1783
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Naval Triumph. A Poem.

The Naval Triumph. A Poem.

Rev. Peter Cunningham


In irregular Spenserians; not seen. The poem was published anonymously. At the time of writing, Peter Cunningham, the son of a naval officer, was curate for Anna Seward's father. George Brydges Rodney (1719-92) defeated the French under De Grasse off Dominca in 1782.

William Cartwright: "This is a compliment to the victorious Rodney, and his gallant associates.... Though the poem before us contain no glaring improprieties, there are nevertheless, some inaccuracies in it which ought not to be overlooked" Monthly Review 68 (April 1783) 356-58.

Critical Review: "The author of this poem has chosen for his subject an action transcendently memorable in the annals of Great Britain. He celebrates the victory on the 12th of April, in a strain, we must acknowledge, not unworthy of that glorious event. The poem is distinguished by the splendor of its imagery, and entertains the imagination with the exuberant enthusiasm of poetical panegyric" 54 (December 1782) 478.



But, ah! what mournful sounds are these invade,
With sighs of woe, the startl'd Muse's ear?
The sun-bright triumph of the day o'ershade?—
Heart-rending scene — Flow, flow unceasing tears!
Oh see where blooming MANNERS bleeding lies!
While Conquest plumes his crest, Death's slumbers seal his eyes.

Oh glorious Youth! in thee with lustre shone,
Like Spring's fair morn, the honours of thy race;
In thy clear breast firm Valour fix'd his throne,
Temper'd with social Virtue's softer grace:
Pride of thy friends! this heart-felt verse receive,
'Tis all the sorrowing Muse to worth like thine can give.

In vain gay Fortune pour'd her lavish tide,
And Pleasure warbl'd soul-dissolving airs
To woo the Hero from Bellona's side;
While milder Fame her civic wreath prepares:
Unmov'd he view'd her amaranthine flow'rs,
And Fortune's golden throne, and Pleasure's roseate bow'rs.

Through groves that glow'd with vegetable gold,
Where nightingales soft trill'd their plaintive tales,
Pure sapphire rills in soothing murmurs roll'd,
And all Arabia breath'd in gentle gales;
Unmov'd by fair Armida's syren song,
Thus, fam'd Rinaldo pass'd to Glory's field along.

Nor shall your signal worth, ye gallant pair!
Die while a lyre of gratitude be strung:
Through distant times, the names of BAYNE and BLAIR,
Shall live with honour, and with pride be sung:
Their kindred Fate, calm Courage long shall mourn,
And nautic Science crown with sea-green gems their urn.

Lamented chiefs! if aught your souls can move,
Beneath the star-pav'd mansions of the skies;
Behold the tribute of your country's love,
Among her sages, Kings, and warriors rise!
Where, o'er your breathing marble, sad she stands,
Weaving a triple wreath, with fond, maternal hands.

There, future Bards, the Moon's pensive light,
That through the bright-stain'd windows trembling shines,
Shall musing rove, and, with sublime delight,
Hear Angels, hov'ring o'er the hallow'd shrines
Their requiems sing, while slow and solemn join
The swelling organ's notes amid the choir divine.

Yet, while, departed Chiefs! ye claim her tear,
Permit the Muse one tribute still to pay;
With filial rev'rence on a Parent's bier,
One laurel branch with cypress twin'd to lay:
Early, like you, he plough'd the stormy wave,
And hurl'd on Britain's foes the vengeance of the brave.

Their banner, thick with gilded lilies strown,
That flam'd with radiance like the martial star,
He won, to wave upon the British throne
'Midst countless trophies of triumphant war:
Nor ceas'd the veteran's toils, 'till o'er the head,
For ten long lustr's, Time, his hoary silver spread.

Thrice honour'd Shade! — Oh deign these rites to own;
No longer then the drooping Muse shall mourn
Her Genius chill'd by adverse Fortune's frown,
Save that she wept not o'er thy recent urn.
Heard not thy parting blessing fervent rise,
Nor clos'd, with pious care, thy life-forsaken eyes. . . .

[Monthly Review 68 (April 1783) 356-57]