Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Descriptive Poems: I. Personal: Rulers; Statesmen; Warriors
Charles XII.
Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
 
From “The Vanity of Human Wishes”

  ON what foundations stands the warrior’s pride,
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide:
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labors tire;
O’er love, o’er fear, extends his wide domain,        5
Unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain.
No joys to him pacific sceptres yield,
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their power combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign;        10
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain;
“Think nothing gained,” he cries, “till naught remain,
On Moscow’s walls till Gothic standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.”
The march begins in military state,        15
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
Stern famine guards the solitary coast,
And winter barricades the realms of frost.
He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay;
Hide, blushing glory, hide Pultowa’s day!        20
The vanquished hero leaves his broken bands,
And shows his miseries in distant lands;
Condemned a needy supplicant to wait,
While ladies interpose and slaves debate.
But did not chance at length her error mend?        25
Did no subverted empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
Or hostile millions press him to the ground?
His fall was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;        30
He left the name, at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral or adorn a tale.
 
 
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