Henry James Pye

(20 February 1745 – 11 August 1813 / London, England)

The Art Of War. Book I. - Poem by Henry James Pye

Illustrious Prince mark'd out by partial Fate
To bear the burthen, and the pomp of state,
To reign of spacious realms the future lord,
To lift the balance, and to wield the sword,
O hear a Soldier train'd to War's alarms,
Inur'd to danger, and grown old in arms,
With voice experienced shew the thorny road
Which leads through scenes of blood to Fame's abode.

Nor arms, nor steeds, nor numerous troops, alone
Sustain the honor of the monarch's throne;
Their use acquire, and every Art that leads
The Warrior's skilful arm to glorious deeds;
My Muse shall here the various portrait trace,
And point the virtues which the Hero grace;
His talents gain'd by toil, his mind serene,
His active courage, and his foresight keen,
Whose powers united in the Warrior's heart
O'erleap the bounded limits of his art.

Yet think me not, malignant bard, inclin'd
To sound pale Discord's clarion to mankind,
That dazzled by false Glory's dangerous fire
I seek Ambition's fury to inspire,
Or wish to see your savage vengeance, hurl'd
With frantic boldness o'er a ravag'd world;
O may my Hero boast the honest fame
That waits Aurelius', Titus', Trajan's name;
Then shine with noblest light triumphant kings,
When Virtue owns the crown that Valor brings,
Droops every trophy, withers every wreath,
That fell Injustice blasts with poisonous breath!

O lovely Peace! and thou thrice happy power,
Whose hands on Prussia's realm each blessing shower,
Far from our fields and tranquil seats, be driven
A Victor King, the heaviest scourge of Heaven!
Could my low voice reach Heaven's eternal throne,
Still should our fields thy blissful influence own,
Still should the labourer in our happy plains
Securely reap the produce of his pains,
And watchful Themis with impartial law
Protect the guiltless, and the vicious awe,
Our vessels give their canvas to the breeze,
And fear no dangers but from stormy feas,
And Pallas o'er our peaceful throne preside,
Her ægis guard us, and her wisdom guide;
But should some neighbouring power with causeless hate
Disturb our quiet, and invade the state,
Ye kings! ye people! rouse to War's alarms,
And Heaven shall aid their cause whom Justice arms.

Fierce God of War! to thee I tune the lay,
Direct my steps, and point the arduous way,
And you, Aonian maids, assist my choice,
To gentle accents melt my rougher voice,
Temper with softer strains my warlike fire,
And tune my trumpet to your peaceful lyre!
My daring mind would paths unusual trace,
And on Parnassus' heights Victoria place,
While on the forehead of the Delian god,
Shall gleam the helmet, and the plumage nod.
My hand nor paints fair Venus' amorous wiles,
Her wanton blushes, and her witching smiles,
Nor shews the hero's limbs inglorious laid
On fragrant roses 'neath the myrtle's shade;
Let Pontus' bard sing Cupid's silken sway,
While listening Graces love the tender lay,
My martial pen more horrid forms designs,
Stern Vulcan working 'midst Ætnéan mines,
Where ponderous blows with dreadful art prepare
Those fell machines, the Thunderbolts of War,
Whose force, when skilful hands their power employ,
O'erturn the bulwark, and the town destroy,
Drive fighting legions to the realms of death,
And rule the fate of empires with their breath.

I'll paint the cruel arm from Bayonne nam'd,
Where savage art a new destruction fram'd,
Their powers combin'd where fire and steel impart,
And point a double wound at every heart.

Amidst the ranks, while death and carnage reign,
Calm moves the hero o'er the crimson plain,
Commands fresh troops the dubious fight to wage,
And shews the fatal tempest where to rage.

But ere I open to the youthful heart
These parts sublime, the mysteries of the art,
First shall my precepts to the pupil's sight
Unfold the easier maxims of the fight:
So, ere the eaglets try the realms of air,
The parent's wings her callow offspring bear,
Till bold by use, aloft they proudly rise,
And sail with dauntless pinion through the skies.

Ye warrior youths, impatient now to tread
The dangerous path of Fate, by Honor led!
Torn from a weeping mother's folding arms,
Untried in Fight, and new to War's alarms,
Think not with novice hand to seize renown,
Or pluck from Victory's brow th' eternal crown;
Disdain not first to learn with ceaseless care,
Each nice detail, the Elements of War;
To forms of art your docile bodies yield,
With ready arm the weighty firelock wield;
Firm in your ranks in death-like silence stand,
And wait with watchful eye your chief's command;
Quick at the word, in equal motions all,
Place in the threatening tube the murderous ball;
With steady footsteps wedg'd in close array,
Your ranks unfloating, rapid rush away;
Now halting, to the allotted time attend,
While by platoons unnumber'd deaths you send;
Calmly, though swift, (false haste will still retard,)
March to the post your duty bids you guard,
Attend each signal of your leader's hand,
Who knows not to obey will ne'er command;
With courage thus 'neath valiant Baden's care,
Pass'd Finck the hard apprenticeship of War.

When train'd for fight the embattled cohorts stand,
The meanest soldier helps to form the band;
These are the limbs, and Discipline the soul
Pervades, informs, and regulates the whole.
So that Versailles her silver streams may play
In watry columns to the face of day,
Marly's strong engines fram'd by nicest skill,
Make Seine's subjected waves obey their will;
Ten thousand various wheels, and pumps unseen,
With blended powers compose the vast machine,
Each movement to the whole assistance lends,
Cord waits on cord, and wheel on wheel depends,
Fail but one rope, one pulley move no more,
The frame's disorder'd, and the scene is o'er.
Thus in the host which glory leads to fame,
Should docile courage every breast inflame;
Valor that leaps o'er order's sacred bound
Is often dangerous, always useless found,
Movements uncertain, rashly quick, or slow,
May blast the laurels budding on your brow.

Deem not the nice details of duty vain,
They're the first steps that lead to Victory's fane;
By service taught, and train'd in valor's school,
Soldier yourself, you'll soldiers learn to rule;
Form'd by degrees by Wisdom's careful hand
The prudent leader of a valiant band,
Your steady thoughts will o'er it's ranks preside,
It's daring march with temper'd ardor guide,
Teach it the various forms of fight to know,
And send unerring slaughter on the foe.

Rang'd in three ranks fair Prussia's hardy race
With dauntless front the adverse legions face;
With deeper files their foes, though brave, in vain
Oppose their ardor, and dispute the plain.
Advance with equal pace the close-wedg'd line,
Let in the front the dreadful bayonet shine,
Attack with ardor, and reserve your fire,
So shall the astonish'd foe at once retire.

Your wasted troops must be supplied with care,
Mown down by slaughter in the field of War;
Chuse manly youths with sinews firm and strong
To share the glories of your veteran throng:
Mars loves the swain whose well-knit limbs can take
The heaviest burthens, nor his ranks forsake,
While feebler frames, by labor worn, and pain,
Shall sink beneath the weight of one campaign.
So proudly waving o'er the mountain's brow,
Braves the tough oak the whirlwinds as they blow,
While by it's sturdy side the wintry blast
Lays with it's rage the slender pine-tree waste.
Thus shall new levies fill your daring train,
Strong as the shaggy brood of Libya's plain.

If to renown your daring hopes aspire,
Of various troops the different use acquire.
To arms with which Thessalia's heroes fought,
Join what their foes the active Centaurs taught;
Let a new Pluvinel your coursers train,
To bear the soldier, and obey the rein,
O'er the wide trench with active limbs to bound,
To pass the rivulet, and to leap the mound.
On your strong beast the weighty cuirass wear,
And let your brows the galling helmet bear,
Learn with exactest art the sword to wield,
For oft rude force to active skill must yield;
This ready weapon gleaming in the hand
Shall terrify or break the hostile band,
Deal with resistless force it's deaths around,
While Mars approving smiles on ev'ry wound;
But from the snorting steed, the uncertain fire,
Breaks your own ranks, nor makes the foe retire.

Teach your brave squadrons to perform with care
The various forms of fight, and modes of War,
To halt at once, to wheel in close array,
Nor from their neighbouring troops to break away:
Let some experienced chief with careful art,
Speed join'd with order, to your line impart;
Teach it on every ground with ease to form;
Swift as the lightning, dreadful as the storm,
Shew it at once from pace sedate and slow,
To rush impetuous on the wond'ring foe;
To drive the adverse troops to rapid flight,
And sweep contending armies from the fight.

First bloom'd the laurel bough on Grecia's soil,
Stern Sparta taught the Warrior's generous toil,
While Thebes the close compacted fight begun,
And bade her phalanx glitter in the sun.

Illustrious chiefs of Greece! your sage command
To heroes rais'd the meanest of your band;
Your skill the want of numerous hosts supplied,
And temperate Valor vanquish'd Persian Pride,
While Marathon and Salamis proclaim
To ages yet unborn the Grecian name.
Wondering, the Macedonian Prince behold,
Proud of his friends, and lavish of his gold,
Wealthy in hopes, of warlike Virtue vain,
He fights, he conquers Persia's trembling train;
Astonish'd Asia shrinks beneath the blow,
And yields her riches to the approaching foe,
While by Euphrates' stream his phalanx stood,
Granicus' waves, and Ganges' distant flood.

At length stern Mavors from the eastern shore,
To Rome's proud walls his bloody banners bore;
A warrior nation frantic for alarms
Learn'd from the God himself the use of arms;
They dare their martial neighbours to the field,
And force opposing destiny to yield;
Italia's states their growing power obey,
Bend to their mandates, and increase their sway:
By deeds like these their eagle used to soar,
Now stretch'd her pinions to each distant shore;
Rome 'gainst her foes their Arts improving turns,
And from each war new means of Victory learns;
Her strengthen'd camps all hostile inroads brave,
And Danube trembled from his farthest wave.
Triumphant thus, her conquering bands subdued
Iberia's swains, Germania's hardy brood;
The painted sons of Britain's sea-girt shore
Lament their savage independence o'er;
The Grecian Arts, the Punic Wiles were vain,
And Pontus' Chiefs, and Gallia's giant Train,
And all a vanquish'd World confess'd her boundless reign.

But when that Discipline, whose copious source
Supplied their legions with resistless force,
Beneath their later Cæsars 'gan to fade,
A thousand barbarous hosts their realms invade,
More ruffian rage than warrior art employ,
Each province ravage, and each town destroy,
Till nodding to her fall, the ruin'd state
Her ancient laws neglected mourns too late.

Now long the glorious Art unheeded lay,
Till Charles victorious call'd it into day:
The nations trembling at his warlike reign,
Beheld the unconquer'd infantry of Spain
Reduced by ceaseless care to order's law,
But doom'd to perish in thy fields, Rocroi.

Bursting those bands which long her sons had chain'd,
Arous'd by vengeance, and by Maurice train'd,
Batavia bravely curb'd despotic sway,
And freedom gain'd by learning to obey;
By this illustrious Chief's example fir'd,
The brave Turenne to glory's heights aspir'd;
While, patroniz'd by Lewis' prudent view,
Gallia from him the Hero's Science drew,
And the bold Warrior bow'd his stubborn heart
To the strict rules of Discipline and Art.
Mean while Eugene, the favorite son of Mars,
Form'd for the fight, and doom'd in future wars
To stand firm bulwark of the imperial throne,
Pass'd in his court unnotic'd and unknown.
From him Dessaw, then new to War's alarms,
First learn'd the toilsome rudiments of Arms:
Thus the same powers on Austria's realms who wait,
Became the guardians of the Prussian state.

Mark how in every age this Art alone
Has fix'd the monarch, and maintain'd his throne;
If of this wonderous pile that mates the skies,
On Discipline the first foundations rise,
Let in your mind it's vast importance live,
Which sage experience knows alone to give;
Woe to the Novice who with frantic heart
Shall think, untaught, to try this dangerous Art.
Thus Phaeton, while headstrong passions fire,
Obtains the burning chariot from his sire,
His hands had ne'er the fiery coursers driven,
Nor knew his eyes the devious paths of Heaven;
He seiz'd the reins, his horses start away,
O'er all the ethereal plains at will they stray,
Till struck the impetuous youth by thunder's force,
The hissing waves receive his blacken'd corse.

Rash youths be warn'd! the dangerous frenzy shun,
Nor tempt the timeless fate of Phaeton:
A ruin'd land shall mourn his hapless Wars
Who guides too soon the fiery steeds of Mars.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010

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