Written in the Winter of MDCCXCI, Whilst on Barnet Field.
1 THE northern wind howls o'er the dreary plain,
2 And thick and frequent fall the drifted snows:
3 Pleas'd, Desolation views her waste domain,
4 And torpid Vegetation's dead repose.
5 Yet here my pensive Muse delights to stray,
6 And silent o'er this barren wild to tread;
7 For well the prospect suits my solemn lay,
8 Which sings of battles and the mighty dead.
9 Yes, ye cold relics of what once were great,
10 To you alone my homage shall be paid:
11 I scorn to flatter living Power or State,
12 But bend with reverence to the Hero's shade.
13 Soon the gay pageants vulgar minds adore
14 Shall rest neglected in the lonely grave,
15 Where Adulation sooths their ears no more,
16 And Vanity no longer can enslave.
17 The wise and brave attends a different fate;
18 Their names shall flourish to remotest time;
19 Fame shall for them her golden trump inflate,
20 And sound their praises in each distant clime.
21 Then cease, ye Bards, to stoop to gilded Pride;
22 On genuine Worth alone your praise bestow:
23 For Wealth, or Rank, to Merit unallied,
24 Serves but the owner's littleness to show.
25 What slaughter once empurpled o'er this field!
26 Here constant Loyalty in vain expir'd:
27 Her sanguine votaries here Ambition steel'd,
28 While frantic Hate each hostile bosom fir'd.
29 Here princely Warwick, generous, wise, and brave,
30 Pour'd from unnumber'd wounds life's crimson flood:
31 Here dying Montague a token gave
32 Of love fraternal ratified in blood.
33 Hard fate of War! when Warwick's*
* Warwick had just before deserted the Party of Edward IV. rebel hand
34 Against his Sovereign grasp'd the direful sword,
35 That Victory should on his banners stand,
36 And leave him when to Virtue's cause restor'd!
37 Yet let not Man, presumptuous, weak, and vain,
38 Murmur at God's inscrutable decree —
39 But own, whate'er his Wisdom shall ordain
40 Is right, though Man's too blind the cause to see.
41 By ties of blood here fickle Clarence†
† Clarence had deserted Warwick in this battle. sway'd,
42 Basely betray'd his unsuspecting Friend:
43 But the transgression soon his life repaid,
44 By Glo'ster doom'd to an inglorious end.
[Page 37] 45 Here fainting Exeter‡
‡ The Duke of Exeter. Vide Rapin's History., by wounds opprest,
46 Mixt with the dead, lay senseless on the plain,
47 Till friendly Night outspread her sable vest,
48 When his slow steps a neighbouring cottage gain.
49 Nor, though his ensigns*
* In this battle the ensigns of the Earl of Oxford were mistaken for those of the enemy by his own party, who charged each other — and thus, the day was lost. lost the doubtful day,
50 Should Oxford†
† The Earl of Oxford, a chief commander; he led the van also of Richmond's army. lose the well-earn'd meed of praise;
51 For long he fought, nor left the dire affray
52 Till even fond Hope withdrew its latest rays;
53 Then fled with Somerset to Tewks'bury's plain,
54 To join, unwearied Margaret's hostile bands:
55 But all thy courage, Somerset‡
‡ The Duke of Somerset, afterwards slain at Tewksbury., is vain,
56 Whose life relentless Destiny demands.
57 A doom less rigorous was thine, De Vere§
§ The name of the Oxford family.!
58 For, deeply though you drank the cup of woe,
59 At length you saw, reliev'd from every fear,
60 The tyrant Richard's blood at Bosworth flow.
[Page 38] 61 To march victorious o'er this plain‖
‖ After the battle of Bosworth. was thine,
62 Where first severest Fortune you had known,
63 And to behold the great Lancastrian line
64 Once more securely plac'd on Albion's throne.
65 But in what plaintive accents shall my Muse,
66 Unhappy Henry, weep thy lorn estate!
67 What heart to thee compassion could refuse?
68 For thy meek virtues ill deserv'd thy fate.
69 When the sad tidings reach'd thine anxious ear
70 Of Warwick slain, thy brightest hopes undone,
71 Did not thy mind presage new anguish near,
72 Thy captive princess, and thy murder'd son?
73 Did not prophetic fancy paint the steel
74 By Glo'ster pointed to thy harmless breast,
75 Design'd by heaven thy sharper woes to heal,
76 And grant thee long-lost liberty and rest?
77 Far different hopes deceitful Fortune gave,
78 Whose brightest influence shone upon thy birth,
79 When, form'd each adverse nation to enslave,
80 Thy warlike sire adorn'd the wondering earth;
81 When happy England bless'd his equal sway,
82 And Gallia's sceptre fill'd his conquering hand.
83 How chang'd thy prospect at life's parting ray!
84 A bleeding captive in thy native land.
85 Thus Goodness infinite would wean the mind,
86 By strange vicissitudes and endless strife,
87 From Earth's dull joys, to happiness refin'd
88 In the pure regions of eternal life —
89 Where crowns of glory for the good await,
90 Whose dazzling splendour, to our eyes unknown,
91 Shall far surpass the eastern monarch's state
92 'Mid all the gaudy glitter of his throne.
93 No more then, Henry, I lament thy fall,
94 Or envy guilty Richard his renown:
95 Nor Pain nor Death the virtuous man appall;
96 Cheer'd by his God, he scorns their Idle frown.
97 But though Prosperity and vain Parade
98 Through life's short path the wicked may sustain;
99 Yet a few hours, and all their glories fade,
100 And nought but grief and bitterness remain.
101 Farewell, ye scenes of Anarchy and Woe!
102 From you henceforth be dread Rebellion far!
103 And ne'er again mayst thou, Britannia, know
104 The dire misfortunes of intestine war!
105 Let fickle France indulge each wild extreme,
106 While Peace and Virtue mourn their injur'd cause;
107 But long may England baffle every scheme
108 By Faction form'd against her matchless laws!
109 For real Liberty is theirs alone
110 Who bend submissive, Justice, at thy shrine;
111 Where, studious to support thine equal throne,
112 The Subject and the Monarch both combine.