An EPISTLE from the Elector of BAVARIA to the FRENCH King, after the Battle of RAMILLIES.
1 IF yet, great Sir, your heart can comfort know,
2 And the returning sighs less frequent flow;
3 If yet your ear can suffer ANNA'S fame,
4 And bear, without a start, her MARLBRO'S name;
5 If half the slain o'er wide Ramillia spread,
6 Are yet forgot, and in your fancy dead:
7 Attend, and be yourself, while I recite
8 (Oh! that I only can of losses write!)
9 To what a mighty sum our ills amount,
10 And give a faithful, tho' a sad account.
11 Let not Bavaria be condemn'd unheard,
12 Nor, 'till examin'd, have his conduct clear'd;
13 Charge not on me alone that fatal day,
14 Your own commanders bore too great a sway.
15 Think! Sir, with pity think! what I have lost,
16 My native realms and my paternal coast,
17 All that a firm confed'rate could bestow,
18 Ev'n faith and fame, if you believe the foe.
19 Think what a heavy load o'erwhelms my breast,
20 With its own sorrows and with yours opprest;[Page 120]
21 After one battle lost, and country gone,
22 Vanquish'd again, alas! and twice undone.
23 Oh! where shall I begin? what language find
24 To heal the raging anguish of your mind?
25 Or if you deign a willing ear to lend,
26 Oh! where will my disastrous story end?
27 Conquest I often promis'd, I confess,
28 And who from such a pow'r could promise less?
29 There Gallia's force, and here Bavaria's shines,
30 Th' experienc'd houshold fills our crowded lines;
31 Already had our tow'ring thoughts o'erthrown
32 The Belgian host, while we survey'd our own,
33 Destroy'd their provinces with sword and flame,
34 Let in their seas, and sack'd their Amsterdam;
35 Already had we shar'd the fancy'd spoil,
36 (Imaginary trophies crown'd our toil)
37 Batavian standards to this temple gave,
38 In that the British crosses doom'd to wave,
39 A rural seat assign'd each captive chief,
40 In flow'ry gardens to assuage his grief,
41 And by his arts, and first escape prepar'd,
42 On MARLBRO had bestow'd a double guard.
43 Paris impatient for the conquer'd foe,
44 Hasten'd the tuneful hymn and solemn show;
45 Triumphal chariots for the victor stay'd,
46 And finish'd arches cast a pompous shade;
47 With nicest art the bards had dress'd their lays,
48 Of nothing fearful but to reach our praise;[Page 121]
49 But all our hopes and expectation crost,
50 What lines have we? what fame has Boileau lost?
51 Your army now, fixt on its high designs,
52 Rush forth like vernal swarms, and quit their lines;
53 Eager the Dyle they pass to seek the fight,
54 Judoina's fields with sudden tents are white,
55 The foe descends, like torrents from the hills,
56 And all the neighb'ring vale tumultuous fills:
57 Preluding cannons tell th' approaching storm,
58 And working armies take a dreadful form.
59 Soon your victorious arms, and stronger force,
60 Tore all the left, and broke the Belgian horse;
61 Their scatter'd troops are rally'd to the fight,
62 But only rally'd for a second flight:
63 As when high heav'n on some aspiring wood,
64 Which in close ranks, and thickest order stood,
65 Pours its collected stores of vengeance down,
66 Cedars are seen with firs and oaks o'erthrown,
67 Long ravages and intervals of waste!
68 So gor'd their lines appear'd, and so defac'd.
69 The third attack had ended all the war,
70 Sunk their whole force, and sav'd your future care,
71 Had MARLBRO, only MARLBRO, not been there.
72 As some good genius flies, to save the realms
73 Which, in his absence born, a plague o'erwhelms,
74 Through op'ning squadrons did the hero haste,
75 And rais'd their drooping courage as he past.
76 Amidst the routed Belgians he arriv'd,
77 Turn'd the pursuit, the fainting fight reviv'd,
78 Supply'd each rank, fill'd ev'ry vacant space,
79 And brought the battle to its former face.
80 With trembling hearts we see our fate decreed;
81 Where MARLBRO fights how can a foe succeed?
82 To reach his life our boldest warriors strive,
83 On him the storm with all its thunder drive;
84 He stems the war, and half encompass'd round
85 Still clears his way, and still maintains his ground:
86 Amaz'd I saw him in such dangers live,
87 And envy'd him the death I wish'd to give.
88 But how our rising pleasure shall I tell?
89 The thund'ring steed, and the great rider, fell:
90 We thank'd kind heav'n, and hop'd the victor slain,
91 But all our hopes, and all our thanks were vain:
92 Free from the guilt of any hostile wound
93 Alive he lay, and dreadful on the ground.
94 As when a lion in the toils is cast,
95 That uncontroul'd had laid the country waste,
96 Th' insulting hinds surround him, who before
97 Fled from his haunts, and trembled at his roar;
98 So round beset the mighty Briton lies,
99 And vulgar foes attempt the glorious prize.
100 'Till fresh battalions to his succour brought,
101 Contending armies for the hero fought;
102 The wanted steed some friendly hand prepar'd,
103 And met a fatal, but a great, reward:[Page 123]
104 A glorious death; of his lov'd lord bereft,
105 The pious office unperform'd he left.
106 The rescu'd chief, by the past danger warm'd,
107 Our weaken'd houshold with new fury storm'd:
108 While all around to our admiring eyes
109 Fresh foes, and undiscover'd squadrons, rise.
110 The boasted guards that spread your name so far,
111 And turn'd where'er they fought the doubtful war,
112 With heaps of slaughter strow'd the fatal plain,
113 And did a thousand glorious things in vain;
114 Broke with unequal force such numbers die,
115 That I myself rejoic'd to see them fly.
116 But oh! how few preserv'd themselves by flight?
117 Or found a shelter from th' approaching night?
118 Thousands fall undistinguish'd in the dark,
119 And five whole leagues with wide destruction mark.
120 Scarce at Ramillia did the slaughter end,
121 When the swift victor had approach'd Ostend;
122 Took in whole states and countries in his way,
123 Brussels, nor Ghent, nor Antwerp gain'd a day;
124 Within the compass of one circling moon,
125 The Lis, the Demer, and the Scheld his own.
126 What in the foe's, and what in William's hand,
127 Did for an age the power of France withstand;
128 Tho' each campaign she crowded nations drain'd,
129 And the fat soil with blood of thousands stain'd;
130 Those forts and provinces does MARLBRO gain
131 In twice three suns, and not a soldier slain;[Page 124]
132 None can suspend the fortune of their town,
133 But who their harvest and their country drown;
134 Compell'd to call (his valour to evade)
135 The less destructive ocean to their aid.
136 Oh! were our loss to Flandria's plains confin'd!
137 But what a train of ills are still behind!
138 Beyond the Adige Vendome feels the blow,
139 And Villars now retires without a foe,
140 The fate of Flanders spreads in Spain the flame,
141 And their new monarch robs of half his fame;
142 But France shall hear, in some late distant reign,
143 An unborn Lewis curse Ramillia's plain.
144 Whither, oh! whither shall Bavaria run?
145 Or where himself, or where the victor shun?
146 Shall I no more with vain ambition roam,
147 But my own subjects rule in peace at home?
148 Thence an abandon'd fugitive I'm driven,
149 Like the first guilty man by angry heav'n
150 From his bless'd mansions, where th' avenging lord
151 Still guards the passage with a brandish'd sword.
152 Or shall I to Brabantia's courts retire,
153 And reign o'er distant provinces for hire?
154 Shall I with borrow'd government dispense,
155 A royal servant and another's prince?
156 These countries too (oh my hard fate!) are lost,
157 And I am banish'd from a foreign coast;
158 Now may I sight secure of future toils,
159 Of no new countries a third battle spoils.
160 Oh, Tallard! once I did thy chains deplore,
161 But envy now the fate I mourn'd before;
162 By bondage bless'd, protected by the foe,
163 You live contented with one overthrow;
164 Her captive, Britain kindly kept away
165 From the disgrace of the last fatal day.
166 How does my fall the haughty victor raise,
167 And join divided nations in his praise;
168 Grateful Germania unknown titles frames,
169 And CHURCHILL writes amongst her sov'reign names.
170 Part of her states obey a British lord,
171 Small part! of the great empire he restor'd.
172 From the proud Spaniard he extorts applause,
173 And rivals with the Dutch their great Nassaus.
174 In ev'ry language are his battles known,
175 The Swede and Pole for his, despise their own.
176 A thousand sects in him their safety place,
177 And our own saints are thank'd for our disgrace.
178 England alone, and that some pleasure gives,
179 Envies herself the blessings she receives.
180 My grief each place renews where-e'er I go,
181 And ev'ry art contributes to my woe;
182 Ramillia's plain each painter's pencil yields,
183 Bavaria flies in all their canvas fields:
184 On me, young poets their rude lays indite,
185 And on my sorrows practise how to write;
186 I in their scenes with borrow'd passion rage,
187 And act a shameful part on ev'ry stage.
188 In Flandria will the tale be ever told,
189 Nor will it grow, with ever telling, old:
190 The lisping infants will their MARLBRO raise,
191 And their new speech grow plainer in his praise;
192 His story will employ their middle years,
193 And in their latest age recall their fears,
194 While to their children's children they relate
195 The business of a day, their country's fate:
196 Then lead them forth, their thoughts to entertain,
197 And shew the wond'ring youth Ramillia's plain;
198 'Twas here they fought, the houshold fled that way,
199 And this the spot where MARLBRO prostrate lay.
200 Here they, perhaps, shall add Bavaria's name,
201 Censure his courage, and his conduct blame:
202 'Tis false, 'tis false, I did not basely yield,
203 I left indeed, but left a bloody field:
204 Believe not, future ages, ne'er believe
205 The vile aspersions which these wretches give;
206 If you too far my injur'd honour try,
207 Take heed, my ghost, it will, it shall, be nigh,
208 Rise in his face, and give the slave the lie.
209 Why should the stars thus on Britannia smile,
210 And partial blessings crown the fav'rite isle?
211 Holland does her for their great founder own;
212 Britannia gave to Portugal a crown:
213 Twice by her queens does proud Iberia fall;
214 Her Edwards and her Henrys conquer'd Gaul:[Page 127]
215 The Swede her arms from late oppression freed,
216 And if he dares oppress, will curb the Swede.
217 She, from herself, decides her neighbours fates,
218 Rescues by turns, by turns subdues their states;
219 In the wide globe no part could nature stretch
220 Beyond her arms, and out of Britain's reach:
221 Who fear'd, she e'er could have Bavaria seen?
222 Such realms, and kingdoms, hills, and seas between?
223 Yet there, — oh sad remembrance of my woe!
224 Distant Bavaria does her triumphs show.
225 Proud state! must Europe lie at thy command,
226 No prince without thee rise, without thee stand!
227 What share? what part is thine of all the spoil?
228 Thine only is the hazard and the toil.
229 An empire thou hast sav'd and all its states,
230 Iberia's realms have felt severer fates:
231 What wou'dst thou more? still do thy arms advance?
232 Heav'n knows what doom thou hast reserv'd for France!
233 From whose wise care does all the treasure rise,
234 That slaughter'd hosts and shatter'd fleets supplies?
235 From whence such boundless conquest does she reap,
236 Purchas'd with all her boasted millions cheap?
237 O bless'd! oh envy'd QUEEN! that does command
238 At such a time, in such a happy land;
239 Great in her armies and her pow'rful fleet!
240 Great in her treasures! in her triumphs great!
241 But greater still! and what we envy most,
242 That can a MARLBRO for her subject boast!
243 Oh, Gallia! from what splendors art thou hurl'd?
244 The terror once of all the western world;
245 Thy spreading map each year did larger grow,
246 New mountains still did rise, new rivers flow;
247 But now surrounded by thy ancient mounds,
248 Dost inward shrink from thy new-conquer'd bounds.
249 Why did not nature, far from MARLBRO'S worth,
250 In distant ages bring her Louis forth?
251 Each uncontroul'd had conquer'd worlds alone,
252 Happy, for Europe, they together shone.
253 Cease! Louis, cease! from wars and slaughter cease!
254 Oh! sue at last, 'tis time to sue, for peace!
255 Urge not too far your twice unhappy fate,
256 Nor MARLBRO'S stronger arm confess too late:
257 Who never camps nor rough encounters saw,
258 Can no just image of the hero draw:
259 He must, alas! that MARLBRO truly knows,
260 Face him in battle, and whole armies lose.
261 Believe me, Sir, on my unwilling breast,
262 Fate has his virtues one by one imprest:
263 With what a force our Schellemberg he storm'd?
264 And Blenheim's battle with what conduct form'd?
265 How great his vigilance; how quick his thought;
266 What his contempt of death, Ramillia taught.
267 These nature cool for peace and counsel forms,
268 For battle those with rage and fury warms;
269 But to her fav'rite Britain does impart
270 The coolest head at once and warmest heart;[Page 129]
271 So does Sicilia's lofty mountains show
272 Flames in her bosom, on her head the snow.
273 My youth with flatt'ring smiles did Fortune crown,
274 The more severely on my age to frown?
275 Of Pleasure's endless stores I drank my fill,
276 Officious Nature waited on my will;
277 The Austrian rescu'd, and the Turk o'erthrown,
278 Europe and Asia fill'd with my renown:
279 Blasted are all my glories and my fame,
280 Lost is my country and illustrious name;
281 The titles from their present lord are torn,
282 Which my great ancestors so long had borne;
283 No native honours shall my offspring grace,
284 The last elector with a num'rous race.
285 Half my unhappy subjects lost by wars,
286 The rest for a worse fate the victor spares:
287 Were they for this entrusted to my care?
288 This the reward the brave, the faithful share?
289 My sons lament, in distant dungeons thrown,
290 Unacted crimes, and follies not their own;
291 But oh! my comfort! — my o'er-flowing eyes
292 Gush forth with tears, and all my sorrows rise,
293 While the dear tender exile I bemoan;
294 Oh royal bride! oh daughter of a throne!
295 Not thus I promis'd when I sought thy bed,
296 Thou didst the brave, the great Bavaria wed:
297 Curst be ambition! curst the thirst of pow'r!
298 And curst that once-lov'd title Emperor!
299 Excuse, great Sir, the ravings of a mind,
300 That can so just a cause for sorrow find;
301 My words too rudely may a monarch greet,
302 For oh! was ever grief like mine discreet!
303 No suff'rings shall my firm alliance end,
304 An unsuccessful, but a faithful friend.