Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Lord Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton
By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)
From York, Virginia—1781

FROM clouds of smoke, and flames that round me glow,
To you, dear Clinton, I disclose my wo.
Here cannons flash, bombs glance, and bullets fly;
Nor Arnold’s self endures such misery.
Was I foredoom’d in tortures to expire,        5
Hurl’d to perdition in a blaze of fire?
With these blue flames can mortal man contend—
What arms can aid me, or what walls defend?
Even to these gates last night a phantom strode,
And haled me trembling to his dark abode:        10
Aghast I stood, struck motionless and dumb,
Seized with the horrors of the world to come.
  Were but my power as mighty as my rage,
Far different battles would Cornwallis wage,
Beneath his sword yon threatening hosts should groan,        15
The earth would quake with thunders all his own.
O crocodile! had I thy flinty hide,
Swords to defy, and glance the balls aside,
By my own prowess would I rout the foe,
With my own javelin would I work their wo;        20
But fates averse, by Heaven’s supreme decree,
Nile’s serpent form’d more excellent than me.
  Has Heaven, in secret, for some crime decreed
That I should suffer, and my soldiers bleed?
Or is it by the jealous powers conceal’d,        25
That I must bend, and they ignobly yield?
Ah! no; the thought o’erwhelms my soul with grief:
Come, bold Sir Harry, come to my relief;
Come, thou brave man, whom rebels Tombstone call,
But Britons, Graves; come Digby, devil, and all;        30
Come princely William, with thy potent aid,
Can George’s blood by Frenchmen be dismay’d?
From a king’s uncle once Scotch rebels run,
And shall not these be routed by a son?
Come with your ships to this disastrous shore,        35
Come—or I sink—and sink to rise no more.
By every motive that can sway the brave,
Haste, and my feeble fainting army save;
Come, and lost empire o’er the deep regain,
Chastise these upstarts that usurp the main;        40
I see their first-rates to the charge advance,
I see lost Iris wear the flags of France;
There a strict rule the wakeful Frenchman keeps,
There, on no bed of down, Lord Rawdon sleeps!
  Tired with long acting on this bloody stage,        45
Sick of the follies of the wrangling age,
Come with your fleet, and help me to retire
To Britain’s coast, the land of my desire;
For me the foe their certain captive deem,
And every trifler takes me for his theme;        50
Long, much too long, in this hard service tried,
Bespatter’d still, bedevil’d and belied;
With the first chance that favouring fortune sends,
I fly, converted, from this land of fiends;
Convinced, for me, she has no gems in store,        55
Nor leaves one triumph, even to hope for more.

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