1799
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Fate of France. Imitated from Horace. Book I. Ode XV.

European Magazine 36 (October 1799) 256-57.

William Seward


Six irregular Spenserians (ababccdD), after the Prophecy of Nereus: the River Nile predicts an ill conclusion to Napoleon's campaigns. Admiral Nelson had destroyed the French fleet in Abouker Bay, near Alexandria, in August 1798 — a feat for which he was created "Baron Nelson of the Nile." The stanzas is that of Gray's Hymn to Adversity, selected to resonate with the theme of the ode: "Ev'n now fell Discord bends thee low; | Confederate Europe speeds the blow; | To prove that France, in ruin hurl'd, | Can, only by her fall, give Freedom to the World."

The poem is signed "S.," which had been the signature used by William Seward, friend of Johnson and the Thrales, who contributed anecdotes to the European Magazine under the title of "Drossiana." Seward, however, had died in April; his obituary appears in this October issue. But in the True Briton "The Fate of France" was published over the signature "C. B."

J. W. Croker: "Mr. William Seward, author of Anecdotes of Eminent Persons, and some other Ana, who must not be confounded with Mr. Seward, the canon of Lichfield" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 2:77n.



When Gallia's haughty rulers sent
The leader of their rebel host,
New plagues (in Freedom's garb) to vent
On Egypt's desolated coast:
Old Neptune from his oozy bed
Rear'd high his storm-dispersing head,
And thus, in accents clear and strong,
To Gallia's future fate he rais'd the sacred song:

"Forbear! forbear! ill-fated France,
To send forth yon devoted crew:
Wher'er your tim'rous fleets advance,
England's are eager to pursue.
And lo! she tracks th' intended guile
Ev'n to the shores of distant Nile:
They meet — I see the midnight flame—
Glory and pride to her, to thee defeat and shame!

"Alas! what toils thy ills to crown,
Futurity's dark shades conceal!
Crimes that shall draw due vengeance down
From heav'n, Fate hastens to reveal.
Two mighty Emperors draw the sword—
Whole nations to their God restor'd
Bless the firm phalanx, join the band,
And fear and civil discord madden round thy land.

"In vain on Fortune's airy car,
Awhile upborne, thy streamers fly;
Thy youth rush eager to the war,
And idly impious threat the sky.
In vain, for soon thy hands shall feel
The conquering force of Austrian steel—
Again the peasant, gayly free,
Shall sport beneath thy shades delightful Italy!

"See'st thou not Charles of royal race?
Suworow hardy Russia's boast?
Whose vet'ran brows fresh laurels grace,
Which thrive beneath his age's frost.
His bands thy fated land o'erwhelm,
While riding on my spacious realm,
Thee scorning, and thy subject Spain,
Britannia soars aloft the Empress of the Main.

"Though Prussia's wavering subtlety
Awhile may seem to prop thy State,
Nought shall avert the fix'd decree,
And shield thee from the shafts of Fate.
Ev'n now fell Discord bends thee low;
Confederate Europe speeds the blow;
To prove that France, in ruin hurl'd,
Can, only by her fall, give Freedom to the World."

[pp. 256-57]