Matthew Prior

1664 - 1721 / Dorset / England

An Ode - In Imitation Of Horace, Book Iii. Ode Ii.

How long, deluded Albion, wilt thou lie
In the lethargic sleep, the sad repose
By which thy close thy constant enemy
Has softly lull'd thee to thy woes?
Or wake, degenerate isle, or cease to own
What thy old kings in Gallic camps have done,
The spoils they brought thee back, the crowns they won,
William (so Fate requires) again is arm'd,
Thy father to the field is gone,
Again Maria weeps her absent lord,
For thy repose content to rule alone.
Are thy enervate sons not yet alarm'd?
When William fights dare they look tamely on,
So slow to get their ancient fame restored,
As not to melt at Beauty's tears nor follow Valour's sword?

See the repenting isle awakes,
Her vicious chains the generous goddess breaks;
The fogs around her temples are dispell'd;
Abroad she looks, and sees arm'd Belgia stand
Prepared to meet heir common lord's command,
Her lions roaring by her side, her arrows in her hand,
And blushing to have been so long withheld,
Weeps off her crime, and hastens to the field:
Henceforth her youth shall be inured to bear
Hazardous toil and active war:
To march beneath the dogstar's raging heat,
Patient of summer's drought and martial sweat,
And only grieve in winter's camp to find
Its days too short for labours they design'd:
All night beneath hard heavy arms to watch,
All day to mount the trench, to storm the breach,
And all the rugged paths to tread
Where William and his virtue led.

Silence is the soul of war;
Deliberate counsel must prepare
The mighty work which valour must complete:
Thus William rescued, thus preserves the state,
Thus teaches us to think and dare:
As, whilst his cannon just prepared to breathe
Avenging anger and swift death,
In the tried metal the close dangers glow,
And now, too late, the dying foe
Perceives the flame, yet cannot ward the blow;
So whilst in William's breast ripe counsels lie,
Secret and sure as brooding Fate,
No more of his design appears
Than what awakens Gallia's fears,
And (though Guilt's eye can sharply penetrate)
Distracted Lewis can descry
Only a long unmeasured ruin nigh.

On Norman coasts, and banks of frighted Seine,
Lo! the impending storms begin;
Britannia's safely through her master's sea
Plows up her victorious way:
The French Salmoneus throws his bolts in vain
Whilst the true thunderer asserts the main.
'Tis done! to shelves and rocks his fleets retire,
Swift victory, in vengeful flames,
Burns down the pride of their presumptuous names:
They run to shipwreck to avoid our fire,
And the torn vessels that regain their coast
Are but sad marks to show the rest are lost.
All this the mild the beauteous Queen has done,
And William's softer half shakes Lewis' throne.
Maria does the sea command,
Whilst Gallia flies her husband's arms by land.
So, the sun absent, with full sway the moon
Governs the isles and rules the wave alone;
So Juno thunders when her Jove is gone.
Io, Britannia! loose thy ocean's chains,
Whilst Russel strikes the blow thy Queen ordains.
Thus rescued, thus revered, for ever stand,
And bless the counsel, and reward the hand,
Io Britannia! thy Maria reigns.

From Mary's conquests and the rescued main
Let France look forth to Sambre's armed shore,
And boast her joy for William's death no more.
He lives, let France confess the victor lives:
Her triumphs for his death were vain,
And spoke her terror of his life too plain.
The mighty years begin, the days draw nigh
In which
that one
of Lewis' many wives
Who, by the baleful force of guilty charms
Has long enthrall'd him in her wither'd arms,
Shall o'er the plains from distant towers on high
Cast around her mournful eye,
And with prophetic sorrow cry,
Why does my ruin'd lord retard his flight?
As well the wolf may venture to engage
The angry lion's generous rage,
The ravenous vulture and the bird of night
As safely tempt the stooping eagle's flight,
As Lewis to unequal arms defy
Yon hero, crown'd with blooming victory
Just triumphing o'er rebel rage restrain'd,
And yet unbreathed from battles gain'd.
See! all yon dusty fields, quite cover'd o'er
With hostile troops, and Orange at their heart,
The great designs of labouring Fate;
Orange, the name that tyrants dread:
He comes; our ruin'd empire is no more:
Down like the Persian goes the Gallic throne;
Darius flies; young Ammon urges on.

Now from the dubious battle's mingled heat
Let Fear look back, and stretch her hasty wing,
Impatient to secure a base retreat;
Let the pale coward leave his wounded king,
For the vile privilege to breath,
To live with shame in dread of glorious death!
In vain; for Fate has swifter wings than Fear,
She follows hard, and strikes him in the rear;
Dying and mad the traitor bites the ground,
His back transfix'd with a dishonest wound,
Whilst through the fiercest troops and thickest press
Virtues carries on success;
Whilst equal Heaven guards the distinguish'd brave,
And armies cannot hurt whom angels save.

Virtue to verse immortal lustre gives;
Each by the other's mutual friendship lives;
AEneas suffer'd and Achilles fought;
The hero's acts enlarged the poet's thought,
Or Virgil's majesty and Homer's rage
Had ne'er like lasting Nature vanquish'd age.
Whilst Lewis then his rising terror drowns
With drums' alarms and trumpets' sounds;
Whilst hid in arm'd retreats and guarded towns,
From danger as from honour far,
He bribes close Murder against open War,
In vain your Gallic Muses strive
With labour'd verse to keep his fame alive;
Your mouldering monuments in vain you raise
On the weak basis of the tyrant's praise;
Your songs are sold, your numbers are profane,
'Tis incense to an idol given,
Meat offer'd to Prometheus' man,
That had no soul from Heaven.
Against his will you chain your frighted king
On rapid Rhine's divided bed,
And mock your her, whilst ye sing
The wounds for which he never bled;
Falsehood does poison on your praise diffuse,
And Lewis' fear gives death on Boileau's muse.

On its own worth true majesty is rear'd,
And Virtue is her own reward;
With solid beams and native glory bright,
She neither darkness dreads nor covets light;
True to herself, and fix'd to in-born laws,
Nor sunk by spite, nor lifted by applause,
She from her settled orb looks calmly down
On life or death, a prison or a crown.
When bound in double chains poor Belgia lay,
To foreign arms and inward strife a prey;
Whilst one good man buoy'd up her sinking state,
And Virtue labour'd against Fate;
When Fortune basely with Ambition join'd,
And all was conquer'd but the patriot's mind;
When storms let loose, and raging seas,
Just ready the torn vessel to o'erwhelm,
Forced not the faithful pilot from his helm,
Nor all the Siren songs of future peace,
And dazzling prospect of a promised crown,
Could lure his stubborn virtue down;
But against charms, and threats, and hell he stood
To that which was severely good;
Then had no trophies justified his fame,
No poet bless'd his song with Nassau's name;
Virtue alone did all that honour bring,
And Heaven as plainly pointed out the King,
As when he at the altar stood
In all his types and robes of power,
Whilst at his feet religious Britain bow'd,
And own'd him next to what we there adore.

Say joyful Maese, and Boyne's victorious flood,
(For each has mix'd his waves with royal blood)
When William's armies pass'd, did he retire,
Or view from far the battle's distant fire;
Could he believe his person was too dear?
Or use his greatness to conceal his fear?
Could prayers or sighs the dauntless hero move?
Arm'd with heaven's justice, and his people's love,
Through the first waves he wing'd his venturous way,
And on the adverse shore arose,
(Ten thousand flying deaths in vain oppose).
Like the great ruler of the day,
With strength and swiftness mounting from the sea:
Like him all day he toil'd; but long in night
The god has eased his wearied light,
Ere vengeance left the stubborn foes,
Or William's labours found repose.
When his troops falter'd, stept not he between?
Restored the dubious fight again,
Mark'd out the coward that durst fly,
And led the fainting brave to victory?
Still as she fled him, did he not o'ertake
Her doubtful course, still brought her bleeding back?
By his keen sword did not the boldest fall?
Was he not king, commander, soldier, all?
His dangers such as, with becoming dread,
His subjects yet unborn shall weep to read:
And were not those the only days that e'er
The pious prince refused to hear
His friends' advices, or his subjects' prayer?

Where'er old Rhine his fruitful water turns,
Or fills his vassals' tributary urns;
To Belgia's saved dominions, and the sea,
Whose righted waves rejoice in William's sway?
Is there a town where children are not taught,
Here Holland prosper'd, for here Orange fought?
Through rapid waters, and through flying fire;
Here rush'd the prince, here made whole France retire?
By different nations be his valour blest,
In different languages confest;
And then let Shannon speak the rest:
Let Shannon speak, how on her wondering shore,
When conquest hovering on his arms did wait,
And only ask'd some lives to bribe her o'er;
The god-like man, the more than conqueror,
With high contempt sent back the specious bait:
And, scorning glory at a price too great,
With so much power, such piety did join,
As made a perfect virtue soar
A pitch unknown to man before;
And lifted Shannon's waves o'er those of Boyne.

Nor do his subjects only share
The prosperous fruits of his indulgent reign;
His enemies approve the pious war,
Which, with their weapon, takes away their chain.
More than his sword his goodness strikes his foes,
They bless his arms, and sigh they must oppose.
Justice and freedom on his conquests wait;
And 'tis for man's delight that he is great;
Succeeding times shall with long joy contend
If he were more a victor or a friend:
So much his courage and his mercy strive,
He wounds to cure, and conquers to forgive.

Ye Heroes! that have fought your country's cause,
Redress'd her injuries, or form'd her laws,
To my adventurous song just witness bear,
Assist the pious Muse, and hear her swear,
That 'tis no poet's thought, no flight of youth
But solid story and severest truth,
That William treasures up a greater name
Than any country, any age, can boast;
And all that ancient stock of fame
He did from his forefathers take
He has improved, and gives with interest back,
And in his constellation does unite
Their scatter'd rays of fainter light:
Above or Envy's lash or Fortune's wheel,
That settled glory shall for ever dwell,
Above the rolling orbs and common sky,
Where nothing comes that e'er shall die.

Where roves the Muse? where, thoughtless to return,
Is her short-lived vessel borne,
By potent winds, too subject to be tost,
And in the sea of William's praises lost?
Nor let her 'tempt that deep, nor make the shore
Where our abandoned youth she sees
Shipwreck'd in luxury and lost in ease;
Whom nor Britannia's danger can alarm,
Nor William's exemplary virtue warm:
Tell them, howe'er, the King can yet forgive
Their guilty sloth, their homage yet receive,
And let their wounded honour live:
But sure and sudden be their just remorse:
Swift be their virtue's rise, and strong its course
For though for certain years and destin'd times
Merit has lain confused with crimes,
Though Jove seem'd negligent of human cares,
Nor scourged our follies nor return'd our prayers,
His justice now demands the equal scales,
Sedition is suppress'd and truth prevails;
Fate its great ends by slow degrees attains,
And Europe is redeem'd, and William reigns.
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