Henry James Pye

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

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

Thus has Victoria taught me to impart
The rigid precepts of her glorious Art.
We've trac'd the rules of Battle from their source,
The power of Discipline, and Order's force,
How the wise chief the Encampment may secure,
And keep from fierce attacks his quarters sure,
With ceaseless fire the threatening fortress awe,
And bend the city to the Victor's law.
Rising to nobler heights, my closing strain
Shall trace the image of the embattled plain,
Teach those who tempt this ocean's dangerous wave
From rocks and shoals their venturous barks to save,
And lead the warrior youth with helpful care
To scenes of combat, and the rage of War.

Behold the glorious lists, the famous field,
Where oft the victor chief has learn'd to yield,
Lists which the shame of many a warrior tell,
Where William stumbled, and where Marsin fell,
Here oft has fail'd the bold adventurer's soul,
And flag'd his ardor ere he reach'd the goal,
This was the scene of Pompey's, Pyrrhus' fall,
With Crassus, Mithridates, Hannibal,
The bloody vestige of their loss remains
A dreadful object on the crimson'd plains:
Yet in these fields by better genius taught,
Cæsar and Macedonia's Monarch fought,
Here triumph'd Condé, Villars, brave Turenne,
Gustavus, Maurice, Luxemburgh, Eugene.

O valiant youths, by their exploits inspir'd,
Distrust your breasts with flame impetuous fir'd.
Few of the daring train who court renown
Receive from Victory's hands the envied crown,
Some new attempt the conqueror's wish employs,
And one sad day his former fame destroys:
So the bold chief who Ilium's cause sustain'd,
Against a hundred kings the war maintain'd,
Tydides yields, their backs the Grecians turn,
Brave Ajax rages, while the vessels burn,
Patroclus sinks beneath his weighty blow,
And quits Achilles' armour to the foe,
But check'd at once in conquest's bright career,
He vanquish'd falls beneath the Pelian spear.
Such fate alas! Attended Charles's fame,
Nine years of glory, and nine years of shame.

If chiefs like these in combat vers'd have found
Their honors fade as fortune sudden frown'd,
If they have fall'n from fortune's giddy height,
What can ye hope yet novices in fight?—
Scarce wean'd by fierce Bellona's fostering arms,
Young in the field, and new to War's alarms.

But, spite of sage Instruction's prudent force
Like fiery steeds impatient for the course,
Ye break away from Reason's sacred rein,
Ardent to tempt the dangers of the plain.—
Let not the flattering voice of foolish pride,
Nor self opinion's breath your movements guide,
Examine first your breast with strictest care,
And learn what talents, and what strength are there,
Nor take the ambitious hopes that fire your heart,
For the pure flame that Genius' rays impart;
In vain you boast the strength of those who wage
The sportive fight on London's barbarous stage,
Baffling the foe with sinews never tir'd,
By clowns applauded, and by fools admir'd.
Should you excel the giant race who move
The impious battle 'gainst the throne of Jove,
Whose arms to scale Olympus' summit, throw
Proud Ossa's cliffs on Pelion's craggy brow;
Should you with this the dauntless heart combine
Of raging Mars when thundering armies join;
All these are weak the applauding Muse to gain,
And strength, and size, and courage all are vain.

Much more Minerva from the chief requires
Wisdom should guide his breast while Courage fires,
There Valor cool with temperate Ardor lies,—
Swift without rashness, without weakness wise,
His prudent care should o'er his troops preside,
And 'mid the battle's rage their efforts guide,
Check rude Disorder's flight with eager hand,
And aid the fainting, or the o'er-number'd band,
With watchful art before their want prepare
Each needful requisite of doubtful War;
Oppose fresh schemes to every new alarm,
And only yield to Fate's superior arm.

Your senses quick, your judgment clear and just,
Act from yourself, nor aught to Fortune trust,
Resolve in council, cautious, timid, slow,
But verge to rashness when you strike the blow,
Nor tempt the fight for causes slight and vain,
Where slaughter reaps the harvest of the plain.

To you her force the trusting state confides,
Your skill the soldier's generous ardor guides,
Prompt at his leader's nod to arms he flies,
And marks each signal with assiduous eyes;
Give but the word, attentive to command
Pours on the embattled foe the veteran band;
So the fierce Tiger on the Lion flies,
While purple gore his tawny bosom dyes.

Behold the field by morn's sad lustre, spread
With dreadful heaps, the dying, and the dead;
Here of your foes the crimson currents glide,
There swells the blood of friends the horrid tide,
Stretch'd o'er the ground your warriors laid supine,
Remain sad victims on Ambition's shrine,
While the pale mother, and the weeping bride
Your triumphs mourn, and curse your ruthless pride;
Rather than such distress your minds should please,
Rather than shine in fatal spoils like these,
Perish of Victory's meed the tarnish'd crown!
By frantic passion gain'd, not true renown.
Say, who in bleeding trophies would appear,
Or boast a glory which he buys so dear?

No! with parental care your army lead,
Behold with grief the meanest soldier bleed,
They love their leaders, but their tyrants hate,
We owe their lives and welfare to the state.
When Mars permits be each attention shewn,
And spare their blood though lavish of your own.
But when by various wrongs your bosom's steel'd,
Your groaning country calling to the field,
And 'twixt the foe and you the uncertain scale
Of fight must shew whose fortune shall prevail,
Eager for War, and prodigal of blood,
Loose all their ardor like a rushing flood,
Then shall they shew that valor courts applause,
Nor fears to perish in a glorious cause.

The chief, whose breast Bellona's precepts fill,
Ne'er tempts the fight repugnant to his will,
By foresight warn'd, and of his cohorts sure,
He wards each offer'd blow with arm secure,
Soldier in action, though a Chief in care,
He ne'er receives, but meets the shock of War:
Still smiling fortune hears the assailant's call,
The ponderous ram batters the opposing wall,
O'erthrows with dreadful crush the lofty tower,
And gives a passage to the invader's power,
While with faint arms within, the trembling train
The falling bulwarks strive to guard in vain.

Always attack, so shall Bellona kind,
Smile on your banners waving to the wind,
And favoring fortune aid the daring arms,
Whose rapid charge the expecting foe alarms.
But should the fickle power in Prudence' spite
Wing to the adverse host her changing flight,
Meet each distress with brow unruffled still,
And every frown of Fate correct by skill,
With better hopes your downcast legions warm,
And stand unshaken 'midst the threatening storm;
For as the dusky scenes of sable night
Shew with more force the Stars refulgent light,
So 'mid misfortune's gloom with tenfold blaze,
Your glorious fame shall dart unnumber'd rays,
Courage her native worth with pride advance,
And glorious Wisdom triumph over Chance.

If Villars saw his gallant bands retreat,
Denain o'erpaid Malplaquet's sad defeat,
One happy hour may years of loss repay,
As vanquish'd Villars won at last the day.

The fight unnumber'd different forms combine,
When in the plain the embattled armies join
In open combat 'neath their leader's eyes,
Each daring host it's utmost efforts tries:
While the high cliffs, or brooks that flow between,
Of less, but bloodier conflicts are the scene,
When to the Chief strong posts their aid afford,
And the well-chosen ground assists the sword.

See to the field array'd in warlike pride,
The panting troops advance on either side,
The extending front increases as they go,
This, (instant-form'd) attacks at once the foe;
The rapid squadrons swift as thought engage,
And seek the hostile troops who shun their rage,
'Mid the thick clouds which smoak and dust afford
With dreadful lustre gleams the murderous sword;
Slaughter pursues the troops by fear dismay'd,
And hostile carnage dyes each reeking blade;
Here the deserted foot (the equestrian train
Whose ardor should their naked flanks sustain,
Forced from the field to take their rapid course,)
Dread of the approaching foe the fatal force,
Unnumber'd deaths while brazen cannons shower,
Onward impetuous moves the adverse power,
The bayonet shines with dreadful lustre bright,
Sudden the astonish'd foe prepares for flight,
Now fresh battalions rushing to engage,
Attack his fenceless flanks with tenfold rage,
He fears, he faints, he yields, and trembling flies,
While human blood the thirsty herbage dyes;
A thousand murderous tubes with dreadful fire
Pour horrid slaughter as his ranks retire,
Each runs dispers'd as fortune casts his lot,
His post, his colors, and his chief forgot.
Ne'er let the fears of scatter'd troops repose,
Ne'er build a golden bridge for flying foes,
The conquering chief resolv'd no time to lose,
The fugitives with slacken'd rein pursues,
The blest occasion grasps with eager care,
And one illustrious day concludes the War.

Eugene near Hockstet's walls where Gallia's host
On ground unfit Tallard and Marsin post,
Pours on each wing the battle's furious tides,
Their centre pierces, and their force divides;
Disarm'd and vanquish'd, Gallia's haughty race,
In captive crouds the victor's triumph grace;
No more their troops the scatter'd foes combine,
But fly inglorious to the distant Rhine.
Thus in their turn, when in Almanza's field,
The British Lions to the Lily yield,
The gallant Berwick, fortunately brave,
Iberia's throne to happy Bourbon gave.

Now other fights behold!—on yonder brow
That frowns tremendous on the vales below,
Extended see the proud battalions stand,
Veil'd in impervious clouds of dust and sand.
Behold the foe approach, he forms his lines,
Full in his front the powerful phalanx shines,
Unfit the ground the charging horse to bear,
The rapid cuirassiers possess the rear:
The Chief advances first with careful eye,
To mark their station and their force descry,
The skilful conduct of one well-aim'd blow
May give him conquest, and destroy the foe,
Of time, and place, if proper use he makes,
His weakness marks, and each advantage takes.
His daring foot advancing on the right,
Scale 'mid the cannon's rage the mountain's height,
Attack'd, confounded in their strengthen'd post,
Scatter'd and vanquish'd flies their ruin'd host,
The Victor profits by his foes disgrace,
And rush the horse unwearied to the chace.
Thus Friburg's day would Condés glory raise.—
With equal courage, and with equal praise
Thus Saxe before his grateful monarch's eyes,
Offering of foes a bloody sacrifice,
Forced the confederate bands to sudden flight,
And placed his ensigns on their mountains height.

Nought stops the chief whose arms Bellona guides
If in his Camp the foe his legions hides,
Fearing again to meet in open field
The force that taught his troops o'er-match'd to yield,
If faintly brave, and wisely circumspect,
He makes the strengthen'd post his troops protect,
Still will the hero (some new scheme employ'd)
Force him to dare the fight he would avoid,
By various fears his troubled breast alarms,
Turns to the neighbouring towns his threatening arms,
Before three cities now at once appears,
And fills their failing hearts with equal fears,
While trembling each expects the impending blow,
Distress and famine wait the wasting foe,
Forced to the piercing calls of want to yield,
And dare on equal terms the embattled field:
For from it's dam will sooner fly the fawn,
And quit the breast from whence it's life is drawn,
Than the wise chief abandon to your power
The towns which Plenty on his legions pour.

When of your march the swiftness to avoid,
The subtle foe has rapid streams employ'd,
And thinks their waves shall stop your destin'd way,
Reflect how Hannibal obtain'd the day;
On Rhone's high banks while Rome opposing stood,
Feining, he elsewhere fords the dangerous flood,
And joining artful wiles to daring force,
The Consul mock'd who thought to check his course.

O glorious leader of my rival's cause,
Charles! from a foe receive thy just applause,
A foe from envy and from hatred free,
Who pays the tribute due to truth and thee:
The swelling stream of that majestic tide,
Whose waves from France the imperial realms divide,
And on it's guarded brink the embattled band,
In vain the progress of thy arms withstand,
Rhine, troops, and threatening danger, all in vain
Oppose the march, no peril stops Lorrain.
In different corps the soldiers charge the foe,
Strike all at once the unexpected blow,
O'er the swift stream the bridges sudden laid,
Secure thy passage, and thy courage aid,
To thy assailing ardor Gallia yields,
And Austrian legions waste Alsatia's fields.

Say shall the fame of Tholus' day be lost,
When Lewis forced Batavia's strengthen'd post?
Pass'd Rhine thy waves with matchless courage o'er,
And swimming reach'd secure the opposing shore?—
Such are the deeds that Mars delights to bless,
Where courage nobly daring, gives success.

But if to solid fame your breast aspire,
With heavenly Mercy temper Valor's fire,
The bravest chief that graced the Roman state,
In every place and every action great,
When bow'd the world to his triumphant reign,
Preserv'd his foes on fam'd Pharsalia's plain.

At Fontenoy see Lewis, generous foe!
Mild in success, console the captive's woe,
Tempering with God-like mercy martial rage,
His generous hands the prisoners grief assuage,
They bathe with grateful tears the Victor's arms,
His valor bends them, but his mercy charms,
To War's distress his goodness lustre gives,
A Hero conquers, but a God forgives.

Pursue, brave youths, the illustrious chiefs I sing,
So shall exulting fame on eagle's wing,
Chanting with ceaseless voice each deathless name,
To distant regions tell your honest fame.
While listening virtue on her heavenly throne,
Of heroes proud, Astræa deigns to own,
Fond of the chiefs on whom fair Mercy waits,
Shall ope Eternity's stupendous gates;
There in the seats for Innocence design'd,
Their glorious meed the martial Virtues find,
There sit above the rest the truly Great,
Who bless with peaceful arts the happy state,
With laurels deck'd, and shining garments here
Good Kings and virtuous Magistrates appear,
Conquerors how few, but every Chief who draws
His sword for Justice and his Country's cause.

O should you one day take this generous flight,
And scale of Heaven sublime the exalted height,
Think of the Martial Muse, whose voice severe,
To fame heroic urg'd the bold career,
Temper'd with precept, by example fir'd,
And all your heart with Virtue's charms inspir'd.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010

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