The Sir William Hope Poetry Corner
Being a selection of verse collected from his fencing books.
You, dear reader, may find these poems entertaining. You may well not. Either way, I bring to your attention the advice of their author:
"I confess I am neither poet nor versificator, yet those lines offering to my fancy, and relating to the subject, I though fit to set them down; if they are good it's by chance, if not, pass them over; I wrote them for my divertisement, and it's like had it not been to divert me, I had not taken the pains to write so much either of fencing, or in commendation of it as I have done; However what I have writ, I recommend to your perusal, which I think can hardly be refused, seeing it cost me a great deal of more pains in writing, than it will do you in reading; and if you despise my offer, I assure you, I shall take it so ill, and be so much concerned, that I shall never sleep a whit the worse for it".
An art so Noble, Useful and Gentile,
To speak its praises, would a Volume fill;
For when that I, its Merits would display,
My Mouth is stopt, my Muse is at a stay,
It so exceeds all that I can conceive,
I'm forced to silence, yet to speak must crave;
But seeing all I can express and shew,
Would far come short, of what's its real due,
I shall be short, and only of it say,
It is a badge, Accomplishment and Ray,
Which doth adorn all who to understand,
Its real Use and Worth, do take in hand,
An Art so useful, that no Gentleman,
Of Valour, Honour, be without it can,
For it to all who carry Sword by Side,
Should be a pilot, and a constant Guide;
Unless they do renounce the Name they bear,
And that which them from others character,
For my part, I confess, I it esteem,
And for my trusty Safe-guard do it deem,
And alwayes will, knowing it ne're deceives,
Any who to it trust and respect gives;
But believe me who despise it wholly,
Ignorance betray, as well as folly,
And will repent them (when it is too late),
They trusted none to it, so much to fate.
O useful Abstract! who possesses Thee;
And thy Just Precepts Practice with these three*;
Needs no Man's Point, or Edged Sabre fear;
Since by Thee, from all Danger he's secure.
Weigh well this Chapter then who wou'd have Art,
It, and Preceeding ought to get by Heart,
For in them two is Compendized all,
A Sword-Man needs to know, of Broad, or Small.
* Calmness, Vigour and Judgement.
For more details on the subject of this poem, please refer to the essay.
Who fancies Art makes Men Infallible,
Discovers more of Ignorance than Skill;
If Art did Sword-Men truly Sword-Proof make,
What Pains to become Sword-Men would Men take?
True Art does Ignorance in this excel,
It doth both Blow and Thrust with Ease repel;
Art does but Knowledge and Assurance give,
And Men from many Blow and Thrust relieve;
Sees, forces opens, and with Judgement just,
Prompts, here you are to Strike, and there to Thrust;
Thus, Art, you see, is better far than none,
Cause it prevents receving Three for one;
Who from his Art does more than this expect,
Arm'd Cap-a-pee must fight, and it reject;
For Art's but Art, and Skill no more than Skill,
Which saves in Part, but Works no Miracle,
To render frail Man ---- Infallible.
Hard Fate of Man, who either if he flies,
Hopeless of e're retrieving Honour lies;
Or if he vanquish, still expects to find
The stroke of Justice, or Remorse of Mind.
Condemn this fate! Thou'lt prove thy self a Man,
And act the Hero, and true Christian.
The British powers who shall encourage this,
Need little doubt of future endless Bliss:
Void of offence Consc'ences they must have,
Who such Laws do enact, Mens lives to save
A Project! no less Christian than brave.
Custom and practice do so much prevail,
They make Man in every thing excel;
If Nature they exceed, 'tis hard to tell.
With no less Eager Zeal is Honour sought;
Honour! that guilded Idol of the Great;
For which, how do th' Ambitious toil and sweat,
And think't, with any Peril cheaply bought?
Hurry'd with Strong Desire, brook no Delay,
By what e'er Obstacles withstood;
But with impetuous Fury force their way,
And to the Gaudy Trifle wade thro' Seas of Blood.
FENCING not only for Diversion serves,
It Life and Honour, when attack'd, preserves:
The best EXERCISE of Heroick kind,
To cheer the Body and relax the Mind:
Gout and Rheumatick Ach's it does expel,
And for their Cure, all Medicines excel.