1782
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the People of England.

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (11 October 1782).

Edward Rushton


Eight couplet Spenserians imitating Mark Akenside's Ode to the Country Gentlemen. The occasion for the poem was the negotiations to conclude the American war, which Edward Rushton regards as necessary to continue hostilities with France: "Then Britons rouse, your strength combine, | And baffle every fell design: | Oh! emulate your sires of old, | Whom pride or danger ne'er controul'd, | Rouse, and defend this spot of earth, | This sea-girt isle that gave you birth." The central stanzas praise the Irish Volunteers as a model of the kind of martial spirit Akenside had appealed to in the context of the Seven Year's War. James Lowther (1736-1802) was created earl of Lonsdale in 1784 for his political services; he was leading the opposition to Lord North in Parliament. The Earl of Suffolk had been a secretary of state in the 1770s. The poem is signed "Edward Rushton, Liverpool."

Rushton, an interesting poet and opponent of the slave trade, had previously published an irregular ode on the American Revolution in Lloyd's Evening Post (21 March 1781) 276. He seems to have favored this stanza for use in patriotic verse, employing it for an attack on Robert Southey's Carmen Triumphale composed more than thirty years after this early poem.



When bellowing warfare lords it round,
And death and loud uproar abound,
When Gallia, wild ambitious foe,
Oh! Britain aims thy overthrow;
When proud Iberia drains each mine,
Big with the same accurst design;
When Belgia's bold rapacious knaves
Have basely join'd th' aspiring slaves,
And foul rebellion, with averted eyes,
Rejects the offer'd terms, and all thy pow'r defies,

When thus with foes encircled round,
And not a friendly pow'r is found;
Is this a time, Oh Britons say,
On Pleasure's lap to die away?
Is this a time for long debate,
For narrow views, and factious heat?
Is this a time for calm repose,
When half the warring world are foes?
Oh! Britons rouse to patriotic deeds,
For oh! oppress'd with numbers, see your country bleeds.

Where is that glowing ardent zeal,
That spirit Britons wont to feel?
Where are your bold exertions gone,
And where the public virtue flown?
Heavens! how alter'd, how supine,
How slow t' embrace each great design,
How worthless pride and coward fears,
Keep thin your corps of Volunteers;
But languish Britons, view to your disgrace,
What animation marks Hibernia's manly race.

When danger shew'd her frightful mien,
No impotent attempts were seen.
No frigid meeting stain'd their land,
They rose a bold, a patriot band:
No narrow views, no dastard fear,
No supercilious pride was there,
All ranks, all parties feel the flame,
And glow at Freedom's sacred name;
All, all self-arm'd and self-array'd appear,
And at the artist's side is seen the noble Peer.

'Twas thus they rose, and thus they stand,
The guardians of a rising land,
Disdaining ease, respected, fear'd,
And with a nation's plaudits cheer'd;
Oh! that Britannia's sons would rise,
Like them intrepid, bold, and wise,
Like them deserve the patriot name,
And rise from apathy to flame—
Ambition soon wou'd give the contest o'er,
And soon wou'd meek-ey'd peace be wafted to our shore.

Tho' baleful anger spreads around,
Yet sparks of virtue still are found,
SUFFOLK, whose sons shall live in fame,
And thee, Oh! LOWTHER, thee, whose name
Can never die, whose noble mind
High-soaring, tow'rs above thy kind.
Oh! Britons, join this godlike man,
Swift, swift, adopt his patriotic plan,
Your country then may raise her awful form,
And with unequal fury hurl the warring storm.

Each envious state wou'd loath the sight,
And curse a flame so wond'rous bright;
Ambition, with desponding mien,
And nerveless arm would then be seen;
Despair wou'd sit on Treachery's face,
And Craft, dismay'd, would point at Peace;
Ingratitude wou'd drop her crest,
And fold a parent to her breast,
And Albion then invincible wou'd stand,
Ride o'er the boist'rous surge, or wave the olive wand.

Then Britons rouse, your strength combine,
And baffle every fell design:
Oh! emulate your sires of old,
Whom pride or danger ne'er controul'd,
Rouse, and defend this spot of earth,
This sea-girt isle that gave you birth,
Let every arm prepare the blow;
Then, like a wounded lion robb'd of prey,
Wou'd Britain strike her foes with terror and dismay.

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