Verses occasioned by reading Southey’s Carmen Triumphale

Rushton takes the Poet Laureate Robery Southey to task for claiming that the war against France is ordained by God.

Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature 12 (April 1817) 243.

Eight couplet Spenserians posthumously published in the Monthly Repository from the Liverpool Mercury. Edward Rushton excoriates Robert Southey‘s laureate ode for suggesting the God would approve of military slaughter and the suggestion that the allies would bring peace and freedom to Europe: “Appall’d by superstitious cares, | Despots of yore have crown’d their heirs, | But when, Oh Southey! tell me when | Have despots raised their slaves to men?” The concluding stanzas point to the partition of Poland as an example of what might be expected. Throughout his career as a poet and journalist Rushton, a Liverpool writer, was a firm defender of human rights.
Anonymous: “Edward Rushton is no more! One of the purest and most eloquent advocates of Freedom, one of the kindest, best of men has sunk into the silent grave. I knew him well, I admired his talents, I reverenced his principles, did homage to his virtues, and with feelings of deep regret I learned that he had been consigned to ‘the house appointed for all living.’ The following is one of Rushton’s last essays in defence of sound principles. It is every way worthy of him and of the cause. Our readers will bear in mind, that Southey was once an able advocate of liberty; he is now Poet Laureat, he is a pensioner of the Crown, and after the battle of Waterloo wrote the impious Ode, the principles of which Mr. Rushton has represented in the following poem” [from Philadelphia Democratic Press] The Enquirer [Richmond VA] (19 August 1817).

When man’s great curse, despotic sway,
Sweeps myriads from the realms of day;
When wide o’er all the Christian world
Destruction’s banners are unfurl’d;
When Europe with exhaustion reels,
Yet nor remorse nor pity feels;
At this dread period SOUTHEY stands,
The wild harp trembling in his hands;—
And whilst fanatic furor fires his mind,
“Glory to God,” he cries, “deliv’rance for mankind!”

Ah, Southey, if thy boyish brood
Were prone to shed each other’s blood,
Thou couldst not with unruffled mien
Behold the agonizing scene:
Why then suppose the Sire of All
Is pleased to see his creatures fall;
Why then, if carnage strew the ground,
And groans, and shrieks, and yells abound;
Why then, if ruthless havock lord it wide,
Should bigot rage exult, and God be glorified?

I grieve when earth is drench’d with gore,
And realms with woe are cover’d o’er;
I grieve, and reprobate the plan
Of thanking God for slaughter’d man:
Nor can I hope that lawless sway,
Fierce as a tiger o’er his prey,
Will ever uncompell’d resign
That power the priest proclaims divine:
No, Southey, no! oppressors ne’er unbind;
‘Tis man — high minded man must liberate mankind.

Appall’d by superstitious cares,
Despots of yore have crown’d their heirs,
But when, Oh Southey! tell me when
Have despots raised their slaves to men?
Vot’ries of power, to this they bend,
For this eternally contend;
Whilst man, let despots rise or fall,
Poor abject man submits to all;
And should his wrongs beyond endurance swell,
Here glares the state’s red arm, and there an endless hell.

Whether of home or foreign growth,
All despots from my soul I loath;
And as to rights — I should as soon
Expect a message from the moon,
As hope to see a courtly train
Combin’d to cherish freedom’s reign—
Combin’d to humanise the heart,
And bid the nurse’s dreams depart:
No, Southey, no! those scourges, when combin’d,
May desolate a world, but never free mankind.

If proof be wanting, France may shew,
In man’s great cause how monarchs glow:
Thou know’st, when one immortal stroke
Her lacerating shackles broke;
Thou know’st how Europe’s savage swarms
Flew, like infuriate fiends, to arms;
And how the vaunting legions came,
To quench a never-dying flame;
And well thou know’st how France sublimely rose,
Bared her resistless arm, and crush’d th’ aggressing foes.

If proof be wanting, turn thine eyes
Where poor partition’d Poland lies;
By many a barb’rous band assail’d,
In freedom’s cause she fought, she fail’d;
She saw her children bite the dust,
O’erwhelm’d by rapine, murder, lust;
She saw her cities blaze, and all
That ‘scaped the flames by ruffians fall;
Transfix’d by groves of pikes, she heard them groan,
Then back into the flames saw writhing thousands thrown.

Poor prostrate Poland! here we find
How despots liberate mankind;
And here, unblushing bard, we see
The savage hordes extoll’d by thee;
But whether minstrels change with times,
And scatter flow’rs o’er courtly crimes;
Or truth’s firm sons imprison’d lie,
Or priests the reasoning pow’rs decry;
Soon, like those brutes that shun the nightly fire
From freedom’s holy flame, shall man’s fierce foes retire.

[p. 243]

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