John André

Major John André

EPITAPH on Major André

MONODY on the Death of MAJOR ANDRE,
by Anna Seward

John André: Self-portrait on the eve of his execution

Self portrait on 1 October 1780: the eve of his execution

The following anonymous poem was published in The Scots Magazine, vol. 43, 1781, January issue, p. 41. 

EPITAPH on Major André

"Is there no bright reversion in the sky
For those who greatly think, and bravely die?"
Yes, sure there is, and Heav'n, with loud acclaim,
On orient stars shall 'grave thy deathless name.
Each patriot chief now hails thy glorious ghost,
And bids thee welcome to th'Elysian coast.
What tho' no laurell'd urn thy bones inshrine?
Unfading wreaths shall round thy temples twine.
What boots it, then, unmanly tears to shed,
Or mourn for thee as for the vulgar dead?
Britannia cries, "My sons, restrain your woe;
Let ANDRE's name each gen'rous bosom warm,
String every nerve, prompt ev'ry hand to arm,
'Till the fell foes bewail their guilty deed,
And slaughter'd thousands round their victim bleed!"

Execution of John André

Anna Seward

To Sir Henry Clinton:
Sir: With the Zeal of a religious Enthusiast to his Murdered Saint, the Author of his mournful Eulogium consecrates it to the Memory of Major André, who fell a Martyr in the Cause of his King and Country, with the firm Intrepidity of a Roman, and the Amiable Resignation of a Christian Hero.

LOUD howls the storm! the vex'd Atlantic roars!
Thy Genius, Britain, wanders on its shores!
Hears cries of horror, wafted from afar,
And groans of Anguish, mid the shrieks of War!
Hears the deep curses of the Great and Brave,
Sigh in the wind, and murmur on the wave!
O'er his damp brow the sable crape he binds,
And throws his victor-garland1 to the winds;
Bids haggard Winter, in her drear sojourn,
Tear the dim foliage from her drizzling urn;
With sickly yew unfragrant cypress twine,
And hang the dusky wreath round Honour's shrine.
Bids steel-clad valour chace his dove-like Bride,
Enfeebling Mercy, from his awful side;
Where long she sat, and check'd the ardent rein,
As whirl'd his chariot o'er th' embattled plain;
Gilded with sunny smile her April tear,
Rais'd her white arm and stayd th' uplifted spear;
Then, in her place, bid Vengeance mount the car,
And glut with gore th' insatiate Dogs of War
With one pare hand the bloody scroll2 he rears,
And bids his nations blot it with their tears
And one, extended o'er th' Atlantic wave,
Points to his ANDRE'S ignominious grave!

And shall the Muse, that marks the solemn scene,
"As busy Fancy lifts the veil between,"
Refuse to mingle in the awful train,
"Nor breathe with glowing zeal the votive strain?
From public fame shall admiration fire
The boldest numbers of her raptur'd lyre
To hymn a Stranger? -- and with ardent lay
Lead the wild mourner round her COOK'S morai,
While ANDRE fades upon his dreary bier,
And JULIA'S3 only tribute is her tear?
Dear, lovely Youth whose gentle virtues stole
Thro' Friendship's soft'ning medium on her soul!
Ah no! -- with every strong resistless plea,
Rise the recorded days she pass'd with thee,
While each dim shadow of o'erwhelming years,
With Eagle-glance reverted, Mem'ry clears.

Belov'd companion of the fairest hours
That rose for her in joy's resplendent bow'rs,
How gaily shone on thy bright Morn of Youth
The Star of Pleasure, and the Sun of Truth!
Full from their Source descended on thy mind
Each gen'rous virtue, and each taste refin'd.
Young Genius led thee to his varied fane,
Bade thee ask all his gifts, nor ask in vain;
Hence novel thoughts, in ev'ry lustre drest
Of pointed wit, that diamond of the breast:
Hence glow'd thy fancy with poetic ray,
Hence music warbled in thy sprightly lay;
And hence thy pencil, with his colours warm,
Caught ev'ry grace, and copied ev'ry charm,
Whose transient glories beam on Beauty's cheek,
And bid the glowing Ivory breathe and speak.
Blest pencil! by kind Fate ordain'd to save
HONORA'S semblance from her early grave,4
Oh! while on JULIA'S arm5 it sweetly smiles,
And each lorn thought, each long regret beguiles,
Fondly she weeps the hand, which form'd the spell,
Now shroudless mould'ring in its earthy cell!

But sure the Youth, whose ill-starr'd passion strove
With all the pangs of inauspicious Love,
Full oft' deplor'd the Fatal Art, that stole
The jocund freedom of its Master's soul!

While with nice hand he mark'd the living grace.
And matchless sweetness of HONORA'S face,
Th' enamour'd Youth the faithful traces blest,
That barb'd the dart of Beauty in his breast;
Around his neck th' enchanting Portrait hung,
While a warm vow burst ardent from his tongue,
That from his bosom no succeeding day,
No chance should bear that Talisman away.

'Twas thus Apelles bask'd in Beauty's blaze,
And felt the mischief of the steadfast gaze;
Trac'd with disorder'd hand Campaspe's charms,
And as their beams the kindling Canvas warms,
Triumphant Love, with still superior art,
Engraves their wonders on the Painter's heart.

Dear lost Companion! ever-constant Youth!
That Fate had smil'd propitious on thy Truth!
Nor bound th' ensanguin'd laurel on that brow
Where Love ordain'd his brightest wreath to glow!
Then Peace had led thee to her softest bow'rs,
And Hymen strew'd thy path with all his flow'rs:
Drawn to thy roof, by Friendship's silver cord,
Each social Joy had brighten'd at thy board;
Science, and soft Affection's blended rays
Had shone unclouded on thy lengthen'd days;
From hour to hour thy taste, with conscious pride,
Had mark'd new talents in thy lovely Bride;
Till thou hadst own'd the magic of her face
Thy fair HONORA'S least engaging grace.
Dear lost HONORA! o'er thy early bier
Sorrowing the Muse still sheds her sacred tear!
The blushing Rose-bud in its vernal bed,
By Zephyrs fann'd, by glistring Dew-drops fed,
In June's gay morn that scents the ambient air,
Was not more sweet, more innocent or fair.
Oh! when such Pairs their kindred Spirit find,
When Sense and Virtue deck each spotless Mind,
Hard is the doom that shall the union break,
And Fate's dark billow rises o'er the wreck.

Now Prudence, in her cold and thrifty care,
Frown'd on the Maid, and bade the Youth despair,
For Pow'r Parental sternly saw, and strove
To tear the lily-bands of plighted love;
Nor strove in vain ; -- but while the Fair-One's sighs
Disperse, like April storms in sunny skies,
The firmer Lover, with unswerving truth,
To his first passion consecrates his Youth
Tho' four long years a night of absence prove,
Yet Hope's soft Star shone trembling on his Love;
Till hov'ring Rumour6 chas'd the pleasing dream
And veil'd with Raven-wing the silver beam.

"HONORA lost! my happy Rival's Bride!
"Swell ye full Sails! and roll thou mighty Tide!
"O'er the dark Waves forsaken ANDRE bear
"Amid the vollying Thunders of the War!
"To win bright Glory from my Country's foes,
"E'en in this ice of Love, my bosom glows.
"Voluptuous LONDON! in whose gorgeous bow'rs
"The frolic Pleasures lead the dancing Hours,
"From Orient-vales Sabean-odours bring,
"Nor ask her roses of the tardy Spring;
"Where Paintings burn the Grecian Meed to claim
"From the high Temple of immortal Fame,
"Bears to the radiant Goal, with ardent pace,
"Her Kauffman's Beauty, and her Reynolds' Grace;
"Where Music floats the glitt'ring roofs among,
"And with meand'ring cadence swells the Song,
"While sun-clad Poesy the Bard inspires,
"And foils the Grecian Harps, the Latian Lyres.

"Ye soft'ning Luxuries! ye polish'd Arts!
"Bend your enfeebling rays on tranquil Hearts!
"I quit the Song, the Pencil, and the Lyre,
"White robes of Peace, and Pleasure's soft Attire,
"To seize the Sword, to mount the rapid Car,
"In all the proud habiliments of War. --
"HONORA lost! I woo a sterner Bride,
"The arm'd Bellona calls me to her side;
"Harsh is the music of our marriage strain!
"It breathes in thunder from the Western plain!
"Wide o'er the wat'ry world its echoes roll,
"And rouse each latent ardour of my soul.
"And tho' unlike the soft melodious lay,
"That gaily wak'd HONORA's nuptial day,
"Its deeper tones shall whisper, e'er they cease,
"More genuine transport, and more lasting peace!

"Resolv'd I go! -- nor from that fatal bourne
"To these gay scenes shall ANDRE'S step return!
"Set is the Star of Love, that ought to guide
"His refluent Bark across the mighty Tide!
"But while my Country's Foes, with impious hand,
"Hurl o'er the blasted plains the livid brand
"Of dire Sedition! -- Oh! let Heav'n ordain,
"While ANDRE lives, he may not live in vain!

"Yet without one kind farewell, could I roam
"Far from my weeping Friends, my peaceful home,
"The best affections of my heart must cease,
"And gratitude be lost, with hope, and peace!
"My lovely Sisters! who were wont to twine
"Your Souls' soft feeling with each wish of mine,
"Shall, when this breast beats high at Glory's call,
"From your mild eyes the show'rs of Sorrow fall? --
"The light of Excellence, that round you glows,
"Decks with reflected beam your Brother's brows.
"Oh! may his Fame, in some distinguish'd day,
"Pour on that Excellence the brightest ray!

"Dim clouds of woe! ye veil each sprightly grace
"That us'd to sparkle in MARIA'S face. --
"My tuneful ANNA7 to her lute complains,
"But Grief's fond throbs arrest the parting strains. --
"Fair as the silver blossom on the thorn,
"Soft as the spirit of the vernal morn,
"Louisa, chace those trembling fears, that prove
"Th' ungovern'd terrors of a Sister's love.
"They bend thy sweet head, like yon lucid flow'r,
"That shrinks and fades beneath the summer's show'r --
"Oh! smile, my Sisters, on this destin'd day,
"And with the radiant omen gild my way!
"And thou, my Brother, gentle as the gale,
"Whose breath perfumes anew the blossom'd vale,
"Yet quick of Spirit, as th' electric beam,
"When from the clouds its darting lightnings stream,
"Soothe with incessant care our Mother's woes,
"And hush her anxious sighs to soft repose. --
"And be ye sure, when distant far I stray
"To share the dangers of the arduous day,
"Your tender faithful amity shall rest
"The last dear record8 of my grateful breast.

"Oh! graceful Priestess at the fane of Truth,
"Friend of my Soul! and Guardian of my Youth!
"Skill'd to convert the duty to the choice,
"My gentle Mother! -- in whose melting voice
"The virtuous precept, that perpetual flow'd,
"With music warbled, and with beauty glow'd,
"Thy Tears! -- ah Heav'n! -- not drops of molten lead,
"Pour'd on thy hapless Son's devoted head,
"With keener smart had each sensation torn! --
"They wake the nerve where agonies are born!
"But oh! restrain me not! -- thy tender strife,
"What wou'd it save? -- alas! -- thy ANDRE'S life!
"Oh! what a weary pilgrimage 'twill prove
"Strew'd with the thorns of disappointed Love!
"Neer can he break the charm, whose fond controul,
"By habit rooted, lords it o'er his soul,
"If here he languish in inglorious ease,
"Where Science palls, and Pleasures cease to please.
"'Tis Glory only, with her potent ray,
'Can chace the clouds that darken all his way.
"Then dry those pearly drops that wildly flow,
"Nor snatch the laurel from my youthful brow
"The Rebel Standard blazes to the noon!
"And Glory's path is bright before thy Son!
"Then join thy voice! and thou with Heav'n ordain
"While ANDRE lives, he may not live in vain!"

He says! -- and sighing seeks the busy strand,
Where anchor'd Navies wait the wish'd command.
To the full gale the nearer billows roar,
And proudly lash the circumscribing shore;
While furious on the craggy coast they rave,
All calm and lovely rolls the distant wave;
For onward, as th' unbounded waters spread,
Deep sink the rocks in their capacious bed,
And all their pointed terror's utmost force
But gently interrupts the billow's course.

So on his present hour rude Passion preys!
So smooth the prospect of his future days!
Unconscious of the Storm, that grimly sleeps,
To wreck its fury on th' unshelter'd Deeps!

Now yielding Waves divide before the prow,
The white sails bend, the streaming pennants glow;
And swiftly waft him to the Western plain,
Where fierce Bellona rages o'er the slain.

Firm in their strength, opposing Legions stand,
Prepar'd to drench with blood the thirsty Land.
Now Carnage hurls her flaming bolts afar,
And Desolation groans amid the War.
As bleed the Valiant, and the Mighty yield,
Death stalks, the only Victor, o'er the field.

Foremost in all the horrors of the day,
Impetuous ANDRE9 leads the glorious way;
Till, rashly bold, by numbers forc'd to yield,
They drag him captive from the long-fought field. --
Around the Hero crowd th' exulting Bands,
And seize the spoils of war with bloody hands,
Snatch the dark plumage from his awful crest,
And tear the golden crescent from his breast;
The sword, the tube, that wings the death from far,
And all the fatal implements of War!

Silent, unmov'd the gallant Youth survey'd
The lavish spoils triumphant Ruffians made.
The idle ornament, the useless spear
He little recks, but oh! there is a fear
Pants with quick throb, while yearning sorrows dart
Thro' his chill frame, and tremble at his heart:

"What tho' HONORA'S voice no more shall charm
"No more her beamy smile my bosom warm!
"Yet from these eyes shall force for ever tear
"The sacred Image of that Form so dear? --
"Shade of my Love!10 -- tho' mute and cold thy charms,
"Ne'er hast thou blest my happy Rival's arms!
"To my sad heart each Dawn has seen thee prest!
"Each Night has laid thee pillow'd on my breast!
"Force shall not tear thee from thy faithful shrine;
"Shade of my Love! thou shalt be ever mine!

"'Tis fix'd I -- these lips shall resolute enclose
"The precious Soother of my ceaseless woes.
"And shou'd relentless Violence invade
"This last retreat, by frantic Fondness made,
"One way remains I -- Fate whispers to my Soul
"Intrepid Portia and her burning coal!
"So shall the throbbing Inmate of my breast
"From Love's sole gift meet everlasting rest!"

While these sad thoughts in swift succession fire
The smother'd embers of each fond desire,
Quick to his mouth his eager hands removes
The beauteous semblance of the Form he loves.
That darling treasure safe, resign'd he wears
The sordid robe, the scanty viand shares;
With cheerful fortitude content to wait
The barter'd ransom of a kinder Fate.

Now many a Moon in her pale course had shed
The pensive beam on ANDRE'S captive head.
At length the Sun rose jocund, to adorn
With all his splendour the enfranchis'd Morn.
Again the Hero joins the ardent Train
That pours its thousands on the tented plain;
And shines distinguish'd in the long Array,
Bright as the silver Star that leads the Day!
His modest temperance, his wakeful heed,
His silent diligence, his ardent speed,
Each Warrior-duty to the Veteran taught,
Shaming the vain Experience Time had brought.
Dependence scarcely feels his gentle sway,
He shares each want, and smiles each grief away;
And to the virtues of a noble Heart,
Unites the talents of inventive Art.
Thus from his swift and faithful pencil flow
The Lines, the Camp, the Fortress of the Foe;
Serene to counteract each deep design,
Points the dark Ambush, and the springing Mine;
Till, as a breathing Incense, ANDRE'S name
Pervades the Host, and swells the loud acclaim.

The CHIEF no virtue views with cold regard,
Skill'd to discern, and generous to reward;
Each tow'ring hope his honour'd smiles impart,
As near his Person, and more near his Heart
The graceful Youth he draws, -- and round his brow
Bids Rank and Pow'r their mingled brilliance throw.

Oh! hast thou seen a blooming Morn of May
In crystal beauty shed the modest ray,
And with its balmy dews' refreshing show'r
Swell the young grain, and ope the purple flow'r,
In bright'ning lustre reach its radiant Noon,
Rob'd in the gayest mantle of the Sun?
Then 'mid the splendours of its azure skies,
Oh! hast thou seen the cruel Storm arise,
In sable horror shroud each dazzling charm,
And dash their glories back with icy arm?

Thus lowr'd the deathful cloud amid the blaze
Of ANDRE'S rising hopes, -- and quench'd their rays!
Ah, fatal Embassy! -- thy hazards dire
His kindling Soul with ev'ry ardour fire;
Great CLINTON gives it to the courage prov'd,
And the known wisdom of the Friend he lov'd.

As fair Euryalus, to meet his Fate,
With Nysus rushes from the Dardan gate,
Relentless Fate! whose fury scorns to spare
The snowy breast, red lip, and shining hair,
So polish'd ANDRE launches on the waves,
Where Hudson's tide its dreary confine laves.
With firm intrepid foot the Youth explores
Each dangerous pathway of the hostile shores;
But on no Veteran-Chief his step attends,
As silent round the gloomy Wood he wends;
Alone he meets the brave repentant Foe,
Sustains his late resolve, receives his vow,
With ardent skill directs the doubtful course,
Seals the firm bond, and ratifies its force.

'Tis thus, AMERICA, thy Generals fly,
And wave new banners in their native sky!
Sick of the mischiefs artful GALLIA pours,
In friendly semblance on thy ravag'd shores.
Unnatural compact! -- shall a Race of Slaves
Sustain the ponderous standard Freedom waves?
No! while their feign'd Protection spreads the toils,
The Vultures hover o'er the destin'd spoils!
How fade Provincial-glories, while ye run
To court far deeper bondage than ye shun!
Is this the generous active rising Flame,
That boasted Liberty's immortal name,
Blaz'd for its rights infring'd, its trophies torn,
And taught the Wife the dire mistake to mourn,
When haughty BRITAIN, in a luckless hour,
With rage inebriate, and the lust of pow'r,
To fruitless conquest, and to countless graves,
Led her gay Legions o'er the Western waves?
The Friend of Discord, cow'ring at the prow,
Sat darkly smiling at th' impending woe!

Long did my Soul the wretched strife survey,
And wept the horrors of the deathful day;
Thro' rolling Years saw undecisive War
Drag bleeding Wisdom at his iron Car;
Exhaust my Country's treasure, pour her gore
In fruitless conflict on the distant shore;
Saw the firm CONGRESS all her might oppose,
And while I mourn'd her fate, rever'd her Foes.

But when, repentant of her prouder aim,
She gently waives the long-disputed claim
Extends the Charter with your Rights restor'd,
And hides in olive-wreaths the blood-stain'd sword,
Then to reject her peaceful wreaths, and throw
Your Country's Freedom to our mutual Foe
Infatuate Land! -- from that detested day
Distracted Councils, and the thirst of Sway,
Rapacious Avarice, Superstition vile,
And all the Frenchman dictates in his guile
Disgrace your CONGRESS! -- Justice drops her scale!
And radiant Liberty averts her sail?
They fly indignant the polluted plain,
Where Truth is scorn'd, and Mercy pleads in vain.

That she does plead in vain, thy witness bear,
Accursed Hour! -- thou darkest of the Year!
That with Misfortune's deadliest venom fraught,
To Tappan's Wall the gallant ANDRE brought.

Oh WASHINGTON! I thought thee great and good,
Nor knew thy Nero-thirst of guiltless blood
Severe to use the pow'r that Fortune gave,
Thou cool determin'd Murderer of the Brave!
Lost to each fairer Virtue, that inspires
The genuine fervor of the patriot fires!
And You, the base Abettors of the doom,
That sunk his blooming honors in the tomb,
Th' opprobrious tomb your harden'd hearts decreed,
While all he ask'd was as the Brave to Bleed
Nor other boon the glorious Youth implor'd
Save the cold Mercy of the Warrior-Sword!
O dark, and pitiless! your impious hate
O'er-whelm'd the Hero in the Ruffian's fate!
Stopt with the Felon-cord the rosy breath!
And venom'd with disgrace the darts of Death!

Remorseless WASHINGTON! the day shall come
Of deep repentance for this barb'rous doom!
When injur'd ANDRE'S memory shall inspire
A kindling Army with resistless fire;
Each falchion sharpen that the Britons wield,
And lead their fiercest Lion to the field!
Then, when each hope of thine shall set in night,
When dubious dread, and unavailing flight
Impel your Host, thy guilt-upbraided Soul
Shall wish untouch'd the sacred Life you stole!
And when thy Heart appall'd and vanquish'd Pride
Shall vainly ask the mercy they deny'd,
With horror shalt thou meet the fate they gave,
Nor Pity gild the darkness of thy grave!
For Infamy, with livid hand shall shed
Eternal mildew on the ruthless head!

Less cruel far than thou, on Ilium's plain
Achilles, raging for Patroclus slain
When hapless Priam bends the aged knee,
To deprecate the Victor's dire decree,
The nobler Greek, in melting pity spares
The lifeless Hector to his Father's prayers,
Fierce as he was; -- 'tis Cowards only know
Persisting vengeance o'er a fallen Foe.

But no intreaty wakes the soft remorse,
Oh, murder'd ANDRE! for thy sacred Corse;
Vain were an army's, vain its Leader's sighs
Damp in the Earth on Hudson's shore it lies!
Unshrouded welters in the wintry storm,
And gluts the riot of the Tappan Worm!
But oh! its dust, like Abel's blood, shall rise,
And call for justice from the angry skies!

What tho' the Tyrants, with malignant pride,
To thy pale Corse each decent rite deny'd!
Thy graceful limbs in no kind covert laid,
Nor with the Christian Requiem sooth'd thy shade!
Yet on thy grass-green Bier soft April-show'rs
Shall earliest wake the sweet spontaneous Flow'rs,
Bid the blue Hare-bell and the Snow-drop there
Hang their cold cup, and drop the pearly tear!
And oft, at pensive Eve's ambiguous gloom,
Imperial Honour, bending o'er thy tomb,
With solemn strains shall lull thy deep repose,
And with his deathless Laurels shade thy brows!

Lamented Youth! while with inverted spear
The British Legions pour th' indignant tear!
Round the dropt arm the funeral scarf entwine,11
And in their heart's deep core thy worth enshrine,
While my weak Muse, in fond attempt and vain,
But feebly pours a perishable strain,
Oh! ye distinguish'd Few! whose glowing lays
Bright Phoebus kindles with his purest rays,
Snatch from its radiant source the living fire,
And light with Vestal flame your ANDRE'S HALLOW'D PYRE.

1.Victor-garland -- alluding to the conquest by Lord Cornwallis. [back]
2. Bloody scroll. The court-martial decree, signed at Tappan, for Major Andre's execution. [back]
3. Julia -- the name by which John André addressed Anna Seward in his correspondence with her. [back]
4. Honora Sneyd, Anna's romantic friend and muse and John's fiancée, to whom both were devotedly attached, died of consumption a few months before he was executed at Tappan. She had married Richard Lovell Edgeworth, the widowed father of the novelist Maria Edgeworth, four years after her engagement with John had been dissolved by parental authority. Anna spent most of her life thereafter writing grief-stricken poems in memory of her romantic friend. [back]
5. Julia's arm. -- John drew two miniature pictures of Honora on his first acquaintance with her at Buxton in 1769, one for himself, the other for Anna. [back]
6. Hov'ring Rumour. -- The tidings of Honora's marriage, upon which John "quitted his Profession as a Merchant and join'd our Army in America." [back]
7. Tuneful Anna -- Miss Anna André has a poetical talent. [back]
8. Last dear record. -- " I have a Mother, and three Sisters, to whom the value of my commission wou'd he an object, as the loss of Grenada has much affected their income. It is needless to be more explicit on this subject, I know your Excellency's goodness." -- See Major André's last letter to General Clinton, published in the Gazette. [back]
9. Impetuous Andre. -- "It is in this passage only that fiction has been employ'd thro' the narrative of the poem. Mr. Andre was a prisoner in America, soon after his arrival there but the Author is unacquainted with the circumstances of the action in which he was taken." [back]
10. Shade of my Love. -- The miniature of Honora. A letter from Major André to one of his friends: "I have been taken prisoner by the Americans and stript of everything except the picture of Honora, which I concealed in my mouth. Preserving that, I yet think myself fortunate." [back]
11. Funeral scarf. -- "Our whole Army in America went into mourning for Major André; a distinguish'd tribute to his merit."[back]

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