1780 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Horrors of War, a Pastoral.

Poems, Lyric and Pastoral. In Two Volumes. By Edward Williams

Edward Williams


A singing contest in twelve anapestic stanzas "Written in Answer to a Soldier's Request, about the Time when the News arrived of General Elliott's Atchievements at Gibraltar." Amyntor enjoins Corydon to raise a song in celebration of Britain's military might, but Corydon will have none of it: "O! give me the peaceable plains; | The pleasures that flow from Contentment and Health: | Unknown to the vultures of Pride, | I'll humbly, through life, a meek shepherd abide" 2:137. Temperatures rise as the point is argued back and forth, until Amyntor declares, "Then still in oblivion remain, | Thou shepherd, ignobly regardless of praise; | With cowardly sheep on the plain, | In stagnant rusticity wasting thy days" 2:142-43. The ten-line stanza used is a conflation of the pastoral-ballad quatrain with the Prior stanza frequently used to celebrate military victories. The Horrors of War was published in 1794, by which time, if not before, Edward Williams was a thoroughgoing republican.

Elijah Waring: "It is melancholy to reflect on the facility with which some of the Bard's early friends were led to forsake him, on account of his political bias in favour of the French Revolution, under Mirabeau and the National Assembly. Kindled with a generous zeal in the cause of democracy amongst our versatile Gallic neighbours, he warmly espoused the party that favoured it in our country. The phantasies of republican purity then exhibited by certain political jugglers, were peculiarly seductive to ardent and impetuous temperaments, delighting in splendid theories, but unmindful of sober experience; whilst the dark realities of a lordly misrule, long the curse of La belle France, presented an odious contrast to those bright visions of liberty, and lent tenfold power to the delusion. Who then more likely to be carried away by such an enterprise, than this untutored novice in the world and its graver follies; and to whom could it be less reasonably imputed as a crime? A considerable forbearance would have far outgone argument, in reclaiming him from his enthusiasm in error, because time and observation would have detected the error itself: but a haughty or vindictive withdrawal of favour, had its natural effect upon a generous mind. He was too noble in mental rank to bear the yoke of an arbitrary dictator; and if his learned or wealthy friends were too exclusive, for a concession of his right to hold his own opinions, he had pride enough, on his part, to resolve on keeping wholly aloof from them" Recollections and Anecdotes of Edward Williams (1850) 29-30

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AMYNTOR, CORYDON.

AMYNTOR.
Still, CORYDON, still on the plain,
In joyless obscurity wasting thy days;
Unheeded, an indolent swain,
Whilst honour invites, and lays open her ways!
This life of a shepherd forsake,
More brilliant employments of glory pursue?
To nobler conceptions awake,
Keep deathless renown, a sole object, in view;
Thou, known to the nations around,
Shalt live, with bright Fame's immortality crown'd.

CORYDON.
Contented I live on my farm,
And all the proud sons of Ambition despise;
Thy soul feels a constant alarm,
Is toss'd in a storm, on a shadow relies.
Where cheerful tranquility reigns,
And Virtue's true joys are more valued than wealth,
O! give me the peaceable plains;
The pleasures that flow from Contentment and Health:
Unknown to the vultures of Pride,
I'll humbly, through life, a meek shepherd abide.

AMYNTOR.
But thou canst the musical verse
Energic, attune to the trumpet of Fame;
Canst Valour's atchievements rehearse,
The glories, unrival'd, of heroes proclaim.
Then bid thy bold numbers resound,
And give all thy soul to the rapture of song;
With bright Immortality crown'd,
Thy Muse shall be led in her laurels along:
See the field where her enemy lies,
And Victory's shouts are ascending the skies.

CORYDON.
And hast thou no bosom to feel
The weapon of Death in that enemy's heart;
Oh! how can the slaughtering steel
Such horrible warmth to thy wishes impart!
Let harden'd Brutality raise
Her shout to the skies, and with misery jest,
Seep Sorrow shall mourn in my lays;
I warriors abhor, and their fame I detest,
Who, drowning Humanity's voice,
Can, wading through blood, with Infernals rejoice.

AMYNTOR.
For valour and conquest renown'd,
All ages, all nations, the hero revere;
Whilst beaming effulgence around,
He walks like a giant in Glory's career;
When home he returns from the war,
What songs of applause resound in his ways!
He triumphs in Victory's car,
And voices imperial are loud in his praise;
The world shall its warriors adore,
When monarchs entomb'd are remember'd no more.

CORYDON.
No cries of weak orphans avail,
Whilst calling on fathers that never return;
Sad widows, unpity'd, bewail,
See thousands, unheeded, in misery mourn;
War's fell desolation extends,
O'erwhelming the land like a hurricane wide:
Whilst gladden'd Ferocity rends
The glittering domes of tyrannical Pride;
Where, class'd with the merciless great,
The warrior at soul is a demon complete.

AMYNTOR.
I now to the battle repair,
No dangers of death can my bosom appall;
I'll hurl through the thundering air
The lightnings of death on the treacherous GAUL:
A scourger of insolent SPAIN,
At BRITAIN'S command like an eagle I fly;
I'll wade through the blood of her slain,
A son of renown, I will conquer or die;
Thus, ranking with heroes of old,
Shall the fields that I won through long ages be told.

CORYDON.
The GAUL and the SPANIARD I deem
Friends, innocent neighbours, and brothers to me;
More warm in my peaceful esteem,
When slander'd by despots, and worried by thee;
When roars thy rude cannon aloud,
And utters thy soul in its horrible breath;
Despising thy sycophant crowd,
I mourn, sorely mourn, for those victims of death.
Talk no more of thy pupil of Fame,
I've a soul that abhors his detestable name.

AMYNTOR.
I frighten away from the land
Each insolent foe that would sorely molest;
And guard with my death-dealing hand,
The peace and the plenty by shepherds profess'd.
The rustic, at ease in his cot,
May startle, when roars the loud cannon afar;
But all that can charm in his lot,
Stern Valour protects and the terrors of war;
Then join in the dignified song,
That rolls the bright glories of heroes along.

CORYDON.
Would princes, like shepherds in peace,
The dictates of innocent NATURE obey,
AMBITION'S wild ravings would cease;
The kindlers of discord would vanish away;
Then WISDOM, ineffably bright,
Would o'er the wide world in BENEVOLENCE reign;
And LOVE, that meek angel of light,
With happiness crown'd would inhabit the plain;
With laws on BENIGNITY'S plan,
Would REASON preside in the dwellings of man.

AMYNTOR.
Then still in oblivion remain,
Thou shepherd, ignobly regardless of praise;
With cowardly sheep on the plain,
In stagnant rusticity wasting thy days:
I live the support of a crown,
That centers in valour its ultimate aim;
Consigning my deeds of renown,
To nations unborn that shall honour my name:
Whilst blended with glories of kings,
My fame in the trump of loud ecstacy rings.

CORYDON.
I see thy detestable heart,
To slav'ry subdu'd by the demon of Pride;
But nought of sophistical Art
Can the tinge of thy soul, and its villainies hide:
Go combat those insolent foes,
The passions malignant that rule in thy breast,
Where humble BENEVOLENCE glows,
The vot'ries of PEACE are eternally blest:
True glories await them above,
Where life never ends, in the mansions of LOVE!

[2:136-44]