« PreviousContinue »
Oh! if servility with supple knees,
Whose trade it is to smile, to crouch, to please ;
If smooth dissimulation, skilled to grace
A devil's purpose with an angel's face ;
If smiling peeresses, and simpering peers,
Encompassing his throne a few short years ;
If the gilt carriage and the pampered steed,
That wants no driving, and disdains the lead;
If guards, mechanically formed in ranks,
Playing, at beat of drum, their martial pranks,
Shouldering and standing as if stuck to stone,
While condescending majesty looks on ;
If monarchy consist in such base things,
Sighing, I say again, I pity kings!
To be suspected, thwarted, and withstood,
Even when he labours for his country's good;
To see a band, called patriot for no cause,
But that they catch at popular applause,
Careless of all the anxiety he feels,
Hook disappointment on the public wheels ;
With all their flippant fluency of tongue,
Most confident, when palpably most wrong ,
If this be kingly, then farewell for me
All kingship; and may I be poor and free!
To be the Table Talk of clubs up stairs,
To which the unwashed artificer repairs,
To indulge his genius after long fatigue,
By diving into cabinet intrigue
(For what kings deem a toil, as well they may,
To him is relaxation and mere play);
To win no praise when well-wrought plans prevail,
But to be rudely censured when they fail;
To doubt the love his favourites may pret
And in reality to find no friend ;
If he indulge a cultivated taste,
His galleries with the works of art well graced,
To hear it called extravagance and waste ;
If these attendants, and if such as these,
Must follow royalty, then welcome ease ;
Howeyer humble and confined the sphere,
Happy the state, that has not these to fear.
A. Thus men, whose thoughts contemplative have
On situations, that they never felt,
Start up sagacious, covered with the dust
Of dreaming study and pedantic rust,
And prate and preach about what others prove,
As if the world and they were hand and glove.
Leave kingly backs to cope with kingly cares ;
They have their weight to carry, subjects theirs ;
Poets, of all men, ever least regret
Increasing taxes and the nation's debt.
Could you contrive the payment, and rehearse
The mighty plan, oracular, in verse,
No bard, howe'er majestic, old or new,
Should claim my fixt attention more than you.
B. Not Brindley nor Bridgewater would essay
To turn the course of Helicon that way;
Nor would the Nine consent the sacred tide
Should purl amidst the traffic of Cheapside,
Or tinkle in Change-alley, to amuse
The leathern ears of stock-jobbers and Jews.
A. Vouchsafe, at least, to pitch the key of rhyme
To themes more pertinent, if less sublime,
When ministers and ministerial arts;
Patriots, who love good places as their hearts ;
When admirals, extolled for standing stilí,
Or doing nothing with a deal of skill;
Generals, who will not conquer when they may,
Firm friends to peace, to pleasure, and good pay;
Then freedom, wounded almost to despair, Though discontent alone can find out where; When themes like these employ the poet's tongue, I hear as mute as if a syren sung.
Or tell me, if you can, what power maintains
A Briton's scorn of arbitrary chains ?
That were a theme might animate the dead,
And move the lips of poets cast in lead.
B. The cause, though worth the search, may yet elude
Conjecture and remark, however shrewd.
They take perhaps a well-directed aim,
Who seek it in his climate and his frame.
Liberal in all things else, yet nature here
With stern severity deals out the year.
Winter invades the spring, and often pours
A chilling flood on summer's drooping flowers ;
Unwelcome vapours quench autumnal beams,
Ungenial blasts attending curl the streams ;
The peasants urge their harvest, ply the fork
With double toil, and shiver at their work:
Thus with a rigour, for his good designed,
She rears her favourite man of all mankind.
His form robust and of elastic tone,
Proportioned well, half muscle and half bone,
Supplies with warm activity and force
A mind well-lodged, and masculine of course.
Hence liberty, sweet liberty inspires,
And keeps alive his fierce but noble fires.
Patient of constitutional control,
He bears it with meek manliness of soul :
But, if authority grow wanton, woe
To him that treads upon his free-born toe ;
One step beyond the boundary of the laws
Fires him at once in freedom's glorious cause.
Thus proud prerogative, not much revered,
Is seldom felt, though sometimes seen and heard ;
And in his cage, like parrot fine and gay,
Is kept to strut, look big, and talk away.
Born in a climate softer far than ours,
Not formed like us, with such Herculean powers,
The Frenchman easy, debonair, and brisk,
Give him his lass, his fiddle, and his frisk,
Is always happy, reign whoever may,
And laughs the sense of misery far away ;
He drinks his simple beverage with a gust;
And, feasting on an onion and a crust,
Te never feel the alacrity and joy,
With which he shouts and carols Vive le Roy,
Filled with as much true merriment and glee,
As if he heard his king say-Slave, be free.
Thus happiness depends, as nature shows,
Less on exterior things than most suppose.
Vigilant over all that he has made,
Kind Providence attends with gracious aid;
Bids equity throughout his works prevail,
And weighs the nations in an even scale;
He can encourage slavery to a smile,
And fill with discontent a British isle.
A. Freeman and slave then, if the case be such,
Stand on a level; and you prove too much :
If all men indiscriminately share
His fostering power, and tutelary care,
As well be yoked by despotism's hand,
As well at large in Britain's chartered land.
B. No. Freedom has a thousand charms to show,
That slaves, howe'er contented, never know.
The mind attains beneath her happy reign
The growth that nature meant she should attain;
The varied fields of science, ever new,
Opening and wider opening on her view,
She ventures onward with a prosperous force,
While no base fear impedes her in her course.
Religion, richest favour of the skies,
Stands most revealed before the freeman's eyes ;
No shades of superstition blot the day,
Liberty chases all that gloom away;
The soul, emancipated, unoppressed,
Free to prove all things and hold fast the best,
Learns much; and to a thousand listening minds
Communicates with joy the good she finds;
Courage in arms, and ever prompt to show
His manly forehead to the fiercest foe;
Glorious in war, but for the sake of peace,
His spirits rising as his toils increase,
Guards well what arts and industry have won,
And freedom claims him for her first-born son.
Slaves fight for what were better cast away-
The chain that binds them, and a tyrant's sway;
But they, that fight for freedom, undertake
The noblest cause mankind can have at stake:
Religion, virtue, truth, whate'er we call
A blessing-freedom is the pledge of all.
Oh liberty! the prisoner's pleasing dream,
The poet's muse, his passion and his theme;
Genius is thine, and thou art fancy's nurse ;
Lost without thee th’ ennobling power of verse;
Heroic song from thy free touch acquires
Its clearest tone, the rapture it inspires;
Place me where winter breathes his keenest air,
And I will sing, if liberty be there;
And I will sing at liberty's dear feet,
In Afric's torrid clime, or India's fiercest heat.
A. Sing where you please ; in such a cause I grant
An English poet's privilege to rant;
But is not freedom--at least is not ours
Too apt to play the wanton with her powers,
Grow freakish, and overleaping every mound,
Spread anarchy and terror all around?
B. Agreed. But would you sell or slay your horse For bounding and curvetting in his course? Or if, when ridden with a careless rein, He break away, and seek the distant plain?