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When admirals, extolled for standing still,
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;
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 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, mayyet 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 food 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 controul,
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 our's,
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,
We 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, it 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 murse;
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 our's,
Too apt to play the wanton with her powers,
Grow freakish, and o'erleaping 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 ?
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 perform their parts,
Not skulk or put on a prudential mask,
As if their duty were a desperate task;
Let active laws apply the needful curb
To guard the peace ---that riot would disturb;
And liberty, preserved 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 usurped authority's just place,
And dared to look his master in the face;
When the rude rabble's watch-word was---destroy,
And blazing London seemed a second Troy,
Liberty blushed, and hung her drooping head,
Beheld their progress with the deepest dread;
Blushed, 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 ; (sold;
Cheap, though blood-bought; and thrown away when
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 clothed him with authority and awe,
Spoke from his lips, and in his looks gave law.
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 dared oppose
Her sacred cause, but trembled when he rose;
And every venal stickler for the yoke
Felt himself crushed at the first word he spoke.
Such men are raised 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 power
The crisis of a dark decisive hour.
So Gideon earned a victory not his own;
Subserviency his praise, and that alone.
Poor England! thou art a devoted deer,
Beset with every ill but that of fear.
Thee nations hunt; all mark thee for a prey ;
They swarm aronnd thee, and thou standest at bay.
Undaunted still, though wearied and perplexed,
Once Chatham saved thee; but who saves thee next?
Alas! the tide of pleasure sweeps along
All, that should be the boast of British song.
'Tis not the wreath, that once adorned thy brow,
The prize of happier times will serve thee now.
Our ancestry; a gallant christian race,
Patterns of every virtue, every grace,
Confessed a God; they kneeled before they fought,
And praised him in the victories he wrought.
Now from the dust of ancient days bring forth
Their sober zeal, integrity, and worth;
Courage, ungraced by these, affronts the skies,
Is but the fire without the sacrifice.
The stream, that feeds the well-spring of the heart,
Not more invigorates life's noblest part,
Than virtue quickens with a warmth divine
The powers, that sin has brought to a decline.
A. The inestimable estimate of Brown
Rose like a paper-kite, and charmed the town;
But measures, planned and executed well,
Shifted the wind that raised it, and it fell.
He trod the very self-same ground you tread,
And victory refuted all he said.
B. And yet his judgment was not framed amiss;
Its error, if it erred, was merely this---
He thought the dying hour already come,
And a complete recovery struck him dumb.
But that effeminacy, folly, lust,
Enervate and enfeeble, and needs must,
And that a nation shamefully debased,
Will be despised and trampled on at last,
Unless sweet penitence her powers renew,
Is truth, if history itself be true.
There is a time, and justice marks the date,
For long-forbearing clemency to wait;