The Strife of Other Days: Annals of the War
The Strife of Other Days
O miracle of madness, in a world manhood-grown,
With a soldier raised an idol1 on revolution's throne!
What a marvel in the shedding of old Europe's veteran blood,
That sent the world wool-gathering2 in search of where it stood!
What a panic in man's reason, what alarm in every home,
Till law evolved the sheen of peace from the clouds of hatred's gloom.
The Atlantic, smiling, frowning, like the majesty of fate,
Carries sanction,—hither, thither—to the tidings soon or late.
Of the masterhood of tyranny, astride a nation's will,
And the ecstasy of freedom, blending claims of good and ill;
While England, queenlike England, the mistress of the seas,
Withstands encroachment from the twain,3 defiant of their pleas.
Do you hear the cannon booming from the battlefields of Spain,
Where Wellington and Soult outvie,4 the victor's palm to win?
Do you here the turmoil raging, in hall and marketplace,
With Madison and Quincy pleading terms of war and peace?5
Then listen to the after-strife, whose echos to us bring,
From the far-away of other days, the deeds our own to sing.
'Twas not our own the quarrel—the strife of other days,
But the outcome of a hatred, inflamed by rebel frays,6
As it sought alliance with the foe that threatened Britain's might,
By force of arms and trading checks,7 her nationhood to blight;
And the stripling born across the seas, with fealty for his fame,
Slung his armour on his shoulders, to shield his home from shame.
Yea, it was not Napoleon, with Europe at his feet,
Stood as Mentor to the partisan's ambitions all elate,
Firing his democratic eye, to view the whole his own,
Regardless of all other claims, no matter who should frown?
"Nought can restrain the Corsican,"8 he blinded seemed to say,
"And whose will then be Canada, or who our hand will stay?"
"The passions of pur people are raging all a-flare,"
As once they did, when the land was steeped in inter-necine war—
"When Lafayette espoused our cause9 and France stood by our friend,
When we drove the redcoats and their king back to their own Land's End;
And now 'tis ours to enhance success, sharing with Bonaparte,10
The world partitioned off for two, with none our plans to thwart.
"The right of search11 hath played its part, as the justice of demand;
And now we'd seek a foothold, to implement our bond:
The Canadas are ours, we said, when Arnold made his way,12
Along the Chaudière Valley, to bring them under sway;
And now the time has come again to fret our olden foe,
By paring down his hither realm, while striking final blow."
And, strange to say, while yet the din of rumours spread afar,
With the North all in a ferment, assured of coming war,
The nonchalance of England12 kept a-rhyming in return—
"Alliance with a despot can freedom fail to spurn?
Would these our kith and kindred, attack their kinsmen north,
Or sully the escutcheon of their nation at its birth?"
But the triple fiat, all the same, flashes its thunderbolt,
Startling the world yet again with justice gone a-jolt.
The challenge comes from Madison to raid the frontier lakes:
The Spanish seat of war again the Iron Duke awakes;
While Napoleon, flushed to blindness, with half a million men,
Starts on his way to Moscow, to urge a new campaign.
And nearer swell the tidings from Niagara's sullen roar,
As the message wings from Amherstburg along the Erie shore:
From York and Kingston runs the news by stream to Montreal,
And even the far St. Joseph14 has heard the crescent call:
"Where will they land, these kinsman-foes? What is their strength in men?
Has General Brock his muster made to open the campaign?"
No thought was there to supplicate the invader drawing near:
"To arms, to arms!" arose the cry from courage reft of fear.
Troop after troop made brave response to the call from hopes awake,
Ready to march from trail to trail or dare the storm-swept lake:
Brother to brother, heart to heart, they stand for loyalty,
Prepared to shed their quickening blood in the cause of liberty.
And would we hear the tale re-told, we must linger by the stream,
Where Sandwich overlooks Detroit, weaving its summer's dream;
Or wander where the rapids seek a silence from their flow,
Past Queenston's vineyards where they fringe the river all aglow,
With parallel lines historic, enshrined in lustrous green,
And nooks romantic peeping forth to share the shifting sheen.
Yea, brother to brother, our hearts we fill with Nature at its best.
Scenting our souls with the charms of life born of the golden West:
And, from the vantage of some fort, hushed in a peace its own,
Keep wondering why a country's fame so oft by hate is sown,
In a world where love and brotherhood, in a homeland full matured,
Bring echoes blending far and near of concord now secured.