Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Conquest of Louisbourg
By John Maylem (1739–1762?)
 
NOT to Aonian spring, Parnassian mount,
Famed Helicon, nor Aganippe’s fount,
For fancied fire, I aim the wonted flight,
Nor yet explore Olympus’ craggy height;
Where fabled gods in famed assembly meet,        5
Self-poised the globe, an atom at their feet—
But to th’ empyreal Throne, for solid rhyme,
Address the Universal Cause sublime.
 
  O God! Immortal Deity—Supreme!
Father of goodness! deign a heavenly gleam.        10
Me with celestial ray benign inspire,
And through each vein diffuse poetic fire!
Æthereal vigor in each line display,
While I the man and glitt’ring arms essay:
Since Thou, great Parent, deign’d paternal aid,        15
And terrible thy mighty power display’d.
Heroic verse to noble deeds belong,
Arms and the hero claim immortal song.
These I attempt—but first the mighty cause,
And bold infringer of establish’d laws—        20
(How violate so beautiful a plan?)
The peace of nature, and the tie of man.
 
  In that warm season of the rolling year,
When fields begin fresh livery to wear,
And the gay meads display their varied hue,        25
With all green nature open to the view;
’Twas then the winding maze of vernal trees
Deign’d a safe covert, and benignant breeze,
To the fell savage; who in skulking mood
Ranged the vast circuit of eternal wood,        30
Through the meanders of the forest scour,
And the long winding labyrinth explore:
By Gallia won to fell Canadian rage
With murd’rous shaft, to horrid deeds engage.
Nor frontier village, garrison, or seat,        35
But a dire ravage, or destruction meet.
Where fathers stabb’d, and mothers in despair,
With piteous shrieks, and cries, afflict the air,
The brother, and fond sister meet in death,
And hapless babes resign their infant breath.
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
        40
  And now the drums beat up, and now appears
With hearts elate, twelve thousand volunteers.
Fired with ambition in their country’s cause,
Resolved to purchase fame, and loud applause,
The ample sea-ports each assiduous man        45
Their floating bulwarks for the mighty plan.
The gather’d navy, glorious in her pride,
In Plymouth’s safe, capacious harbor ride.
Till the fair summons of a genial breeze,
Call forth to weigh, and cut the briny seas.        50
Then for Cape Breton the Atlantic plough,
While joy sat smiling on each martial brow,
Urge their swift passage through the liquid green,
Till all Britannia sinks behind the scene.
The dancing castles, fann’d by easy gales,        55
Hide half the circuit with their canvass sails.
Thus forty days, the yielding deep explore,
And reach at length Acadia’s distant shore;
Where generous Lawrence, with propitious sway,
Harmonious, rules in peace the genial day;        60
Whose fair metropolis, and growing town,
By Halifax in Nova-Scotia ’s known.
To a safe harbor bids the welcome fleet,
And hails the heroes to his ample seat.
A spacious basin now the fleet immure        65
Where the tall navy rendezvous secure.
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
  See Amhurst now his warlike squadrons range,
Portending dreadful death, and loud revenge.
Forms his fierce legions in embattled ranks
With van, and rear guard, and important flanks—        70
Then at their head, heroic and serene,
March’d like young Scipio to a bloodier scene,
To a high battery, or winding length,
Of double embrasures, of double strength,
Whose mighty walls the enemy immure,        75
And the long trenches, aid their great secure.
Now o’er the heath his brave myrmidons leads,
While the shrill music sounds to noble deeds,
And the warm sunbeams on their firelocks play,
Strike off in spires, and aid the blaze of day.        80
A general halt ensues—nor yet the van
Had the fierce onset of attack began,
Six deep the front a martial grace disclose,
That dared the thunder of their Gallic foes.
But lo! while ready for the charge they stood,        85
Death, blunderbuss, artillery, and blood!
Blue smoke, and purple flame, around appear,
And the hot bullets hail from front to rear.
Tremendous fate by turns incessant flies,
While the black sulphur clouds the azure skies.        90
And ghastly savages, with fearful yell,
Invoke their kindred of profoundest hell.
Whose hoarse shrill powaws valiant Amhurst scorns,
And roars loud thunder from his dread cohorns.
Now, dire confusions on confusions rise,        95
And the deep conflict aids the mighty noise.
From hills of smoke see spire ascend on spire;
And Amhurst there enveloped all in fire.
With his drawn sabre from a livid cloud,
With teeming death, emerging like a god!        100
Ten thousand beams spire from the flaming steel,
And Gallia’s sons his weighty prowess feel.
Now the vast tumult wakes the drowsy gods,
Who all look down to see the mighty odds.
When Amhurst there, like Peleus’ mighty son,        105
Dreadful in arms, and Tyrian scarlet shone,
Engaging here, in martial order stood
Fierce as Alcides or the Scythian god;
Till thundering Mars no more the sight could bear,
Turn’d pale with envy, and let drop his spear.        110
And fame, all flaming from the imperial car,
Hail’d him sole rival of the god of war.
’Twas such inspired immortal Maro’s tongue,
When Ilium’s fate, “arms and the man” he sung.
Thus the long conflict, undecided held,        115
And each fierce veteran maintain’d the field.
The conscious hero, thoughtful of our good,
Fierce in the van, bespatter’d o’er with blood,
With mien majestic, thrice his sabre shook,
Thrice waved his arm, and thus, heroic, spoke.        120
“Intrepid heroes—Britain’s loyal band!
Who valiant fought on this important land,
In equal poise of this exploit th’ event
As yet hangs dubious—you fatigued and spent,
Like valiant boys, give three huzzas and rush        125
Victorious on—and give a final push.”
He said—and swift as the revolving sun,
Drove rapid through, and urged his passage on;
While mighty Wolf, in terrible array,
With dreadful phalanx, change the face of day;        130
There sable chiefs and Gallic heroes yield,
And vital carnage spreads the ample field.
 
  See! Whetmore, yonder, moving o’er the heath,
Makes it one sad continued scene of death.
Or, bending victor o’er the ample soil,        135
Reaps a huge conquest with herculean toil.
With Lawrence there, whose gen’rous bosom warms,
And like Ascanius their enclosure storms.
Of the deep trenches quick essays the verge,
And deals wide slaughter with a heavy charge.        140
Intrepid Frazer rushes impetuous on,
Whose wielding broad-sword flames a circling sun.
And Highland heroes charge their double flanks,
Attack whole squadrons, and enclose their ranks.
And Scott with ardor penetrates the wood,        145
And sable warriors weep a vital flood;
So a young lion with amazing dread,
Strews the green covert with the passive dead.
*      *      *      *      *
  Opposed to where their famed asylum stood,
Was a fair rising by a neighb’ring wood,        150
An easy eminence, whose top accline,
To their strong ramparts bore a level line.
To this grand object of their martial scenes,
Through fierce encounters move the huge machines.
Now Wolf’s long trenches and fascines appear,        155
And conquer’d batteries ope each embrasure,
With horrid mortars gaping on their tier,
And the fix’d cannon point their fatal maws,
While peals of thunder issue from their jaws.
Boscawen now his naval vengeance hurls,        160
And clouds of sulphur fleet away in curls;
Intrepid Hardy, from his floating force,
Wings fate on fate, with an incessant course,
And brave Durell his keen combustions throw,
While shells or break above or burst below.        165
Thus long the sun in his diurnal race,
Saw the dire conflict from his radiant space:
When now a bomb of huge diameter,
From a vast mortar, flamed a livid sphere,
With dire combustion fill’d, and death innate,        170
The last sad prelude to their final fate!
Aloft in ambient ether now it spires,
Strikes on the sunbeams, interchanging fires;
Now prone inclines in terrible display,
Like the last comet at the judgment day;        175
On the French admiral, tremendous cracks,
And swift as lightning drops beneath the decks.
*      *      *      *      *
  Meanwhile, alternate deaths promiscuous fly,
And the fierce meteors blaze along the sky;
Then shiver in the air, and sudden pour        180
A cloud of atoms, in a sulphur shower;
Or in their city wild convulsive burst
Ten thousand ways, and mingle with the dust,
A gaping chasm in their wall disclose,
The reeking soldier at his death repose.        185
While fate in showers of lead connected rains,
And wings famed heroes to her dark domains;
The cutting grape-shot spatter o’er the heath,
And the fierce langrel aid the glare of death.
In such sad scenes alternately involved,        190
Till one fair season half her course dissolved;
Too much the odds—the Gallic ensigns struck,
By all their patron images forsook,
With drooping flag and solemn pace advance,
Their courage faints, nor more can stand the chance,        195
The last sad purpose of their souls impart,
And claim the mercy of a British heart.
 
 
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