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Sir Henry Clinton’s Soliloquy

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

Upon his recovery from the phrensy into which he was thrown by the storming of Stony Point.

“To fight, or not to fight, that is the question!”
Whether ’tis best within1 Manhattan’s isle,
Snug to encamp, secure from war’s alarms!
Or, mounting Hudson’s oft-attempted wave,
Encircled with my British German bands,
At once let loose the terrors of my arm,
And crush rebellion at its farthest source!
“To fight—perchance to beat! Ah, there’s the rub.”
(Conscience makes a coward of Sir Harry!)
Well I remember the opprobrious time,
When Tryon and Sir George, by my command,
O’er poor Connecticut’s defenceless towns
Pour’d out the flaming vials of my wrath,
Murder’d the old, and plundered the infirm;
Torrent-like, when brave Wayne’s determined corps
Resistless rush’d o’er all my boasted works,
And in an instant quench’d the British fire!
What dread ideas fill my tortured brain!
West Point still rises to my troubled view!
Unnerves my heart! and damps my ardent passion
For the charge!
There proud America’s undaunted host
With vict’ry flush’d, and pulses beating high,
Unfurl their glitt’ring ensigns to the air,
And claim, impatient claim, the promis’d fight!
There god-like Washington triumphant stands,
Smiles at my losses and defies my power!
What’s to be done?—at Charleston baffled twice,
At Monmouth routed with a dire disgrace!
Britannia blushing!—my sovereign’s hopes,
So flatt’ring late, all vanishing to nought!”
It must be so!” soon as to-morrow’s sun
Thro’ Ether darts his horizontal rays,
Strait I’ll embark!
Unfold the spreading canvas to the winds,
And bend my course to England’s peaceful shore,
Join Gage, Burgoyne, and Howe, ill-fated chiefs,
Who trod before me this disastrous round;
Beneath their wither’d laurels lay me down,
And sleep the hours away! nor dream again
Of conquering Freedom’s all-subduing sous!2


1 York Island.
2 “S.” in the New York Packet, August 19.