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To think that now our life is only dressed
For show; mean handiwork of craftsman, cook,
!-We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest:
The wealthiest man among us is the best;
No grandeur now in nature or in book
Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore;
Plain living and high thinking are no more;
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour;
England hath need of thee; she is a fen
Of stagnant waters; altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power,
Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
Great men have been among us; hands that penned And tongues that uttered wisdom, better none; The later Sidney, Marvel, Harrington, Young Vane, and others who called Milton friend. These moralists could act and comprehend: They knew how genuine glory was put on; Taught us how rightfully a nation shone In splendour; what strength was, that would not bend
But in magnanimous meekness. France, 'tis strange,
Hath brought forth no such souls as we had then.
Perpetual emptiness ! unceasing change!
No single volume paramount, no code,
No master spirit, no determined road;
But equally a want of books and men!
It is not to be thought of that the flood
Of British freedom, which, to the open sea
Of the world's praise, from dark antiquity
Hath flowed, "with pomp of waters unwithstood,"
Roused though it be full often to a mood
Which spurns the check of salutary bands,-
That this most famous stream in bogs and sands
Should perish; and to evil and to good
Be lost for ever. In our halls is hung
Armoury of the invincible knights of old:
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakspeare spake: the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held. In everything we are sprung
Of earth's first blood, have titles manifold.
When I have borne in memory what has tamed Great nations, how ennobling thoughts depart When men change swords for ledgers, and desert The student's bower for gold, some fears unnamed I had, my country!-am I to be blamed ? But when I think of thee, and what thou art, Verily, in the bottom of my heart, Of those unfilial fears I am ashamed. But dearly must we prize thee; we who find In thee a bulwark for the cause of men; And I by my affection was beguiled. What wonder if a poet now and then, Among the many movements of his mind, Felt for thee as a lover or a child ?
One might believe that natural miseries
Had blasted France, and made of it a land
Unfit for men; and that in one great band
Her sons were bursting forth, to dwell at ease.
But 'tis a chosen soil, where sun and breeze
Shed gentle favours; rural works are there
And ordinary business without care;
Spot rich in all things that can soothe and please !
How piteous then that there should be such dearth
Of knowledge; that whole myriads should unite
To work against themselves such fell despite:
Should come in frenzy and in drunken mirth,
Impatient to put out the only light
Of Liberty that yet remains on earth!
There is a bondage worse, far worse, to bear
Than his who breathes, by roof, and floor, and wall,
Pent in, a tyrant's solitary thrall;
'Tis his who walks about in the open air,
One of a nation who, henceforth, must wear
Their fetters in their souls. For who could be,
Who, even the best, in such condition, free
From self-reproach, reproach which he must share
With human nature? Never be it ours
To see the sun how brightly it will shine,
And know that noble feelings, manly powers,
Instead of gathering strength, must droop and pine,
And earth with all her pleasant fruits and flowers
Fade, and participate in man's decline.
These times touch moneyed worldlings with dismay.
Even rich men, brave by nature, taint the air
With words of apprehension and despair :
While tens of thousands, thinking on the affray,
Men unto whom sufficient for the day,
And minds not stinted or untilled are given,
Sound, healthy children of the God of heaven,
Are cheerful as the rising sun in May.
What do we gather hence but firmer faith
That every gift of noble origin
Is breathed upon by Hope's perpetual breath ?
That virtue and the faculties within
Are vital,—and that riches are akin
To fear, to change, to cowardice and death!
England ! the time is come when thou shouldst wean Thy heart from its emasculating food ; The truth should now be better understood; Old things have been unsettled; we have seen Fair seedtime, better harvest might have been But for thy trespasses; and at this day, If for Greece, Egypt, India, Africa, Aught good were destined, thou wouldst step between. England! all nations in this charge agree: But worse, more ignorant in love and hate, Far, far more abject is thine enemy: Therefore the wise pray for thee, though the freight Of thy offences be a heavy weight: Oh, grief! that earth's best hopes rest all with thee!
When, looking on the present face of things,
I see one man, of men the meanest too!
Raised up to sway the world, to do, undo,
With mighty nations for his underlings,
The great events with which old story rings
Seem vain and hollow; I find nothing great ;
Nothing is left which I can venerate;
So that almost a doubt within me springs
Of Providence, such emptiness at length
Seems at the heart of all things. But, great God!
I measure back the steps which I have trod;
And tremble, seeing whence proceeds the strength
Of such poor instruments, with thoughts subline
I tremble at the sorrow of the time.
TO THE MEN OF KENT.
Oct., 1803. VANGUARD of liberty, ye men of Kent, Ye children of a soil that doth advance Her haughty brow against the coast of France, Now is the time to prove your hardiment ! To France be words of invitation sent! They from their fields can see the countenance Of your fierce war, may ken the glittering lance, And hear you shouting forth your brave intent. Left single, in bold parley, ye of yore, Did from the Norman win a gallant wreath; Confirmed the charters that were yours before: No parleying now! In Britain is one breath; We all are with you now from shore to shore: Ye men of Kent, 'tis victory or death!
Oct., 1803. Shout, for a mighty victory is won ! On British ground the invaders are laid low: The breath of Heaven has drifted them like snow, And left them lying in the silent sun, Never to rise again! the work is done. Come forth, ye old men, now in peaceful show, And greet your sons ! drums beat and trumpets blow! Make merry, wives ! ye little children stun