Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
General Gage’s Soliloquy
 
Scene, Boston, besieged by the men of Massachusetts.

Written, and published in New York, 1775

 Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
  The hart, unwounded, play—
For some must write, while some must speak;
  So runs the world away!
SHAKESPEARE.    

“DESTRUCTION waits my call!—some demon, say,
Why does Destruction linger on her way!
Charleston is burnt, and Warren is deceased—
Heavens! shall we never be from war released?
Ten years the Greeks besieged the walls of Troy!        5
But when did Grecians their own towns destroy?
Yes! that’s the point—Let those who will, say, No!
If George and North decree—it must be so.
  Doubts, black as night, disturb my loved repose;
Men that were once my friends, have turned my foes.        10
What if we conquer this rebellious town;
Suppose we burn it, storm it, tear it down;
This land’s like Hydra—cut off but one head
And ten shall rise, and dare you in its stead.
If to subdue a league or two of coast        15
Requires a navy, and so large a host,
How shall a length of twice seven hundred miles
Be brought to bend to two European isles?—
And that, when all their utmost strength unite,
When twelve 1 dominions swear to arm and fight,        20
When the same spirit darts from every eye,
One fixed resolve to gain their point or die!
  As for myself—true—I was born to fight
As George commands, let him be wrong or right.
While from his hand I squeeze the golden prize,        25
I’ll ask no questions, and he’ll tell no lies—
But did I swear, I ask my heart again,
In their base projects monarchs to maintain?—
Yes, when rebellion her artillery brings,
And aims her arrows at the best of kings,        30
I stand a champion in my monarch’s cause—
The men are rebels that resist his laws.
 
  A viceroy I—like modern monarchs—stay
Safe in the town; let others guide the fray:
A life, like mine, is of no common worth:        35
’Twere wrong, by heaven, that I should sally forth!
A random bullet from a rifle sent
Might pierce my heart—and ruin North’s intent:
Let others combat in the dusty field;
Let petty captains scorn to live or yield;        40
I’ll send my ships to neighbouring isles, where stray,
Unnumber’d herds, and steal those herds away;
I’ll strike the women in this town with awe,
And make them tremble at my martial law.
 
  Should gracious Heaven befriend our troops and fleet,        45
And throw this vast dominion at my feet,
How would Britannia echo with my fame!
What endless honours would await my name!
In every province should the traveller see
Recording marble raised, to honour me.        50
Hard by the lakes, my sovereign lord would grant
A rural empire to supply my want;
A manor would but poorly serve my turn:
Less than an empire, from my soul, I scorn!
An ample kingdom round Ontario’s lake,        55
By heaven! should be the least reward I’d take;
There might I reign, unrivall’d and alone,
An ocean and an empire of my own!—
 
  What though the scribblers and the wits might say,
He built his pile on vanquish’d liberty;        60
Let others meanly dread the slanderous tongue:
While I obey my king, can I do wrong?
 
  Then, to accomplish all my soul’s desire,
Let red-hot bullets set their towns on fire;
May Heaven, if so the righteous judgment pass,        65
Change earth to steel, the sky to solid brass;
Let hosts combined, from Europe centring here,
Strike this base offspring with alarm and fear;
Let heaven’s broad concave to the centre ring,
And blackest night expand her sable wing;        70
The infernal powers in dusky combat join,
Wing the swift ball, or spring the deadly mine;
(Since ’tis most true, though some may think it odd,
The foes of Britain are the foes of God:)
Let bombs, like comets, kindle all the air;        75
Let cruel famine prompt the orphan’s prayer,
And every ill that war or want can bring
Be shower’d on subjects that renounce their king!
 
  What is their plea?—our sovereign only meant
This people should be tax’d without consent.        80
Ten years the court with secret cunning tried
To gain this point—the event their hopes belied:
How should they else than sometimes miss the mark,
Who sleeps at helm, yet think to steer the bark?
North, take advice; thy lucky genius show,        85
Despatch Sir Jeffery 2 to the states below.
That gloomy prince, whom mortals Satan call,
Must help us quickly, if he help at all.
You strive in vain by force of bribes to tie;
They see through all your schemes with half an eye:        90
If open force with secret bribes I join;
The contest sickens—and the day is mine.
 
  But hark the trumpet’s clangor—hark—ah me!
What means this march of Washington and Lee?
When men, like these, such distant marches make,        95
Fate whispers something—that we can’t mistake;
When men like these defy my martial rule,
Good heaven! it is no time to play the fool.
Perhaps they for their country’s freedom rise;
North has, perhaps, deceived me with his lies.        100
If George at last a tyrant should be found,
A cruel tyrant, by no sanctions bound,
And I, myself, in an unrighteous cause,
Be sent to execute the worst of laws,
How will those dead whom I conjured to fight,—        105
Who sunk in arms to everlasting night,
Whose blood the conquering foe conspired to spill
At Lexington and Bunker’s fatal hill,
Whose mangled corpses scanty grave embrace—
Rise from those graves, and curse me to my face!        110
 
  Alas! that e’er ambition bade me roam,
Or thirst of power forsake my native home!
What shall I do?—there crowd the hostile bands;
Here waits a navy to receive commands.
I speak the language of my heart—shall I        115
Steal off by night, and o’er the ocean fly;
Like a lost man to unknown regions stray,
And to oblivion leave this stormy day?
Or shall I to Britannia’s shores again,
And, big with lies, conceal my thousands slain;        120
 
  Yes,—to some distant clime my course I steer;
To any country,—rather than be here;
To worlds where Reason scarce exerts her law,
A branch-built cottage, and a bed of straw.
E’en Scotland’s coast seems charming in my sight,        125
And frozen Zembla yields a strange delight.
But such vexations in my bosom burn,
That to these shores I never will return,
Till fruits and flowers on Greenland’s coast be known,
And frosts are thaw’d in climates once their own.        130
 
  Ye souls of fire, who burn for chief command,
Come! take my place in this disastrous land;
To wars like these I bid a long good-night;
Let North and George themselves such battles fight.
 
Note 1. Georgia had not, at this time, acceded to the union of the thirteen states. [back]
Note 2. Sir Jeffery Amherst, who about this time refused to act against the colonial cause. [back]
 
 
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