. In addition to the Ode to War, there are odes to "Poetical Enthusiasm," "Ambition," "Sleep," (2) "Horror," on the death of a parrot, "Beauty," "Truth," and "Justice." Not seen.

William Taylor of Norwich: "Dr. Maty would perhaps have said, 'There is a something very fine about these Odes.' They partake much of the grave and lofty spirit of Milton, which always cherishes the great in moral sentiment and action, and which, though delighting perhaps to excess in habitual pomp of diction, knows how to throw aside occasionally metaphor and rhyme itself, and to intrust a sublime thought to plain and simple words. They are not every-day verses: they deserve that we should find fault with them; and therefore we shall enter at some length into an examination of them" Monthly Review NS 14 (July 1794) 319-20.

British Critic: "Ode 5th is addressed to War, and though not faultless, does credit to the poetical talents of the author. We cannot, indeed, perceive much beauty in the terms 'monster,' 'homicide,' 'Wolf-hearted,' and 'accursed,' are not free from coarseness; nor do we think the epithet 'thick-eyed,' applied to Revenge, either dignified or characteristic" 3 (1794) 657.



Dread Offspring of Tartarian birth,
Whose nodding crest is stained with gore,
Whom to some giant-son of Earth,
Strife, in strong pangs of childbed, bore;
O War! fierce monster, homicide,
Who marchest on with hideous stride,
Shaking thy spear distilling blood:
Bellona thee, in angry mood,
Taught proud Ambition's spoils to win,
Amidst the loud, conflicting din
Of arms, where Discord's gorgon-featured form
High shakes her flaming torch amidst the martial storm.

Stern God! wolf-hearted, and accursed,
Fostered by Power, by Rapine nursed,
Oppression ever in thy train,
For hapless man prepares her chain:
A thousand vulture-forms beside
Stalk on before thee; bloated Pride
Thick-eyed Revenge, his soul on fire,
And Slaughter breathing threatenings dire,
Tumult, and Rage, and Fury fell,
And Cruelty, the imp of hell,
Her heart of adamant! and armed her hand
With iron hooks, and cords, and Desolation's brand.

There, where the Battle loudest roars,
Where wide the impurpled deluge pours,
And ghastly Death, his thousands slain,
Whirls his swift chariot o'er the plain,
Rapt in horror's frantic fit,
'Midst the dire scene thou lov'st to sit,
To catch some wretch's parting sigh,
To mark the dimly-glazing eye,
The face into contortions thrown,
Convulsed: the deep, deep-lengthening groan,
The frequent sob, the agonizing smart,
And nature's dread release, the pang that rends the heart.

Avaunt, from Albion's isle! nor there
Thy arms, and maddening car prepare,
Nor bid thy crimson banners fly
Terrific, through the troubled sky;
But stay thee in thy wild career;
Lay by thy glittering shield and spear,
Thy polished casque, and nodding crest,
And let thy sable steeds have rest:
At length, the work of slaughter close,
And give to Europe's sons repose,
Bid the hoarse clangors of the trumpet cease,
And smooth thy wrinkled front to meet the smiles of Peace.

[Monthly Review NS 14 (July 1794) 323-24]