Henry James Pye

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

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

When fatal Discord from the realms of night,
Wings to this bleeding world her baleful flight,
Wakes with infernal cries her serpent brood,
Sheds through the troubled air a fiery flood,
And bids invidious rage and fury dart
Their rankling poisons through each monarch's heart,
Justice and Peace from mortal councils driven,
Forsake the earth, and seek their native Heaven;
Remorseless Vengeance every nation guides,
And brutal force in Themis' seat presides;
Satiate with blood, yet thirsting still for more,
Proud of her first success, with savage roar,
The monster urges to the dangerous plain
Destructive War, and all her hellish train.

Then shine around the opening stores of Mars,
The ramparts guarded threaten future Wars;
On every anvil new-form'd weapons gleam,
And loads the darken'd sky a sulphurous steam;
The spacious cities, whilom seats of ease,
With pleasure gay, and every art of peace,
Now swarm with crowding troops and glittering arms,
All look destruction, and all breathe alarms,
While the shrill clarion chides the winter's stay,
Whose tedious hours the promis'd War delay.

The season form'd to fan more pleasing fires,
Parent of blooming hopes and young desires,
When smiling Graces every flower combine,
The blooming wreaths of Love and Peace to twine,
Tempts only now to scenes of blood and death
The daring Warrior urg'd by Glory's breath.

Soft floats the air, and pours the melting snow
In silver torrents from the mountain's brow;
O'er the fair vales the crystal currents glide,
And smiling herbage waits on every tide;
Verdant with rising corn the hills appear,
And laughing Flora decks the vernal year;
The warrior bands with vengeful arms supplied,
The fatal ministers of regal pride,
For glory eager, and of courage proud,
With wings of speed to Honor's standard croud;
For the warm roof the tent it's covering spreads;—
The approaching War each trembling neighbour dreads;
The affrighted hind reluctant quits the soil,
And strangers reap the produce of his toil.

Now on the destin'd spot the martial train
Drawn up in dread array possess the plain;
The full battalions on the appointed place,
With ready hands the growing city trace;
Here stretch the streets, and there the palace gate
Spreads to receive the guardians of the state;
Without or wood, or stone, with skilful hands
By soldiers rear'd, the canvas city stands;
Who, as the War requires, with ease pull down,
Bear off, and raise anew, the moving town.

It asks no vulgar mind, or trifling care,
To chuse the station and the Camp prepare:
Your troops in certain safety would you place,
The different ground with skill and prudence trace:
Here craggy mountains seem to pierce the sky,
There narrow dells and spacious champains lie;
Each, as occasion points or chance directs,
Assists your purpose, and your Camp protects;
On these selected well, and fix'd with care,
Depends the fortune of th' approaching War.

The hardy troops whose steady march you lead,
The substance form of War, yourself the head;
Since from your thoughts their ev'ry motion flows,
Act while they rest, and watch o'er their repose;
To you each look the ardent warriors send,
Wait on your words, and on your skill depend;
With ceaseless care their confidence retain,
Nor let the Soldier trust your power in vain.

Does your bold heart in bloody fields delight,
Resolv'd to try the dubious chance of fight?
Chuse for your daring Camp the extended field,
Whose space shall room for every movement yield;
Small troops advanc'd before your army send,
Let woods, and rivers near, your Post defend:
Protect the neighbouring towns with watchful eye,
Whose plenteous marts your valiant troops supply;
Let your brave bands at equal distance drawn,
Rang'd in two lines, divide the verdant lawn;
Your foot the centre guard with steady ranks,
While your new-form'd dragoons protect the flanks;
The infantry with firm resistless force
Your body make, your arms the rapid horse.
Uncrouded squadrons there their files extend,
Active to charge, or ready to defend;
But in it's proper place each corps employ,
Or ground unfit will all their power destroy.
Mounted on fiery steeds, the Centaur train,
Who rush like lightning o'er the level plain,
Where swells in craggy heights the uneven ground,
Or gloomy forests spread, are useless found,
While the brave foot in all alike remain,
The wood, the marsh, the mountain, or the plain,
March o'er the extended field, or hollow dale,
Climb the steep cliff, the strong entrenchment scale,
Ready with equal vantage to engage,
Where'er the doubtful battle chance to rage.
As when in spring, the clouds together driven,
With scowling vapours blot the face of Heaven,
And thunder, wind, and rain, with stormy blast,
Lay the green hopes of future harvests waste;
So with their heavy fire in close array,
They ruin pour on all who check their way.

If to your breast her aid discretion lend,
Your army's flanks with strictest care defend;
A friendly village, an impervious wood,
A deep morass, or silver-winding flood,
Shall every weaker part from fear protect,
And teach the foe such ramparts to respect.

The bull provok'd, with horns protended stands,
Runs on his foe, and spurns with rage the sands,
With ready front each bold attack receives,
Nor to the assault his side defenceless leaves.
The important precept fix within your heart,
The prudent chief conceals each weaker part;
Secure from wounds, save in the unguarded heel,
The Grecian hero mock'd the force of steel;
Such are your flanks, protect them from the foe,
Nor rashly tempt like him a mortal blow.

By adverse fortune if your schemes are cross'd,
While growing numbers swell the opposing host,
To your thin ranks let Art her succour lend,
Let Nature's works your strengthen'd Camp defend;
Place your battalions on the mountain's brow,
'Midst gloomy woods, or where rude torrents flow.

Nor this enough; some passage unexplor'd
Should from your post a safe retreat afford;
Free to retire, or ready to advance,
Then shall you scorn the shifting power of chance,
O'ercome by talents while your foes remain
To waste with useless rage their force in vain.

Learn in the field of Mars with prudent care,
To range your bands in every form of War;
With fire your line sustain, between the space
Of different corps, your thundering engines place,
Whose brazen wombs with dreadful flash impart
Despair and terror to the assailant's heart.

Behind these fierce volcanos let your band
Of cuirass'd horse in dreadful order stand:
If fire and steel their force in vain combine,
But still your foes advance and pierce your line,
Swift to your eager squadrons give the word,
And let them bathe in blood each shining sword.

Thus to the experienced leader's sage command
It's ready aid affords the docile land,
Still offers safety to his eagle sight,
And wisdom fixes fortune's transient flight.
Valor's a common gift, but Prudence rare,
Varro the daring Soldier's praise may share.
But the form'd Hero shines in Fabius' care.
As where aloft the cliffs of Athos rise,
And rush with azure summits to the skies,
In vain the embattled tempest pours from far,
Against his sides the elemental War,
Smiles 'midst an air serene his lofty brow,
And mocks the thunder as it roars below;
So the cool chief despising fortune's frown,
Looks from his well-fenc'd Camp undaunted down,
Beholds his foe in useless schemes engage,
And waste in vain attempts his fruitless rage.

If Genius in your breast has fix'd her throne,
And Mars propitious mark'd you for his own,
Whatever ground your legions tread, you'll find
Castles, and forts, by nature's hand design'd;
Folly may see, but Wisdom's happy skill
Turns each obedient to the Warrior's will.

Thus Sparta's hero in that glorious day,
When Xerxes' millions forced at length their way,
Oppos'd his scanty troops with daring force,
To stop of Persia's sons the unskilful course,
And Grecia's arms, in many a conflict tried,
Check'd for a while the Median Tyrant's pride.

Thus, when the imperial conflict wafting o'er
From Italy to pale Epirus' shore,
The senate's darling champion rush'd to join
The mighty hero of the Julian line;
Dyrrachium's mountains well your guarded straits
Had turn'd to Pompey's side the doubting fates,
For on your heights the chief secure had stood,
And worn the victor wreath unsoil'd with blood;
But Rome's luxurious youth inflam'd with rage,
Of toil impatient, panting to engage,
Forced him to quit his post's impervious aid,—
The error Mars with tenfold vengeance paid,
And for the fault of one unguarded hour,
Gave up the vanquish'd world to Cæsar's power.

O thou whose skill could like the Roman's shine!
Shield of the empire, guardian of the Rhine!
Whose well-fenced Camps could give to fortune law,
Command success, and keep Turenne in awe,
Say, shall my Muse forget thy glorious name?—
Let Mars assist me while I chant thy fame!
Ye youthful Warriors, mark the great campaign,
Whose conduct guarded fair Germania's plain,
Admire each scene, each field with wonder view,
Survey his Camps, his rapid march pursue,
See his strong posts the fire of Gallia brave,
Restrain her ardor, and his country save.

Think not his force unmov'd he kept, nor deem
Though the large Camp a spacious city seem,
That War no sudden change requires, but learn
To watch the subtle foe at every turn;
With movement quick the former ground forsake,
Prevent his march, and each advantage take,
Safely retire, advance with rapid course,
And still by new attempts employ his force.

When to decamp the General gives command,
In lengthen'd column moves each separate band,
Four different corps they form, the ready horse,
On either flank protect the army's course;
While in the centre, rang'd in long array,
The steady foot pursue their toilsome way:
The distant foe who views the warrior train
Wind o'er in deepen'd files the spacious plain,
As glides the serpent arm'd with glittering scales,
In shining volumes o'er the Libyan vales,
The dreadful scene surveys with wild affright,
While slaughter leads the van, and claims the fight.

When form'd for War, your legions cross the plain,
Would you the smiles of fierce Bellona gain,
Before your front advanced, strong parties send,
Sustain their ardor, and their force defend;
These like the fiery cloud whose chearing light
Through the drear wild conducted Israel's flight,
Mid scenes unknown shall guide your watchful eyes,
And guard your doubtful march from quick surprize.

But should of fatal War the uncertain chance
Demand to right, or left, a swift advance,
March by your flanks embattled on the plain,
While parallel your equal lines remain.

To adverse fate must victors sometimes yield,
Turenne has fail'd, and Condé lost the field;
When forced the day to stronger arms to leave,
Still may the subtle chief his foes deceive,
Applauding worlds his merit shall admire,
Who knows without confusion to retire.
First march your baggage off to safeguards near,
While a bold train protects the lagging rear,
And, while the light-arm'd foot the mountains scale,
Secure the heavier forces pass the vale,
Till freed from danger of insulting foes,
Glorious, yet safe, the harrass'd troops repose.

O'er fair Germania's hills, with ceaseless haste,
And thorny forests Varus heedless past,
His troops neglecting, headstrong, rash, and vain,
Marching unform'd, encamping on the plain,
Till 'mid rude dells, and craggy mountains lost,
Arminius' schemes destroy'd his wilder'd host;
Augustus' tears their cruel fate deplore,
Varus, he cries, my slaughter'd troops restore!—
With wiser counsel, and more helpful care,
He should have cried, imprudent chief beware!
To seize the mountains heights thy power employ,
Nor let a barbarous host my troops destroy.

The Art of War which empire's sway extends,
On these first principles alone depends;
In advantageous posts your Camps prepare,
Advance with caution, and retire with care

Ye Warrior Chiefs who o'er our troops preside,
Learn from my verse your various parts to guide,
Let Practice prove what Theory has shewn;
And would ye sit on Glory's envied throne,
Your Camp like Fabius form, secure and slow,
And learn your Marches from his Punic foe.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010

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