To the Duke of Marlborough, upon His Removal From All His Places

by William Somervile

William Somervile

When , in meridian glory bright,
You shine with more illustrious rays,
Above the Muse's weaker flight,
Above the poet's praise;
In vain the goddess mounts her native skies,
In vain, with feeble wings, attempts to rise;
In vain she tolls to do her hero right,
Lost in excessive day and boundless tracts of light.
The Theban swan with daring wings,
And force impetuous, soars on high,
Above the clouds sublimely sings,
Above the reach of mortal eye.
But what, alas! would Pindar do,
Were his bold Muse to sing of you?
Can Chromius' strength be nam'd with your's?
Can mimic fights and sportive war
With Schellembergh's demolish'd tow'rs,
Or Blenheim's bloody field, compare?
The bard would blush at Theron's speed,
When Marlborough mounts the fiery steed;
And the despairing foe's pursued
Through towns and provinces subdued.
Fond poet! spare thy empty boast,
In vain thy chariots raise so great a dust;
See Britain's hero with whole armies flies
To execute his vast designs,
To pass the Scheld, to force the lines,
Swift as thy smoking car, to win the' Olympic prize.
But now, when with diminish'd light,
And beams more tolerably bright,
With less of grandeur and surprise,
Mild you descend to mortal eyes,
Your setting glories charm us more
Than all your dazzling pomp before:
Your worth is better understood,
The hero more distinctly view'd,
Glad we behold him not so great as good.
True Virtue's amiable face
Improves when shaded by disgrace;
A lively sense of conscious worth
Calls all her hidden beauties forth,
Darts through the gloom a lovely ray,
And by her own intrinsic light creates a nobler day.

Let fickle Chance with partial hands divide
Her gaudy pomp, her tinsel pride,
Who to her knaves and fools supplies
Those favours which the brave despise:
Let Faction raise the saucy crowd,
And call her multitude to arms;
Let Envy's vipers hiss aloud,
And rouse all hell with dire alarms:
Go shake the rocks, and bid the hills remove;
Yet still the hero's mind shall be
Unchangeable, resolv'd, and free,
Fix'd on its base, firm as the throne of Jove.
Britons! look back on those auspicious days,
On Ister's banks when your great leader stood,
And with your gasping foes incumber'd all the flood;
Or when Ramillia's bloody plain
Was fatten'd with the mighty slain;
Or when Blaregma's ramparts were assail'd;
With force that Heav'n itself had scal'd;
Did then reviling pens profane
Your Marlborough's sacred name?
Did noisy tribunes then debauch the crowd?
Did their unrighteous votes blaspheme aloud?
Did mercenary tools conspire
To curse the hero whom their foes admire?
No! — The contending nations sung his praise;
While bards of every clime
Exert their most triumphant lays,
No thought too great, no diction too sublime.
Hail, glorious Prince! 'tis not for thee we grieve,
For thy invulnerable fame
No diminution can receive;
Thou, mighty man! art still the same,
Thy purer gold eludes the flame;
This fiery trial makes thy virtue shine,
And persecution crowns thy brows with rays divine.
But what, alas! shall fainting Europe do?
How stand the shock of her imperious foe?
What successor shall bear the weight
Of all our cares, and prop the state?
Since thou our Atlas art remov'd,
O best deserving chief! and therefore best belov'd.

To your own Blenheim's blissful seat
From this ungrateful world retreat,
A gift unequal to that hero's worth
Who from the peaceful Thames led our bold Britons forth
To free the Danube and the Rhine;
Who by the thunder of his arms
Shook the proud Rhone with loud alarms,
And rais'd a tempest in the trembling Seine.
After the long fatigues of war
Repose your envied virtues here;
Enjoy, my lord, the sweet repast
Of all your glorious toils,
A pleasure that shall ever last,
The mighty comfort that proceeds
From the just sense of virtuous deeds;
Content with endless fame, contemn the meaner spoils.
Pomona calls and Pan invites
To rural pleasures, chaste delights;
The orange and the citron grove
Will by your hand alone improve;
Would fain their gaudy liveries wear,
And wait your presence to revive the year.
In this Elysium more than bless'd,
Laugh at the vulgar's senseless hate,
The politician's vain deceit,
The fawning knave, the proud ingrate.
Revolve in your capacious breast
The various unforeseen events,
And unexpected accidents
That change the flattering scene, and overturn the great.
Frail are our hopes, and short the date
Of grandeur's transitory state.
Corinthian brass shall melt away,
And Parian marble shall decay:
The vast Colossus, that on either shore
Exulting stood, is now no more;
Arts and artificers shall die,
And in one common ruin lie.
Behold your own majestic palace rise
In haste to emulate the skies;
The gilded globes, the pointed spires;
See the proud dome's ambitious height,
Emblem of pow'r and pompous state,
Above the clouds aspires:
Yet Vulcan's spite, or angry Jove,
May soon its towering pride reprove,
Its painted glories soon efface,
Divide the pond'rous roof, and shake the solid base.
Material structures must submit to Fate;
But virtue, which alone is truly great,
Virtue like your's, my lord, shall be
Secure of immortality.
No foreign force, nor factious rage,
Nor envy nor devouring age,
Your lasting glory shall impair;
Time shall mysterious truths declare,
And works of darkness shall disclose;
This blessing is reserv'd for you
To' outlive the trophies to your merit due,
And malice of your foes.
In glorious actions, in a glorious cause,
If valour negligent of praise,
Deserving, yet retiring, from applause,
In generous minds can great ideas raise;
If Europe sav'd, and liberty restor'd,
By steady conduct and a prosperous sword,
Can claim in freeborn souls a just esteem,
Britain's victorious chief shall be
Rever'd by late posterity,
The hero's pattern and the poet's theme.

Last updated October 28, 2017