1777
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Verses written by Mr. Burke, a Delegate from North Carolina, and Miss — of Philadelphia.

Gentleman's Magazine 48 (April, May 1778) 184, 231.

Thomas Burke


A Philadelphia eclogue in 45 anapestic quatrains, dated June 1777. Here the pastoral ballad mode is used in a dialogue on the war, connecting its theme of simplicity with Quaker (and feminine) distaste for military aggression. Colin, a member of the Continental Congress and disciple of Thomas Paine, declares that he must set aside all harmonious thoughts in order to prosecute the war against Britain: "In vain then, fair Chloe, my hand would assay | To awake to soft concord the lyre; | Each string vibrates war, ev'ry sound bids away, | These times other efforts require." With an appeal to Aesop, Chloe (evidently a Philadelphia Quaker) argues in favor of Christian pacifism: "Simplicity then shall erect her domain, | Whose peaceful and innocent smiles, | Captivating the heart of each nymph and each swain, | Put the serpent to flight with his wiles." When Colin professes to be overcome by her song, Chloe appeals to a higher authority.

Thomas Burke (1747 ca.-1783), born in County Galway in Ireland, emigrated to Virginia before settling in North Carolina in 1771, where he practiced law and advocated radical political reforms. He served in Congress from 1776 to 1781, and was governor of North Carolina from 1781 to the Spring of 1782. The concluding line seems to associate him with his countryman Edmund Burke, who had been supporting the American cause in Parliament. The Gentleman's Magazine may have reprinted this poem from an American periodical.



TO CHLOE.
You ask me, fair Chloe, to strike the gay lyre,
Once more to attempt the soft strain;
Alas! long neglected has slept ev'ry wire,
And I strive to attune them in vain.

The time is no more when a virgin's bright eyes
And sweet smiles could gay transport impart;
No more from fair bloom those emotions arise,
Which once so enchanted my heart.

While freedom and peace blest each sylvan retreat,
And secur'd every bliss to the swain;
How jocund the woodlands the song did repeat,
While beauty inspir'd the soft strain.

Now tyrant Ambition extends his dire arm,
And threats our free land to enslave,
No music is heard but the drum's hoarse alarm,
No song but the dirge of the grave.

No more soft emotions become each firm breast;
To these fiercer passions succeed,
Indignation for rapine, and beauty distress'd,
And vengeance for brothers who bleed.

Hence stretch out each arm to grasp the long lance,
These fill every bosom with rage,
These impel even shepherds in arms to advance,
These, these ev'ry soul must engage.

In vain then, fair Chloe, my hand would assay
To awake to soft concord the lyre;
Each string vibrates war, ev'ry sound bids away,
These times other efforts require.

Even Chloe's sweet smiles unsuccessful must prove,
Even her gentle accents must fail;
My bosom alike denies music and love,
Till our arms o'er our tyrants prevail.

But freedom and peace to our land once restor'd,
Thy commands, lovely nymph, I'll obey;
My hand shall with pleasure forego the dread sword,
And my lyre shall resound the soft lay.

CHLOE'S REPLY TO COLIN.
Sly reynard espy'd a crow light on a spray,
With a prize that he wish'd to possess;
Complimenting to gain it he judg'd the best way,
And thus did the weak one address:

Thou goddess of melody, prithee bestow
One lay to divert a true friend:
By vanity blinded, the ignorant crow,
With her discord the aether did rend.

Shou'd I, like the bird, sweet harmony court,
'Gainst Nature, shou'd court her in vain,
Contemn'd by good sense, of satire the sport,
Reflection wou'd follow with pain.

But since Colin's late favour claims my reveries,
Tho' prudence enjoins to desist,
Mild gratitude bids me endeavour to please,
And his simple young friend will persist.

Does lordly ambition wage war in our land?
If so, of that daemon beware;
Nor let fierce resentment your councils command,
Lest the fate of old Satan you share.

But as friends and protectors of virtue and truth,
Prove these to your measures gave birth;
And the world shall confess you, in age and in youth,
Delegated by heaven and earth.

Let the blood of the harmless for vengeance ne'er cry,
Lest ye taste of those bitters ye send;
For that Power superior, on whom they rely,
The guiltless will ever befriend.

In time both your strength and exertions may fail,
And reduc'd to the utmost distress,
Your fervent petitions to heav'n may prevail,
Tho' your earthly ones meet no success.

By conqu'ring we shou'd not tranquility find,
As Payne doth delusively say;
'Tis the conquest of vice and corruptions of mind,
That must hasten the glorious day.

When her banner a permanent peace shall here raise,
When swords shall to ploughshares give place,
Not barely profession, but Christ in our ways,
Must the horrors of discord erase.

Did the horse know his strength, he wou'd quickly be free;
And man the high pow'rs of his mind,
They wou'd nobly forgive, and gain true liberty,
As future bright ages shall find.

Come, Colin, acknowledge this doctrine is right,
The test of true patience and worth;
That 'tis highly unlawful for christians to fight,
Or the Shiloh was ne'er upon earth.

May the warriors of every nation agree,
And love universal abound!
Were their bosoms from passions disgraceful, but free,
Sweet concord wou'd soon spread around.

Simplicity then shall erect her domain,
Whose peaceful and innocent smiles,
Captivating the heart of each nymph and each swain,
Put the serpent to flight with his wiles.

If too freely I've caution'd, and spoke what occur'd,
Good-nature, I hope, will excuse:
Remember 'twas Colin's request that incurr'd
What Chloe must blush to peruse.

COLIN TO CHLOE.
Had the bird whom you sing, gentle Chloe, possess'd
A voice so harmonious as thine,
Each savage, relenting, of rage 'twould divest,
And each fraud make the cunning resign.

Belov'd of sweet Harmony, think not in vain
Your vows to her shrine you address;
'Tis she tunes the numbers of Chloe's sweet strain,
And her own gentle soul you possess.

My lovely young Friend, no endeavours to please
A soul so refin'd can require,
Simplicity, elegance, sweetness, and ease,
Like thine, all who see must admire.

What prudence enjoins to suppress the sweet lay,
Whose precepts the bosom improve,
Whose gentle persuasions each heart must obey,
While at once they both charm and improve.

Sweet moralist! still be thy precepts divine
To Colin thus sweetly convey'd;
His reason presumptuous, well-pleas'd, he'll resign,
Nor question the truths they persuade.

That Virtue and Innocence, Freedom, and Peace,
Make all the true bliss of mankind,
That wrongs to forgive is the Christian's true praise,
Thy song has deep fix'd in his mind.

With thine will he join his benevolent pray'r,
That warriors their rage may forego;
That love universal and virtue may share
O'er man all dominion below.

How can you too freely your cautions express?
Or what shall good-nature excuse?
Why blush, lovely Nymph, at thy song of mild peace,
Which Angels well pleas'd might peruse?

Tho' Colin's rough numbers indulgence require,
Tho' rude and discordant his lay,
How great is their merit, since Chloe's sweet lyre
They move so divinely to play!

CHLOE TO COLIN.
So kindly invited, how can I refuse
To proceed on a theme so sublime,
Tho' unpractis'd in verse, and unfit to amuse
With the flowery strains of good rhyme?

And has the blest doctrine which Chloe has taught
Impress'd the gay mind of her friend?
A creed that, with clemency, purity fraught,
Points out a desirable end.

Or has the soft dictates politeness conveys
Forbid what she says to oppose,
And the forfeit sincerity fled from his lays,
That to dwell with deceit never chose?

No — rather suppose Colin wisely concludes,
That truth can with truth never jar;
From a seat in his bosom false reas'ning exclude,
Fit only to sport at the bar.

"As your Heavenly Father is perfect, be Ye,"
Is our Saviour's most gracious command;
Renounce brutal nature, and like Angels be,
Since this effort he's pleas'd to demand.

How enobling to man is that virtue divine,
That "reviles not again, when revil'd!"
Is this heav'nly duty, how much wou'd he shine,
Exalted, endeared, and mild.

That views with forgiveness a brother's misdeeds,
Bids malice and hate to depart,
For his errors in conduct compassionate bleeds
With benevolent feelings of heart!

The reverse is that character, martial and fierce,
That ne'er quells but increases his ire:
That can stretch out the lance fellow-beings to pierce,
And with rapture behold them expire:

That with impious ardour encounters in fight,
And, with thirst of revenge unallay'd,
Lays prostrate his victims with savage delight,
And gluts o'er the havoc he's made.

If enough of poetical fire I possess'd,
I wou'd melt with my picture of woe;
Of the orphan's complaint, and the widow distress'd,
Most plaintive my numbers shou'd flow.

If aught shou'd arise that wou'd tend to sweet peace,
Embrace the dear ensign of joy;
Nor let an inflexible temper increase
Lest your credit shou'd meet an alloy.

Feel the pulse of the people, their echo remain,
Lest their fury shou'd turn upon you—
But stop, daring girl! — nor presume in this strain,
To prescribe to a BURKE what to do.

[pp. 184, 231]