1793
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to War.

Poems; being the genuine Compositions of Elizabeth Bentley.

Elizabeth Bentley


Elizabeth Bentley, a self-taught Norwich poet, bids defiance to France in an allegorical ode imitating William Collins's Ode to Peace: "Unsated yet with human gore, | Ah! wilt thou seek Britannia's happier shore, | To act thy tragic scene? | Avaunt! nor dare approach her hallow'd coast; | Yet, if by fate she's doom'd thy shafts to feel, | Her patriot sons behold, a dauntless host" p. 25.

From the Preface: "The minor poems of Milton, the graver compositions of Pope, the moral allegories and descriptive pieces of Thomson and Collins, of Gray and Goldsmith, had supplied her with those models which she felt most desirous to imitate. Her admiration of her beloved poets, has sometimes perhaps betrayed her into resemblances, which might be thought more than accidental by all but those who have attempted verse, and who know how difficult it is to avoid echoing those favourite melodies which are ever dwelling on the ear and memory. But the performances of our Author have nevertheless a distinct character of their own, though nothing can be more simple than their construction or design" pp. xxi-xxii.



Stern Power! who long in distant lands,
Has thunder'd out thy dire commands;
And while no lenient thought thy rage restrain'd,
Hast urged thy mad destructive course,
By Fury drawn and rude resistless Force;
And arm'd with iron shield,
Too long hast joy'd thy thirsty sword to wield,
And hurl thy massy spear with blood distain'd:
And while her brazen trumpet Discord rear'd,
Whilst appall'd the nations heard,
Hast bid its jarring voice resound afar,
And vengeful bent on murderous deeds,
Hast lash'd thy fiery-breathing steeds,
And whirl'd thy dusky car:
Behind thee Dread and Horror swift advance,
And Death insatiate points his venom'd lance.
Where'er thy breath the air pollutes,
It blasts the verdure, flow'rs, and fruits
That deck'd a fertile land;
Thou bid'st pale Famine in thy train appear,
With meagre arm her leaden sceptre rear,
And dash the horn from Plenty's lib'ral hand.
Where'er thy thundering chariot wheels are roll'd,
On trembling pinions from thy presence fly,
Those natives of a purer sky,
Angelic Peace and Commerce rob'd in gold,
Nor dares Repose sustain thy threat'ning mien;
Unsated yet with human gore,
Ah! wilt thou seek Britannia's happier shore,
To act thy tragic scene?
Avaunt! nor dare approach her hallow'd coast;
Yet, if by fate she's doom'd thy shafts to feel,
Her patriot sons behold, a dauntless host,
Firm to defend her ancient laws,
And true to Loyalty's, to Virtue's cause,
At Honour's word shall lift th' avenging steel.
See frantic Gallia's guilty race,
Each Christian nation's vile disgrace,
Their hands yet reeking, with their Sov'reign's blood;
Amid whose land Confusion holds her court,
And Vice and Folly with their train resort.
And beckon every mind averse from good:
Untainted by their subtlest arts,
Britannia's sons, whose honest hearts
Glow with a patriot Monarch's love,
Shall deem the foes of Truth their own,
And favour'd from above,
Shall daunt Rebellion's legions with their awful frown;
Bright Vic'try shall attend the brave,
And o'er their heads her golden banners wave;
Returning, the triumphant band
Shall view with joy their native land;
Their deeds proclaim'd by fair Renown,
Eager she waits each hero's brow to crown;
And while her hands the laurel chaplet twine.
Swift from on high
Meek Peace shall fly,
And bid her olive in the wreath combine.
Then terror-striking War,
Shalt thou from earth be banish'd far,
Nor more beneath the realms of day be seen,
On Concord frowning as thy greatest foe,
Reluctant to thy native darkness go,
And hide thy horrid mien;
Or fix thy sole domain,
On some wide desart plain,
Where human eye shall ne'er thy form survey;
Where wolves and tygers nightly prowl,
Direct the hunger-prompted howl,
And seize the quivering prey.

[pp. 24-26]