1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode, written at Eaglehurst, which commands a View of Spithead.

The Diary, or Woodfall's Register (7 June 1792).

Henry James Pye


A patriotic ode in six stanzas after Gray's Eton College Ode published in 1792, signed "Pye, the Laureate." The poet contemplates the attractive sight of the British Navy before it goes into action against Spain, contrasted with the anticipated carnage to ensue: "So in each Ship's stupendous womb, | Now gently floating on the deep, | Peaceful as in the silent tomb, | The Demons of Destruction sleep." The poem concludes with an invocation to peace. I have not located the first publication of this poem, which would have acquired greater urgency over the course of the preceding eighteen months preceding its publication in Woodfall's Register.



Proud o'er yon distant Surge, behold
Britannia's fleet majestic ride!
Where, as her Flags in many a fold
Float high in Aether's ambient tide,
Warm courage beams from every eye,
Stern Indignation's pulse beats high;
And kindling at the warlike sight
Vengeance, with firm but temperate voice,
Responsive to a Nation's choice,
Demands the promis'd Fight.

How mild the Sun's meridian rays!
How blue the heavens! how soft the breeze
That o'er the waving forest plays,
And gently curls the rippling Seas!—
But from November's wint'ry hour,
Arm'd with the tempest's tyrant power,
Shall rouse the clouds' embattled host,
Sweep from the woods their leafy pride,
And dash the wave's infuriate tide
Against the howling Coast.

So in each Ship's stupendous womb,
Now gently floating on the deep,
Peaceful as in the silent tomb,
The Demons of Destruction sleep—
But wak'd by War's terrific roar,
Prompt o'er each desolated shore
Their hell-directed flight to urge,
And leading Slaughter's horrid train,
With hecatombs of Warriors slain,
To load th' empurpled surge.

What tho' at proud Iberia's Chiefs
The spear of Vengeance Britain aims,
Shall she not mourn a People's griefs,
Their dying Sons, their weeping Dames?
Nor shall she ev'n with tearless eye,
Yon gallant Navy e'er descry,
Returning o'er the Western flood;
For ah! the Laurel's greenest bough
That ever crown'd Victoria's brow,
Is surely tinged with blood.

Tho' blaze the splendid fires around,
The Arcs of Triumph proudly rise;
Tho' Fame her loudest Paean sound,
And notes of Conquest rend the Skies;
Alas! in some sequester'd cell,
Her slaughter'd Lover's funeral knell,
In every shout the Virgin hears;
And as the strain of Victory flows,
More swell the widow'd Matron's woes,
And faster fall her tears.

Tho' from this Cliff, while Fancy views
Yon Squadron darken half the Main,
See dress in Glory's brightest hues
The pride of Albion's Naval reign;
Yet, as Reflection's mirror shews
Th' attendant scene of death and woes,
Th' exulting hopes of Conquest cease;
She turns from War's delusive form,
To deprecate th' impending storm,
And breathes her vows for Peace.

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