1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on General Eliott's Return from Gibraltar.

Ode on General Eliott's Return from Gibraltar. By Anna Seward.

Anna Seward


A heroic ode in sixteen irregular Spenserians (ababccdD). Anna Seward celebrates the success of George Augustus Eliott (1717-1790), governor of Gilbralter, in defeating a Spanish attempt to capture the British outpost. The ode, part of the sequence imitating Gray's Hymn to Adversity, marks the newfound success of British arms following the defeat in the American war: "O Britain! — O my Country! then 'twas thine | To emerge from ev'ry Cloud that veil'd thy light!" p. 6. For his services, Eliott was made Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar in 1787.

While the rhyme pattern is consistently that of Gray's ode, Seward's stanzas are irregular, varying the length of the lines so that some stanzas begin with pentameter lines and others with octosyllabics.

Gentleman's Magazine: "This publication is particularly well-timed, as the gallant veteran arrived in London on the 18th of this month" 57 (June 1787) 523.

Andrew Becket: "The services rendered by General Elliot [now Lord Heathfield] to his country, during the memorable siege of Gibraltar, demand form the voice of gratitude the loudest and the liveliest strains. Miss Seward, a lady whose poetical talents are known to the world, has welcomed the saviour-hero to his native shore in numbers which will noway diminish her fame" Monthly Review 77 (August 1787) 155-56.

Critical Review: "Britain is undoubtedly highly indebted to this worthy general, 'Who hid, in glory's blaze, her livid strain, | Impress'd by rash attempts, irresolute and vain.' If those attempts had been 'rash' and 'irresolute,' the merit of repelling them must have been inconsiderable, and needed not so wide an effulgence to be concealed in.... But if the General's own actions do not immortalize him, Miss Seward's present performance will contribute but little towards his Apotheosis" 64 (September 1787) 226-27.



With grateful welcome, with triumphant praise,
Thy honour'd Chief, O rescued Britain, meet!
Whose dauntless prowess, in resplendent rays,
Shone on the darkness of thy long defeat;
Gave thee, on thy silvery Shores,
While Peace the civic crown restores,
Beneath her train of joys again to shine,
As Loss had ne'er chastis'd, Oppression ne'er been thine.

Think, Britannia, think how late
Around thy pale unshelter'd head,
To blast thy gloomy pride, avenging Fate
Unequal War's disastrous terrors spread;
While thy torn trophies, drench'd in blood,
She scatter'd o'er the Western Flood,
That the Provincial Standard high she rais'd,
By Gallia's lilies deck'd, by Spain's proud crest emblaz'd;

That thy vain foes, elated to behold
The long INVINCIBLE at last subdu'd;
Their tide of Conquest to that Fortress roll'd,
By sullen Spain with dread and envy view'd.
See! in united strength and pride,
At Calpe's base their navies ride,
Hurl up its steeps the thunders of their Power,
That burst the social Roof, and rend the Warrior Tower!

Crest-fall'n Britain, where were then
The rumours of thy matchless might?
And where had been the Empress of the Main
Had Skill and Valour risen a common height?
No common height those Bulwarks rose,
When ELIOTT lighten'd on thy Foes,
Wing'd his red bolts, that wrapp'd their Fleets in flame,
Resistless as his sword, and glowing as his fame!

Mark the invading Host, elate no more!
Recoiling pause between a choice so dire!
Alike they hear the British Lion roar
In the o'erwhelming Flood, and raging Fire!
Groaning they plunge! — in wild despair,
With raiment scorch'd, and blazing hair!
The billows, closing o'er their struggling Frames,
Are purpled by the gore, illumin'd by the flames!

Warm in Virtue's native glow,
Heroic ELIOTT'S great Ally,
His valiant CURTIS, bending o'er the Prow,
With all the twice-bless'd Angel in his eye,
Commands to push his conquering oars,
Where most the fiery Torrent pours;
The Victims from their instant fate to save,
And snatch them back to Life, from the devouring Wave.

O Britain! — O my Country! then 'twas thine
To emerge from ev'ry Cloud that veil'd thy light!
In all the splendour of that worth to shine,
Which erst, with ray peculiar, deck'd thy Might;
What time, amidst thy vanquis'd Foes,
Thy name with added lustre rose,
For that thy Precepts to thy Sons impart,
With the undaunted Soul, the generous melting Heart.

High thy martial influence soar'd,
On Belgian Plains when Gallic gore,
In Freedom's cause, intrepid Marlborough pour'd;
And white for England, the eventful Hour,
Beneath the royal William's sword,
When gaunt Rebellion grimly cower'd,
When, of her scorpion stings disarm'd, she fled,
In Scotia's desert Caves to hide her recreant head.

Nor sacred less the youthful Warrior's fame,
Dear-bought Quebec! upon thy plains beheld,
Who fall'n and bleeding — at the loud acclaim
That hail'd Britannia Mistress of the Field;
That bade her crimson Standard rise
Victorious in the echoing Skies,
Lifts the pale eye, a gleam of transport fires,
And, smiling on his wounds, triumphantly expires!

Palms unfading round their urn
Let their favour'd Country strew!
Since to the lavish wreaths she long had worn,
They brought new laurels of enduring glow;
To ELIOTT more indebted, raise
In higher tone, the notes of praise,
Who hid, in Glory's blaze, her livid stain,
Impress'd by rash attempts, irresolute and vain.

So when the wintry Tempest's baleful Powers
Have risen a vernal Day-spring to deform,
If the all-cheering Sun, at Evening hours,
Throws back the sable curtains of the Storm,
Green Hills, and gilded Mountains gay,
In dewy brightness meet his ray;
Creation kindles, as its lustre flows,
Till, in a soften'd night, he leaves her to repose.

Fruitful as th' ensuing Morn,
When smiling May with Zephyr sports,
The graceful Arts Britannia's Dome adorn,
And floats her Commerce to the distant Ports.
To thee, brave ELIOTT! well she knows
Their mild prosperity she owes;
Since awful Honour must his beams unveil,
Ere full the Arts can bloom, or Commerce widely sail.

A meaner Mind, such signal conquest gain'd,
Had rush'd to meet its Country's Paeans warm;
But ELIOTT, calm, thro' circling years, remain'd
Beneath the ROCK, defended by his arm;
Her shatter'd Ramparts to restore,
And firm thro' Ages bid them tower;
That from her brow the British Flag may stream,
To proud Iberia's gales in majesty supreme.

Not the trophies, not the strains
Of transport, on his Albion's shore,
When ELIOTT'S deeds rung thro' her vaulted Fanes,
Th' acknowledg'd Bulwarks of her falling Power,
Cou'd lure, with all that Joy prepares,
The Hero from his guardian cares;
No praise, no meed, no trophy he desir'd,
Save that which conscious worth, in all its glow, inspir'd.

His toils accomplish'd, to his native Clime,
In unassuming greatness, lo! he comes!—
And can it be, the elapse of Time
The sacred sense of Gratitude consumes?
No, Britain, no! — thy raptur'd gaze,
Thy fairest meed, thy warmest lays,
Shall chase the doubt, and shame th' injurious fear,
In thy resounding Ports when ELIOTT'S sails appear!

May the blessings that await
Honour on the lap of Peace,
Illustrious Soldier! mark thy future fate,
Bloom like thy virtues, with thy years increase!
Long may'st thou, benignly, see
Britannia, generous, brave, and free,
Wide o'er the world, as in her laurel'd prime,
Dart the commanding glance, and lift the brow sublime!

[pp. 3-11]