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A SERIES OF MORAL AND SENTIMENTAL
" Meditation here
On the Consequences of War; with a Poem in com,
mendation of the Feudal Times.
In the multiplicity of subjects that offer themselves to a contemplative mind for consideration, I have experienced the common consequence of ful-' ness of choice; I have deferred it till it is too late to do justice to any. But I will wave the formality of an introduction, which, from the practice of former essayists, is become too trite to interest; and proceed to make use of such materials, as are ready at my call; trusting to futurity to develope my plans, and bestow strength on my progress.
It is too well known, that refinement and luxury in all nations, at all times, have gone hand in hand ; and that with wealth and prosperity have been sown the seeds of corruption, decline, and ruin. Some fluctuations there will be in all states; wars and even misfortunes may call forth a temporary energy, even after the commencement of a fall; and I am not sure that even those scenes of peculiar and unexampled distress and danger, which the Continent of Europe has experienced for the last fifteen years, may not procrastinate the total predominance of barbarism, and for a little while prolong some of the institutions of social order.
The amiable and enlightened Cowper now and then suffered under a passing cloud of narrow prejudice. He has said, that “ War is a game, which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at.”
I take for granted, that he does not mean to allude merely to particular instances of a wanton exercise of prerogative in a sovereign, by engaging in a war from motives of personal ambition, contrary to the wishes of his people, (cases that do perhaps occur, yet not very often,) but to war in general, which he assumes to originate in this way.
Now I do not believe that wars in general are • principally attributable to kings; still less do I
believe that kings have entered into them for their own aniusement; and least of all, that their consequences are so mischievous as the passage cited from Cowper seems to insinuate. The horrors of a field of battle, scenes of bloodshed, and devastation, and famine, are apt subjects for the powerful descriptions of a poet; and from such, results the moral (a little too encouraging to popular prejudices) of the affecting work of a living poet, one of the most beautiful writers a perhaps, which this nation ever produced; I mean, of the Joan of Arc of Southey!
, But from these partial evils, deep as they often are, I am convinced that there springs a great deal of good. They awaken a nation from that state of stupefaction, sensuality, and effeminacy, which are its worst and most fatal disease: they dispel apathy, foster a generous and energetic spirit, accustom the body to wholesome exercise and toil, and nerve the mind against the hour of adversity and privation.
It is well remembered that, when, at the close of the late reign, the celebrated Dr. Brown, in his “Estimate," represented this nation, as sunk into the lowest state of feminine debility, the energy of Lord Chatham's administration, and the vigorous war-which he carried on, electrified the kingdom, and raised it in a short period to a point of unex
a I must except his Thalaba.
ampled glory and renown, both for its wisdom and its heroism. Have we not seen similar effects from the late war? Compare the energy of the present race of males in all ranks of society, with the habits of those who predominated in society, during the peace, which followed the American contest! There is a vigour and hardihood in the rising generation, worthy of less luxurious times !
But how long we shall keep off the baneful effects, which commerce never fails at last to produce, I dare not inquire ! My imagination at least will never fail to be best pleased with the manners of ages approaching nearer to those of chivalry! For this reason I shall here venture to insert a poem, congenial to these sentiments, which has hitherto lain unnoticed among my papers.