XI
In Memory of the Rt. Hon. Lord Aubrey Beauclerk, Who was slain at Carthagena
Mary Jones

(Written in the year 1743, at the request of his Lady.)

Shall so much worth in silence pass away,
And no recording muse that worth display?
Shall public spirit like the private die,
The coward with the brave promiscuous lie?
The hero’s toils should be the muses care,
In peace their guardian, and their shield in war:
Alike inspir’d, they mutual succours lend;
The Muses His, and He the Muses friend.

     To me the solemn lyre you reach in vain,
The simple warbler of some idle strain.
What tho’ the hero’s fate the lay demands,
What tho’ impell’d and urg’d by your commands;
Yet, weak of flight, in vain I prune the wing,
And, diffident of voice, attempt to sing.

     What dreadful slaughter on the western coast!
How many gallant warriors Britain lost,
A British muse would willingly conceal;
But what the muse would hide, our tears reveal.
Pensive, we oft recal those fatal shores,
Where Carthagena lifts her warlike tow’rs.
High o’er the deep th’ embattl’d fortress heaves
Its awful front, its basis in the waves;
Without impregnable by nature’s care,
And arm’d within with all the rage of war.

     Deep in oblivion sink th’ ill-omen’d hour,
That call’d our legions to the baneful shore!
Where death, in all her horrid pomp array’d,
O’er the pale clime her direful influ’nce shed.
Want, famine, war, and pestilential breath,
All act subservient to the rage of death.
Those whom the wave, or fiercer war would spare,
Yield to the clime, and sink in silence there:
No friend to close their eyes, no pitying guest
To drop the silent tear, or strike the pensive breast.

     Here Douglas fell, the gallant and the brave!
Here much-lamented Watson found a grave.
Here, early try’d, and acting but too well,
The lov’d, ennobled, gen’rous Beauclerk fell.
Just as the spring of life began to bloom,
When ev’ry grace grew softer on the tomb;
In all that health and energy of youth,
Which promis’d honours of maturer growth;
When round his head the warriour laurel sprung,
And temp’rance brac’d the nerve which valour strung;
When his full heart expanded to the goal,
And promis’d victory had flush’d his soul,
He fell!—His country lost her earliest boast;
His family a faithful guardian lost;
His friend a safe companion; and his wife,
Her last resource, her happiness in life.

    O ever honour’d, ever happy shade!
How well hast thou thy debt to virtue paid!
Brave, active, undismay’d in all the past;
Compos’d, intrepid, steady to the last.
When half thy limbs, and more than half was lost
Of life, thy valour still maintain’d it’s post:
Gave the last signal1 for thy country’s good,
And, dying, seal’d it with thy purest blood.

     Say, what is Life? and wherefore was it giv’n?
What the design, the purpose mark’d by Heav’n?
Was it in lux’ry to dissolve the span,
To raise the animal, and sink the man?
In the soft bands of pleasure, idly gay,
To frolic the immortal gift away?
To tell the tale, or flow’ry wreath to bind,
Then shoot away, and leave no track behind?
Arise no duties from the social tie?
No kindred virtues from our native sky?
No truths from reason, and the thought intense?
Nothing result from soul, but all from sense?

     O thoughtless reptile, Man!—Born! yet ask why?
Truly, for something serious—Born to die.
Knowing this truth, can we be wise too soon?
And this once known, sure something’s to be done—
To live’s to suffer; act, is to exist;
And life, at best, a trial, not a feast:
Our bus’ness virtue; and when that is done,
We cannot sit too late, or rise too soon.

     “Virtue!—What is it?—Whence does it arise!”
Ask of the brave, the social, and the wise;
Of those who study’d for the gen’ral good,
Of those who fought, and purchas’d it with blood;
Of those who build, or plant, or who design,
Ev’n those who dig the soil, or work the mine.
If yet not clearly seen, or understood;
Ask the humane, the pious, and the good.
To no one station, stage, or part confin’d,
No single act of body, or of mind;
But whate’er lovely, just, or fit we call,
The fair result, the congregate of all.

     The active mind, ascending by degrees,
Its various ties, relations, duties sees:
Examines parts, thence rising to the whole,
Sees the connexion, chain, and spring of soul;
Th’ eternal source! from whose pervading ray
We caught the flame, and kindled into day.
Hence the collected truths coercive rise,
Oblige as nat’ral, or as moral ties.
Son, brother, country, friend demand our care;
The common bounty all partake, must share.
Hence virtue in its source, and in its end,
To God as relative, to Man as friend.

     O friend to truth! to virtue! to thy kind!
O early call’d to leave these ties behind!
How shall the muse her vary’d tribute pay,
Indulge the tear, and not debase the lay!
Come, fair example of heroic truth!
Descend, and animate the British youth:
Now, when their country’s wrongs demand their care,
And proud Iberia meditates the war:
Now, while the trumpet sounds her shrill alarms,
And calls forth all her gen’rous sons to arms;
Pour all thy genius, all thy martial fire
O’er the brave youth, and ev’ry breast inspire.
Say, this is virtue, glory, honour, fame,
To rise from sloth, and catch the martial flame.
When fair occasion calls their vigour forth,
To meet the call, and vindicate its worth:
To rouse, to kindle, animate, combine,
Revenge their country’s wrongs, and think on Thine.

     Go, happy shade! to where the good, and blest
Enjoy eternal scenes of bliss and rest:
While we below thy sudden farewel mourn,
Collect thy virtues, weeping o’er the urn;
Recal their scatter’d lustre as they past,
And see them all united in the last.

So the bright orb, which gilds the groves and streams,
Mildly diffusive of his golden beams;
Drawn to a point, his strong concenter’d rays
More fulgent glow, and more intensely blaze.

     And Thou! late partner of his softer hour,
Ordain’d but just to meet, and meet no more;
Say, with the virtues how each grace combin’d!
How brave, yet social! how resolv’d, yet kind!
With manners how sincere! polite with ease!
How diffident! and yet how sure to please!
Was he of ought but infamy afraid?
Was he not modest as the blushing maid?
Asham’d to flatter, eager to commend;
A gen’rous master, and a steady friend.
Humane to all, but warm’d when virtuous grief,
Or silent modesty, imply’d relief.
Pure in his principles, unshaken, just;
True to his God, and faithful to his trust.

     Beauclerk, farewel!—If with thy virtues warm’d,
And not too fondly, or too rashly charm’d,
I strive the tributary dirge to pay,
And form the pinion to the hasty lay;
The feeble, but well-meaning slight excuse:
Perhaps hereafter some more gen’rous muse,
Touch’d with thy fate, with genius at command,
May snatch the pencil from the female hand;
And give the perfect portrait, bold and free,
In numbers such as Young’s, and worthy Thee.

From Mary Jones, Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (Oxford, 1750), 36-44.

Source: Eighteenth Century Collections Online

 

1.After both his legs were shot off. See the account of his death in the prose-inscription in Westminster-Abby, written by the author, under his Lady’s directions. The verse by Dr. Young. (Author's note)