An Ode - Humbly Inscribed To The Queen, On the Glorious Success of Her Majesty's Arms

A poem by Matthew Prior

When great Augustus govern'd ancient Rome,
And sent his conquering bands to foreign wars,
Abroad when dreaded, and beloved at home,
He saw his fame increasing with his years,
Horace, great bard, (so fate ordain'd) arose,
And, bold as were his countryman in fight,
Snatch'd their fair actions from degrading prose,
And set their battles in eternal light:
High as their trumpets tune his lyre he strung,
And with his prince's arms he moralized his song.

When bright Eliza ruled Britannia's state,
Widely distributing her high commands,
And, boldly wise and fortunately great,
Freed the glad nations from tyrannic bands,
An equal genius was in Spenser found;
To the high theme he match'd his noble lays;
He travelled England o'er on fairy ground,
In mystic notes to sing his monarch's praise:
Reciting wondrous truths in pleasing dreams
He deck'd Eliza's head with Gloriana's beams.

But, greatest Anna! while thy arms pursue
Paths of renown, and climb ascents of fame,
Which nor Augustus nor Eliza knew,
What poet shall be found to sing thy name?
What numbers shall record, what tongue shall say
Thy wars on land, thy triumphs on the main?
O fairest model of imperial sway!
What equal pen shall write thy wondrous reign?
Who shall attempts and feats of arms rehearse,
Nor yet by story told, nor parallel'd by verse?

Me all too mean for such a task I weet;
Yet if the sovereign Lady designs to smile
I'll follow Horace with impetuous heat,
And clothe the verse in Spenser's native style:
By these examples rightly taught to sing,
And smit with pleasure of my country's praise,
Stretching the plumes of an uncommon wing,
High as Olympus I my flight will raise,
And latest times shall in my numbers read
Anna's immortal fame and Marlborough's hardy deed.

As the strong eagle in the silent wood,
Mindless of warlike rage and hostile care,
Plays round the rocky cliff or crystal flood,
Till by Jove's high behests call'd out to war,
And charged with thunder of his angry king,
His bosom with the vengeful message glows,
Upward the noble bird directs his wing,
And towering round his master's earth-born foes,
Swift he collects his fatal stock of ire,
Lifts his fierce talon high, and darts the forked fire.

Sedate and calm thus victor Marlborough sate,
Shaded with laurels, in his native land,
Till Anna calls him from his soft retreat,
And gives her second thunder to his hand:
Then leaving sweet repose and gentle ease,
With ardent speed he seeks the distant foe,
Marching o'er hills and vales, o'er rocks and seas,
He meditates and strikes the wondrous blow.
Our thought flies slower than our General's fame;
Grasps he the bolt? (we ask) when he has hurl'd the flame.

When fierce Bavar on Judoign's spacious plain
Did from afar the British chief behold,
Betwixt despair, and rage, and hope, and pain,
Something within his warring bosom roll'd:
He views that favourite of indulgent Fame,
Whom whilom he had met on Ister's shore;
Too well, alas! the man he knows the same
Whose prowess there repell'd the Boyan power,
And sent them trembling thro' the frighted lands,
Swift as the whirlwind drives Arabia's scatter'd sands.

His former losses he forgets to grieve;
Absolves his fate with a kinder ray
It now would shine, and only give him leave
To balance the account of Blenheim's day.
So the fell lion, in the lonely glade,
His side still smarting with the hunter's spear,
Though deeply wounded, no way yet dismay'd,
Roars terrible, and meditates new war,
In sullen fury traverses the plain
To find the venturous foe, and battle him again.

Misguided prince, no longer urge thy fate,
Nor tempt the hero to unequal war;
Famed in misfortune, and in ruin great,
Confess the force of Malbro's stronger star.
Those laurel groves (the merits of thy youth)
Which thou from Mahomet didst greatly gain,
While, bold assertor of resistless truth,
Thy sword did godlike Liberty maintain.
Must from thy brow their falling honours shed,
And their transplanted wreaths must deck a worthier head.

Yet cease the ways of Providence to blame,
And human faults with human grief confess;
'Tis thou art changed, while Heaven is still the same;
From thy ill counsels date thy ill success:
Impartial Justice holds her equal scales,
Till stronger virtue does the weight incline;
If over thee thy glorious foe prevails,
He now defends the cause that once was thine.
Righteous the war, the champion shall subdue,
For Jove's great handmaid, Power, must Jove's decrees pursue.

Hark! the dire trumpets sound their shrill alarms!
Auverqueque, branch'd from the renown'd Nassaus,
Hoary in war, and bent beneath his arms,
His glorious sword with dauntless courage draws.
When anxious Britain mourn'd her parting lord,
And all of William that was mortal died,
The faithful hero had received his sword
From his expiring master's much-loved side:
Oft from its fatal ire has Louis flown,
Where'er great William led or Maese and Sambre run.

But brandish'd high, in an ill-omen'd hour
To thee, proud Gaul, behold thy justest fear,
The master-sword, disposer of thy power:
'Tis that which Caesar gave the British peer.
He took the gift: Nor ever will I sheath
This steel (so Anna's high behests ordain)
The General said, unless by glorious death
Absolved, till conquest has confirm'd your reign.
Returns like these our mistress bids us make,
When from a foreign prince a gift her Britons take.

And now fierce Gallia rushes on her foes,
Her force augmented by the Boyan bands;
So Volga's stream, increased by mountain snows,
Rolls with new fury down through Russia's lands.
Like two great rocks against the raging tide
(If Virtue's force with Nature's we compare)
Unmoved the two united chiefs abide,
Sustain the impulse, and receive the war:
Round their firm sides in vain the tempest beats,
And still the foaming wave with lessen'd power retreats.

The rage dispersed, the glorious pair advance,
With mingled anger and collected might,
To turn the war, and tell aggressing France
How Britain's sons and Britain's friends can fight.
On conquest fix'd, and covetous of fame,
Behold them rushing through the Gallic host;
Through standing corn so runs the sudden flame,
Or eastern winds along Sicilia's coast.
They deal their terrors to the adverse nation:
Pale Death attends their arms, and ghastly Desolation.

But while with fiercest ire Bellona glows,
And Europe rather hopes than fears her fate,
While Britain presses her afflicted foes,
What horror damps the strong and quells the great?
Whence look the soldier's cheeks dismay'd and pale?
Erst ever dreadful, know they now to dread?
The hostile troops, I ween, almost prevail,
And the pursuers only not recede.
Alas! their lessen'd rage proclaims their grief!
For anxious, lo! they crowd around their falling chief.

I thank thee, Fate, exclaims the fierce Bavar;
Let Boya's trumpet graceful Io's sound;
I saw him fall, their thunderbolt of war;,
Ever to Vengeance sacred be the ground,
Vain wish! short joy! the hero mounts again
In greater glory, and with fuller light;
The evening star so falls into the main,
To rise at morn more prevalently bright.
He rises safe, but near, too near his side,
A good man's grievous loss, a faithful servant died.

Propitious Mars! the battle is regain'd';
The foe with lessen'd wrath disputes the field:
The Briton fights, by favoring gods sustain'd;
Freedom must live, and lawless power must yield.
Vain now the tales which fabling poets tell,
That wavering Conquest still desires to rove!
In Marlbro's camp the goddess knows to dwell;
Long as the hero's life remains her love.
Again France flies, again the Duke pursues,
And on Ramilia's plains he Blenheim's fame renews.

Great thanks, O Captain, great in arms! receive
From thy triumphant country's public voice;
Thy country greater thanks can only give
To Anne, to her who made those arms her choice.
Recording Schellenberg's and Blenheim's toils,
We dreaded lest thou should'st those toils repeat:
We view'd the palace charged with Gallic spoils,
And in those spoils we thought thy praise complete.
For never Greek we deem'd, nor Roman knight,
In characters like these did e'er his acts indite.

Yet, mindless still of ease, thy virtue flies
A pitch to old and modern times unknown:
Those goodly deeds, which we so highly prize,
Imperfect seem, great Chief, to thee alone.
Those heights, where William's virtue might have staid,
And on the subject world look'd safely down,
By Marlbro's pass'd, the props and steps were made
Sublimer yet to raise his Queen's renown:
Still gaining more, still slighting what he gain'd,
Nought done the hero deem'd while ought undone remain'd.

When swift-wing'd Rumour told the mighty Gaul
How lessen'd from the field Bavar was fled,
He wept the swiftness of the champion's fall,
And thus the royal treaty-breaker said:
And lives he yet, the great, the lost Bavar,
Ruin to Gallia in the name of friend?
Tell me how far has Fortune been severe?
Has the foe's glory of our grief an end?
Remains there, of the fifty thousand lost,
To save our threaten'd realm, or guard our shatter'd coast?

To the close rock the frighted raven flies,
Soon as the rising eagle cuts the air
The shaggy wolf unseen and trembling lies,
When the hoarse roar proclaims the lion near:
Ill starr'd did we our forts and lines forsake,
To dare our British foes to open fight:
Our conquest we by stategem should make:
'Tis ours by craft and by surprise to gain:
'Tis theirs, to meet in arms, and battle in the plain.

The ancient father of this hostile brood,
Their boasted Brute, undaunted snatch'd his gods
From burning Troy, and Xanthus red with blood,
And fix'd on silver Thames his dire abodes:
And this be Trynovante, he said, the seat
By Heaven ordain'd, my sons, your lasting place:
Superior here to all the bolts of fate
Live, mindful of the author of your race,
Whom neither Greece, nor war, nor want, nor flame,
Nor great Pelides' arm, nor Juno's rage, could tame.

Their Tudors hence, and Stuart's offspring flow:
Hence Edward, dreadful with his sable shield,
Talbot to Gallia's power eternal foe,
And Seymour, famed in council or in field:
Hence Nevel, great to settle or dethrone,
And Drake, and Ca'ndish, terrors of the sea:
Hence Butler's sons, o'er land and ocean known,
Herbert's and Churchill's warring progeny:
Hence the long roll which Gallia should conceal:
For, oh! who, vanquish'd, loves the victor's fame to tell?

Envy'd Britannia, sturdy as the oak,
Which on her mountain top she proudly bears,
Eludes the axe, and sproutes against the stroke;
Strong from her wounds, and greater by her wars.
And as those teeth, which Cadmus sow'd in earth,
Produced new youth, and furnish'd fresh supplies;
So with young vigour, and succeeding birth,
Her losses more than recompensed arise;
And every age she with a race is crown'd,
For letters more polite, in battles more renown'd.

Obstinate power, whom nothing can repel;
Not the fierce Saxon, nor the cruel Dane,
Nor deep impression of the Norman steel,
Nor Europe's force amass'd by envious Spain.
Nor France on universal sway intent,
Oft breaking leagues, and oft renewing wars;
Nor (frequent bane of weaken'd government)
Their own intestine feuds and mutual jars;
Those feuds and jars, in which I trusted more,
Than in my troops, and fleets, and all the Gallic power.

To fruitful Rheims, or fair Lutetia's gate,
What tidings shall the messenger convey?
Shall the loud herald our success relate,
Or mitred priest appoint the solemn day?
Alas! my praises they no more must sing;
They to my statue now must bow no more;
Broken, repulsed is their immortal king:
Fall'n, fall'n for ever, is the Gallic power.—
The woman chief is master of the war:
Earth she has freed by arms, and vanquish'd Heaven by prayer.

While thus the ruin'd foe's despair commends
Thy council and thy deed, victorious queen,
What shall thy subjects say, and what thy friends;
How shall thy triumphs in our joy be seen?
Oh! deign to let the eldest of the nine
Recite Britannia great and Gallia free;
Oh! with her sister Sculpture let her join
To raise, great Anne, the monument to thee;
To thee, of all our good the sacred spring;
To thee, our dearest dread; to thee, our softer king.

Let Europe, saved, the column high erect,
Than Trojan's higher, or than Antonine's,
Where sembling art may carve the fair effect
And full achievement of thy great designs,
In a calm heaven and a serener air
Sublime the queen shall on the summit stand,
From danger far, as far removed from fear,
And pointing down to earth her dread command.
All winds, all storms, that threaten human wo
Shall sink beneath her feet, and spread their rage below.

There fleets shall strive, by winds and waters tost,
Till the young Austrian on Iberia's strand,
Great as AEneas on the Latian coast
Shall fix his foot: And this, be this the land,
Great Jove, where I for ever will remain,
(The empire's other hope shall say) and here
Vanquish'd, intomb'd I'll lie, or crown'd I'll reign,
O Virtue, to thy British Mother dear!
Like the famed Trojan suffer and abide:
For Anne is thine, I ween, as Venus was his guide.

There, in eternal characters engraved,
Vigo, and Gibraltar, and Barcelone,
Their force destroy'd, their privileges saved,
Shall Anna's terrors and her mercies own:
Spain, from the usurper Bourbon's arms retrieved,
Shall with new life and grateful joy appear,
Numbering the wonders which that youth achieved
Whom Anna clad in arms and sent to war,
Whom Anna sent to claim Iberia's throne,
And made him more than king in calling him her son.

There Isther, pleased by Blenheim's glorious field,
Rolling, shall bid his eastern waves declare
Germania saved by Britain's ample shield,
And bleeding Gaul afflicted by her spear;
Shall bid them mention Marlbro', on that shore
Leading his islanders renown'd in arms,
Through climes where never British chief before
Or pitch'd his camp, or sounded his alarms;
Shall bid them bless the queen, who made his streams
Glorious as those of Boyne, and safe as those of Thames.

Brabantia, clad with fields, and crown'd with towers,
With decent joy shall her deliverer meet,
Shall own thy arms, great queen, and bless thy powers,
Laying the keys beneath thy subject's feet.
Flandria, by plenty made the home of war,
Shall weep her crime, and bow to Charles restored,
With double vows shall bless thy happy care
In having drawn and having sheathed the sword,
From these their sister provinces shall know
How Anne supports a friend, and how forgives a foe.

Bright swords, and crested helms, and pointed spears,
In artful piles around the work shall lie;
And shields indented deep in ancient wars,
Blazon'd with signs of Gallic heraldry;
And standards with distinguish'd honours bright,
Marks of high power and national command,
Which Valois' sons, and Bourbon's bore in fight,
Or gave to Foix', or Montmorancy's hand;
Great spoils, which Gallia must to Britain yield,
From Cressy's battle saved to grace Ramilia's field.

And, as fine art the spaces may dispose,
The knowing thought and curious eye shall see
Thy emblem, gracious queen, the British rose,
Type of sweet rule and gentle majesty:
The northern thistle, whom no hostile hand
Unhurt too rudely may provoke, I ween;
Hibernia's harp, device of her command,
And parent of her mirth shall there be seen:
Thy vanquish'd lilies, France, decay'd and torn,
Shall with disorder'd pomp the lasting work adorn.

Beneath, great queen, oh! very far beneath,
Next to the ground and on the humble base,
To save herself from darkness and from death,
That muse desires the last, the lowest place;
Who, though unmeet, yet touch'd the trembling string,
For the fair fame of Anne and Albion's land,
Who durst of war and martial fury sing;
And when thy will, and when thy subject's hand,
Had quell'd those wars, and bid that fury cease,
Hangs up her grateful harp to conquest, and to peace.

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