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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 fix'd 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 at their hearts ; When admirals, extollid for standing still, Or doing nothing with a deal of skill; Gen’rals, who will not conquer when they may, Firm friends to peace, to pleasure, and good pay; When 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 pow'r 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, tho’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. Lib’ral 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 flow'rs;
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 design'd,
She rears her fav’ríte man of all mankind.
His form robust and of elastic tone,
Proportion'd well, half muscle and half bone,
Supplies with warm activity and force
A mind well-lodg’d 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 grows wanton, woe
To him that treads upon his free-born toe;
One step beyond the bound'ry of the laws
Fires him at once in Freedom's glorious cause.
Thus proud Prerogative, not much rever'd,
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 form’d, like us, with such Herculean pow'rs,
The Frenchman, easy, debunair, and brisk,
Give him his lass, his fiddle, and his frisk,
Is always happy, reign whoever may,
And laughs the sense of mis’ry far away.
He drinks his simple bev'rage with a gust;
And, feasting on an onion and a crust,
We never feel th’ alacrity and joy,
With which he shouts and carols Vive le Roy !
Filld 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 Slav'ry 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 fost'ring pow'r and tutelary care,
As well be yok'd by Despotism's hand,
As dwell at large in Britain's charter'd 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,
Op’ning and wider op’ning on her view,
She ventures ouward with a prosp'rous force,
While no base fear impedes her in her course.
Religion, richest favour of the skies,
Stands most reveal'd before the freeman's eyes ;
No shades of superstition blot the day,
Liberty chases all that gloom away;
The soul emancipated, unoppress'd,
Free to prove all things, and hold fast the best,
Learns much; and to a thousand list’ning 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;
B:ut 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.
O Liberty! the pris’ner's pleasing dream,
The poet's muse,
and his theme;
Genius is thine, and thou art Fancy's nurse;
Lost without thee th' ennobling pow'rs 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 pow'rs,
Grow freakish, and, o'erleaping ev'ry 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?
No. His high mettle under good control,
Gives him Olympic speed, and shoots him to the goal,
Let Discipline employ her wholesome arts; Let magistrates alert perforın their parts; Not skulk or put on a prudential mask, As if their duty were a desp’rate task; Let active Laws apply the needful curb, To guard the Peace, that Riot wouli disturb; And Liberty preserv'd from wild excess, Shall raise no feuds for armies to suppress, When Tumult lately burst his prison-door, And set plebeian thousands in a roar; When he usurp'd Authority's just place, And dar'd to look his master in the face; When the rude rabble's watchword was—Destroy, And blazing London seem'd a second Troy;
Liberty blush'd, and hung her drooping head,
Beheld their progress with the deepest dread;
Blush'd, that effects like these she should produce,
Worse than the deeds of galley-slaves broke loose.
She loses in such storms her very name,
And fierce Licentiousness should bear the blame.
Incomparable gem! thy worth untold;
Cheap tho'blood-bought, and thrown away when sold;
May no foes ravish thee, and no false friend
Betray thee, while professing to defend !
Prize it, ye ministers; ye monarchs, spare;
Ye patriots, guard it with a miser's care.
A. Patriots, alas! the few that have been found,
Where most they flourish, upon English ground,
The country's need have scantily supplied,
And the last left the scene when Chatham died.
B. Not so--the virtue still adorns our age,
Though the chief actor died upon the stage.
In him Demosthenes was heard again;
Liberty taught him her Athenian strain;
She cloth'd him with authority and awe,
Spoke from his lips, and in his looks
His speech, his form, his action, full of grace,
And all his country beaming in his face,
He stood, as some inimitable hand
Would strive to make a Paul or Tully stand.
No sycophant or slave, that dar'd oppose
Her sacred cause, but trembld when he rose;
And ev'ry venal stickler for the yoke
Felt himself crush'd at the first word he spoke.
Such men are rais’d to station and command,
When Providence means mercy to a land.
He speaks, and they appear; to him they owe
Skill to direct, and strength to strike the blow;
To manage with address, to seize with pow'r
The crisis of a dark, decisive hour:
So Gideon earn'd a victory not his own;
Subserviency his praise, and that alone.