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left as fine a stock of ballads as any country has to show. They came from the heart of the people, a race as poetic as the southern Anglo-Saxon is the reverse. What a Homeric spirit breathes in the ballad of ' Kinmont Willie'! The wrath of the 'bold Lord keeper in Branksome Hall 'where that he lay' when he hears that Lord Scroope 'has 'ta'en the Kinmont Willie' recalls the wrath of Achilles for the slaying of Patroclus:
'He has ta'en the table wi' his hand,
He garred the red wine spring on hie;
'" O, is my basnet a widow's curch?
Or my lance a wand of the willow tree?
That an English lord should lightly me?
'" And have they ta'en him, Kinmont Willie,
So long as Europe was bound together by a common Church and by the cosmopolitan order of chivalry, there was much to mitigate war. The sixteenth century saw the break-up of this regime, and for a time, till a new order of things had established itself, there was a return towards the more savage and pagan spirit of war. Episodes in the Catholic and Protestant wars in the Low Countries and in Germany, the sack of Antwerp for instance, or that of Magdeburg, were worse than anything that had happened among Christians during the preceding centuries. Even in these islands we could make small boast of our superior civilisation. In Ireland a deep difference of race led in the Tudor days, when the bond of a common faith was broken, to campaigns almost of savage extermination. England was full of poets during the second half of the sixteenth century, but they paid little attention in verse to the wars of their day. The ballad of the 'Brave Lord Willoughby' was, perhaps, the best of those which referred to contemporary events. It opens finely:
'The fifteenth day of July,
With glistering spear and shield,
It is a stout old poem throughout, with that curious relish
for exact, no doubt, but unpoetic statement of fact which
Of fifteen pence a day,
'Then courage, noble Englishmen,
And never be dismayed;
We will not be afraid
And set our country free.
Of brave Lord Willoughby.
The honest old sea-ballad of the fight made by the good ship the 'Angel Gabriel' of Bristol against a Spaniard belongs to the same time. The metre must have suggested to Macaulay that of his famous 'Armada'—
'Attend you, and give ear awhile, and you shall understand
Here is another of the spirited stanzas:
'Our Captain to our Master said, " Take courage, Master bold!" Our Master to the seamen said, " Stand fast, my hearts of gold!" Our Gunner unto all the rest, " Brave hearts, be valiant still; Fight on, fight on, in the defence of our Angel Gabriel !"'
One can hear the hoarse sea-voices chanting this, the last lines in chorus, in old taverns of Bristol Port.
We owe much in Milton's 'Paradise Lost' to the civil wars in England, but little surviving poetry directly relates to that brave encounter between the aristocracy and the middle class. There is on one side an heroic sonnet or two by Milton, on the other a gallant love and war poem or so, like Lovelace's perfect 'Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,' and there is Marvell's extremely judicious ' Ode to Crom- 'well.' None of these is exactly war-poetry.
Nor did the wars which lasted, with one short break, from 1689 to 1712, inspire any great English poem. Addison's 'Campaign ' stands as far on one side of the line which divides idealism from realism, or, rather, the abstract from the concrete, in this field, as Mr. Kipling's 'Barrack-room 'Ballads' stand on the other side. Its most famous passage is worth quoting, as a type of the best poetry in this kind. The battle of Blenheim has begun:
'But oh ! my Muse, what numbers wilt thou find
These are noble lines in their way, and deserving of perpetual remembrance. Yet perhaps there is more vitality in a line of a French song—' Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre.' The Seven Years' War made us paramount in India and America, but its heroes, like the brave who lived before Agamemnon, found no immortalising poets. There was David Garrick's admirable 'Hearts of Oak,' produced in a pantomime in that year of wonders, 1759:
'Come, cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer,
But what else? In 1775 began a war in which, under a dark cloud of disgrace on land but amid a finishing blaze of glory at sea, half the British Empire disappeared. Perhaps no Englishman had the heart to celebrate either such a victory as Long Island or such a defeat as Saratoga, and the Americans did not grow fine poetry. Besides, the world was not yet escaped from a long commercial and unlyrical period.
Next came wars which were indeed of a kind to inspire poetry, especially when the tremendous power of Napoleon rose upon the foundations of an atheistic Republic. For five years before Trafalgar we were fighting at sea, and ready to fight on land, in the noblest of all causes, the defence of the soil on which one is born and bred against a mighty foreign invader. When this danger had been removed, we still found ourselves, for a time almost unaided, resisting a nation which was then twice as large as our own, and controlled all the countries of the West and South. During the Peninsular War we were defending the independent existence of weaker nations against a tyrant of immense power and genius. The British armies were in the chivalric position described by Spenser:
• Nought is more honourable in a knight,
The feeling of all Europe, and even of part of France, was with us in that fight against Napoleon. In this case, at least, it might have been said 'securus judicat orbis 'terrarum.' The British Isles teemed with poets produced, no doubt, by the intellectual upheaval which, in politics, took the shape of the French Revolution. Two great poets, Byron and Wordsworth, were of the first rank, and around them were lesser stars, differing in brightness, Scott and Crabbe, Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Southey and Landor; Moore, Campbell, Rogers, and others. Yet all this war gave birth to few poems of the martial-patriotic order directly connected with the events of the day —few, at least, which have survived the year of their birth. There are Campbell's three great war poems, there is Wolfe's perfect 'Burial of Sir John Moore,' and four or five successful sonnets by Wordsworth. Among the best of these is his address to the Men of Kent, in October 1803, when, after a brief pause, the war had recommenced, and Bonaparte was forming his camp at Boulogne:
'Vanguard of Liberty, ye men of Kent,
The true fire is in that, although material realism is absent.
Byron, of all his contemporaries, was best qualified by temperament to be a great war-poet. His 'Assyrian came 'down like the wolf on the fold' splendidly embodies the fierce old Hebrew spirit. But Byron should have been born in France. He was out of sympathy with his own countrymen. His glorious stanzas on Waterloo were almost forced from him despite his will by the spirit of poetry:
'Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Never, indeed, was there a better theme than the Duchess of Richmond's ball, where Love and Gaiety vanished in the morning before the stern apparition of War and Death, nor has a theme been more superbly treated.
If the martial-patriotic poems, fit to survive, were few for a war so long and great, the second Punic War of our history, these are immortal. One can hardly conceive a finer battle-lyric than Campbell's 'Hohenlinden.' It is not in the realistic style, yet there is in it nothing conventional as in Addison's 'Campaign.' It stands, as poetry should, halfway between the abstract and the concrete. In eight four-lined stanzas of concentrated speed, every word telling, and in a metre fitting like the make of a racehorse to its purpose, the poet brings before the imagination the quiet winter scene before the battle, the fierce excitement of the moments before the armies joined issue, the crash of the contending guns, the storm-centre or crisis of the fight—and then the scene quiet once more, but morally how different, when the battle was over, and the armies had vanished!
''Tis morn, but scarce yon level sun
'The combat deepens. On, ye brave, Who rush to glory or the grave,
'Few, few shall part where many meet;