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Heeds not the shriek of penury; he smiles
At the deep curses which the destitute
Mutter in secret, and a sullen joy
Pervades his bloodless heart when thousands groan
But for those morsels which his wantonness
Wastes in unjoyous revelry, to save
All that they love from famine: when he hears
The tale of horror, to some ready-made face
Of hypocritical assent he turns,
Smothering the glow of shame, that, spite of him,
Flushes his bloated cheek.
Now to the meal Of silence, grandeur, and excess, he drags His palled unwilling appetite. If gold, Gleaming around, and numerous viands culled From every clime, could force the loathing sense To overcome satiety, if wealth The spring it draws from poisons not, -or vice, Unfeeling, stubborn vice, converteth not Its food to deadliest venom; then that king Is happy; and the peasant who fulfils His unforced task, when he returns at even, And by the blazing faggot meets again Her welcome for whom all his toil is sped, Tastes not a sweeter meal.
Behold him now Stretched on the gorgeous couch; his fevered brain Reels dizzily awhile : but ah! too soon The slumber of intemperance subsides, And conscience, that undying serpent, calls Her venomous brood to their nocturnal task. Listen! he speaks! oh! mark that frenzied eye— Oh! mark that deadly visage.
No cessation 1
Oh! must this last for ever! Awful death,
I wish yet fear to clasp thee! Not one moment
Of dreamless sleep! O dear and blessed peace!
Why dost thou shroud thy vestal purity
In penury and dungeons! wherefore lurkest
With danger, death, and solitude: yet shunn'st
The palace I have built thee! Sacred peace!
Oh visit me but once, and pitying shed
One drop of balm upon my withered soul.
Wain man that palace is the virtuous heart,
And peace defileth not her snowy robes
In such a shed as thine. Hark! yet he mutters;
His slumbers are but varied agonies,
They prey like scorpions on the springs of life.
There needeth not the hell that bigots frame
To punish those who err: earth in itself
Contains at once the evil and the cure;
And all-sufficing nature can chastise
Those who transgress her law, she only knows
How justly to proportion to the fault
The punishment it merits.
Is it strange That this poor wretch should pride him in his woe? Take pleasure in his abjectness, and hug The scorpion that consumes him Is it strange That, placed on a conspicuous throne of thorns, Grasping an iron sceptre, and immured Within a splendid prison, whose stern bounds Shut him from all that's good or dear on earth, His soul asserts not its humanity? That mau's mild nature rises not in war
Against a king's employ? No-'tis not strange,
He, like the vulgar, thinks, feels, acts and lives
Just as his father did; the unconquered powers
Of precedent and custom interpose
Between a king and virtue. Stranger yet,
To those who know not nature, nor deduce
The future from the present, it may seem,
That not one slave, who suffers from the crimes
Of this unnatural being; not one wretch,
Whose children famish, and whose nuptial bed
Is earth's unpitying bosom, rears an arm
To dash him from his throne !
Those gilded flies That basking in the sunshine of a court, Fatten on its corruption 1—what are they —The drones of the community; they feed On the mechanic's labour; the starved hind For them compels the stubborn glebe to yield Its unshared harvests; and yon squalid form, Leaner than fleshless misery, that wastes A sunless life in the unwholesome mine, Drags out in labour a protracted death, To glut their grandeur; many faint with toil, That few may know the cares and woe of sloth.
Whence, thinkest thou, kings and parasites arose? .
Whence that unnatural line of drones, who heap
Toil and unvanquishable penury
On those who build their palaces, and bring [vice;
Their daily bread —From vice, black loathsome
From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong;
From all that genders misery, and makes
Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,
Revenge, and murder.—And when reason's voice,
Loud as the voice of nature, shall have waked
The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
Is discord, war, and misery; that virtue
Is peace, and happiness and harmony; .
When man's maturer nature shall disdain
The playthings of its childhood;—kingly glare
Will lose its power to dazzle; its authority
Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood's trade
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of truth is now.
Withered the hand outstretched but to relieve;
Sunk reason's simple eloquence, that rolled
But to appal the guilty. Yes! the grave [frost
Hath quenched that eye, and death's relentless
Withered that arm: but the unfading fame
Which virtue hangs upon its votary's tomb;
The deathless memory of that man, whom kings
Call to their mind and tremble; the remembrance
With which the happy spirit contemplates
Its well-spent pilgrimage on earth,
Shall never pass away.
Nature rejects the monarch, not the man;
The subject, not the citizen: for kings
And subjects, mutual foes, for ever play
A losing game into each other's hands,
Whose stakes are vice and misery. The man
Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys.
Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience,
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame
A mechanized automaton.
When Nero, High over flaming Rome, with savage joy Lowered like a fiend, drank with enraptured ear The shrieks of agonising death, beheld The frightful desolation spread, and felt A new-created sense within his soul Thrill to the sight, and vibrate to the sound; Thinkest thou his grandeur had not overcome The force of human kindness? and, when Rome, With one stern blow, hurled not the tyrant down, Crushed not the arm, red with her dearest blood, Had not submissive abjectness destroyed Nature's suggestions?
Look on yonder earth: The golden harvests spring; the unfailing sun Sheds light and life; the fruits, the flowers, the Arise in due succession; all things speak [trees, Peace, harmony, and love. The universe, In nature's silent eloquence, declares That all fulfil the works of love and joy, All but the outcast, Man. He fabricates The sword which stabs his peace; he cherisheth The snakes that gnaw his heart; he raiseth up The tyrant, whose delight is in his woe, Whose sport is in his agony. Yon sun, Lights it the great alone? Yon silver beams, Sleep they less sweetly on the cottage thatch, Than on the dome of kings? Is mother earth A step-dame to her numerous sons, who earn Her unshared gifts with unremitting toil; A mother only to those puling babes Who, nursed in ease and luxury, make men The playthings of their babyhood, and mar, In self-important childishness, that peace Which men alone appreciate?
Spirit of Nature! not The pure diffusion of thy essence throbs Alike in every human heart. Thou, aye, erectest there Thy throne of power unappealable: Thou art the judge beneath whose nod Man's brief and frail authority Is powerless as the wind That passeth idly by.
Thine the tribunal which surpasseth
The show of human justice,
As God surpasses man.
Spirit of Nature! thou Life of interminable multitudes; Soul of those mighty spheres Whose changeless paths through Heaven's deep Soul of that smallest being, [silence lie; The dwelling of whose life Is one faint April sun-gleam;Man, like these passive things, Thy will unconsciously fulfilleth: Like theirs, his age of endless peace, Which time is fast maturing, Will swiftly, surely, come; And the unbounded frame, which thou pervadest, Will be without a flaw Marring its perfect symmetry.
IV. How beautiful this night! the balmiest sigh, Which vernal zephyrs breathe in evening's ear, Were discord to the speaking quietude That wraps this moveless scene. Heaven's ebon Studded with stars unutterably bright, [vault, Through which the moon's unclouded grandeur Seems like a canopy which love has spread [rolls, To curtain her sleeping world. Yongentle hills, Robed in a garment of untrodden snow; Yon darksome rocks, whence icicles depend, So stainless that their white and glittering spires Tinge not the moon's pure beam; yon castled steep, Whose banner hangeth o'er the time-worn tower So idly, that rapt fancy deemeth it A metaphor of peace;—all form a scene Where musing solitude might love to lift Her soul above this sphere of earthliness; Where silence undisturbed might watch alone, So cold, so bright, so still.
The orb of day,
In southern climes, o'er ocean's waveless field
Sinks sweetly smiling: not the faintest breath
Steals o'er the unruffled deep; the clouds of eve
Reflect unmoved the lingering beam of day;
And vesper's image on the western main
Is beautifully still. To-morrow comes:
Cloud upon cloud, in dark and deepening mass,
Roll o'er the blackened waters; the deep roar
Of distant thunder mutters awfully;
Tempest unfolds its pinion o'er the gloom
That shrouds the boiling surge; the pitiless fiend,
With all his winds and lightnings, tracks his prey;
The torn deep yawns, the vessel finds a grave
Beneath its jagged gulf.
Ah! whence yon glare
That fires the arch of heaven!—that dark red smoke
Blotting the silver moon? The stars are quenched
In darkness, and the pure and spangling snow
Gleamsfaintlythrough the gloom that gathers round.
Hark to that roar, whose swift and deafening peals
In countless echoes through the mountains ring,
Startling pale midnight on her starry throne!
Now swells the intermingling din; the jar
Frequent and frightful of the bursting bomb;
The falling beam, the shriek, the groan, the shout,
The ceaseless clangor, and the rush of men
Inebriate with rage:–loud, and more loud
The discord grows; till pale death shuts the scene,
And o'er the conqueror and the conquer'd draws
His cold and bloody shroud.—Of all the men
Whom day's departing beam saw blooming there
In proud and vigorous health ; of all the hearts
That beat with anxious life at sun-set there ;
How few survive, how few are beating now !
All is deep silence, like the fearful calm
That slumbers in the storm's portentous pause ;
Save when the frantic wail of widowed love
Comes shuddering on the blast, or the faint moan
With which some soul bursts from the frame of clay
Wrapt round its struggling powers.
The grey morn Dawns on the mournful scene; the sulphurous Before the icy wind slow rolls away, [smoke And the bright beams of frosty morning dance Along the spangling snow. There tracks of blood Even to the forest's depth, and scattered arms, And lifeless warriors, whose hard lineaments Death's self could change not, mark the dreadful Of the outsallying victors: far behind, [path Black ashes note where their proud city stood. Within yon forest is a gloomy glen— Each tree which guards its darkness from the day, Waves o'er a warrior's tomb.
I see thee shrink, Surpassing Spirit!—wert thou human else? I see a shade of doubt and horror fleet Across thy stainless features: yet fear not ; This is no unconnected misery, Nor stands uncaused, and irretrievable. Man's evil nature, that apology Which kings who rule, and cowards who crouch,
For their unnumbered crimes, sheds not the blood
Which desolates the discord-wasted land
From kings, and priests, and statesmen, war arose,
Whose safety is man's deep unbettered woe,
Whose grandeur his debasement. Let the axe
Strike at the root, the poison-tree will fall;
And where its venomed exhalations spread
Ruin, and death, and woe, where millions lay
Quenching the serpent’s famine, and their bones
Bleaching unburied in the putrid blast,
A garden shall arise, in loveliness
Surpassing fabled Eden.
Hath Nature's soul, That formed this world so beautiful, that spread Earth's lap with plenty, and life's smallest chord Strung to unchanging unison, that gave The happy birds their dwelling in the grove, That yielded to the wanderers of the deep The lovely silence of the unfathomed main, And filled the meanest worm that crawls in dust With spirit, thought, and love ; on Man alone Partial in causeless malice, wantonly Heaped ruin, vice, and slavery ; his soul Blasted with withering curses; placed afar The meteor happiness, that shuns his grasp, But serving on the frightful gulf to glare, Rent wide beneath his footsteps ?
Nature l—no Kings, priests, and statesmen blast the human flower, Even in its tender bud ; their influence darts Like subtle poison through the bloodless veins Of desolate society. The child,
Ere he can lisp his mother's sacred name,
Swells with the unnatural pride of crime, and lifts
His baby-sword even in a hero's mood.
This infant arm becomes the bloodiest scourge
Of devastated earth ; whilst specious names
Learnt in soft childhood's unsuspecting hour,
Serve as the sophisms with which manhood dims
Bright reason's ray, and sanctifies the sword
Upraised to shed a brother's innocent blood.
Let priest-led slaves cease to proclaim that man
Inherits vice and misery, when force
And falsehood hang even o'er the cradled babe,
Stifling with rudest grasp all natural good.
Ah to the stranger-soul, when first it peeps
From its new tenement, and looks abroad
For happiness and sympathy, how stern
And desolate a tract is this wide world !
How withered all the buds of natural good :
No shade, no shelter from the sweeping storms
Of pitiless power On its wretched frame,
Poisoned, perchance, by the disease and woe
Heaped on the wretched parent, whence it sprung,
By morals, law, and custom, the pure winds
Of heaven, that renovate the insect tribes,
May breathe not. The untainting light of day
May visit not its longings. It is bound
Ere it has life : yea, all the chains are forged
Long ere its being : all liberty and love
And peace is torn from its defencelessness;
Cursed from its birth, even from its cradle doomed
To abjectness and bondage 1
Throughout this varied and eternal world
Soul is the only element, the block
That for uncounted ages has remained.
The moveless pillar of a mountain's weight
Is active living spirit. Every grain
Is sentient both in unity and part,
And the minutest atom comprehends
A world of loves and hatreds; these beget
Evil and good: hence truth and falsehood spring;
Hence will, and thought, and action, all the germs
Of pain or pleasure, sympathy or hate,
That variegate the eternal universe.
Soul is not more polluted than the beams
Of heaven's pure orb, ere round their rapid lines
The taint of earth-born atmospheres arise.
Man is of soul and body, formed for deeds
Of high resolve ; on fancy's boldest wing
To soar unwearied, fearlessly to turn
The keenest pangs to peacefulness, and taste
The joys which mingled sense and spirit yield.
Or he is formed for abjectness and woe,
To grovel on the dunghill of his fears,
To shrink at every sound, to quench the flame
Of natural love in sensualism, to know
That hour as blest when on his worthless days
The frozen hand of death shall set its seal,
Yet fear the cure, though hating the disease.
The one is man that shall hereafter be ;
The other, man as vice has made him now.
War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight,
The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade,
And, to those royal murderers, whose mean thrones
Are bought by crimes of treachery and gore,
The bread they eat, the staff on which they lean.
Guards, garbed in blood-red livery, surround
Their palaces, participate the crimes
That force defends, and from a nation's rage
Secure the crown, which all the curses reach
That famine, frenzy, woe and penury breathe.
These are the hired bravoes who defend
The tyrant's throne—the bullies of his fear :
These are the sinks and channels of worst vice,
The refuge of society, the dregs
Of all that is most vile: their cold hearts blend
Deceit with sternness, ignorance with pride,
All that is mean and villanous, with rage
Which hopelessness of good, and self-contempt,
Alone might kindle; they are decked in wealth,
Honour and power, then are sent abroad
To do their work. The pestilence that stalks
In gloomy triumph through some Eastern land
Is less destroying. They cajole with gold,
And promises of fame, the thoughtless youth
Already crushed with servitude: he knows
His wretchedness too late, and cherishes
Repentance for his ruin, when his doom
Is sealed in gold and blood :
Those too the tyrant serve, who skilled to snare
The feet of justice in the toils of law,
Stand, ready to oppress the weaker still ;
And, right or wrong, will vindicate for gold,
Sneering at public virtue, which beneath
Their pitiless tread lies torn and trampled, where
Honour sits smiling at the sale of truth.
Then grave and hoary-headed hypocrites,
Without a hope, a passion, or a love,
Who, through a life of luxury and lies,
Have crept by flattery to the seats of power,
Support the system whence their honours flow—
They have three words; well tyrants know their use,
Well pay them for the loan, with usury [Heaven.
Torn from a bleeding world!—God, Hell and
A vengeful, pitiless, and almighty fiend,
Whose mercy is a nick-name for the rage
Of tameless tigers hungering for blood.
Hell, a red gulf of everlasting fire,
Where poisonous and undying worms prolong
Eternal misery to those hapless slaves
Whose life has been a penance for its crimes.
And Heaven, a meed for those who dare belie
Their human nature, quake, believe, and cringe
Before the mockeries of earthly power.
These tools the tyrant tempers to his work,
Wields in his wrath, and as he wills, destroys,
Omnipotent in wickedness: the while
Youth springs, age moulders, manhood tamely does
His bidding, bribed by short-lived joys to lend
Force to the weakness of his trembling arm.
They rise, they fall; one generation comes
Yielding its harvest to destruction's scythe.
It fades, another blossoms: yet behold 1
Red glows the tyrant's stamp-mark on its bloom,
Withering and cankering deep its passive prime.
He has invented lying words and modes,
Empty and vain as his own coreless heart;
Evasive meanings, nothings of much sound,
To lure the heedless victim to the toils
Spread round the valley of its paradise.
Look to thyself, priest, conqueror, or prince Whether thy trade is falsehood, and thy lusts Deep wallow in the earnings of the poor,
With whom thy master was :—or thou delight'st
In numbering o'er the myriads of thy slain,
All misery weighing nothing in the scale
Against thy short-lived fame: or thou dost load
With cowardice and crime the groaning land,
A pomp-fed king. Look to thy wretched self
Aye, art thou not the veriest slave that e'er
Crawled on the loathing earth Are not thy days
Days of unsatisfying listlessness?
Dost thou not cry, ere night's long rack is o'er,
When will the morning come Is not thy youth
A vain and feverish dream of sensualism :
Thy manhood blighted with unripe disease ?
Are not thy views of unregretted death
Drear, comfortless, and horrible Thy mind,
Is it not morbid as thy nerveless frame,
Incapable of judgment, hope, or love
And dost thou wish the errors to survive
That bar thee from all sympathies of good,
After the miserable interest
Thou hold'st in their protraction? When the grave
Has swallowed up thy memory and thyself,
Dost thou desire the bane that poisons earth
To twine its roots around thy coffined clay,
Spring from thy bones, and blossom on thy tomb,
That of its fruit thy babes may eat and die :
Thus do the generations of the earth
Go to the grave, and issue from the womb,
Surviving still the imperishable change
That renovates the world ; even as the leaves
Which the keen frost-wind of the waning year
Has scattered on the forest soil, and heaped
For many seasons there, though long they choke,
Loading with loathsome rottenness the land,
All germs of promise. Yet when the tall trees
From which they fell, shorn of their lovely shapes,
Lie level with the earth to moulder there,
They fertilize the land they long deformed,
Till from the breathing lawn a forest springs
Of youth, integrity, and loveliness,
Like that which gave it life, to spring and die.
Thus suicidal selfishness, that blights
The fairest feelings of the opening heart,
Is destined to decay, whilst from the soil
Shall spring all virtue, all delight, all love,
And judgment cease to wage unnatural war
With passion's unsubduable array.
Twin-sister of religion, selfishness
Rival in crime and falsehood, aping all
The wanton horrors of her bloody play;
Yet frozen, unimpassioned, spiritless,
Shunning the light, and owning not its name :
Compelled, by its deformity, to screen
With flimsy veil of justice and of right,
Its unattractive lineaments, that scare
All, save the brood of ignorance : at once
The cause and the effect of tyranny ;
Unblushing, hardened, sensual, and vile ;
Dead to all love but of its abjectness,
With heart impassive by more noble powers
Than unshared pleasure, sordid gain, or fame ;
Despising its own miserable being,
Which still it longs, yet fears, to disenthrall.
Hence commerce springs, the venal interchange Of all that human art or nature yield ;
Which wealth should purchase not, but want
And natural kindness hasten to supply [demand,
From the full fountain of its boundless love,
For ever stifled, drained, and tainted now.
Commerce! beneath whose poison-breathing shade
No solitary virtue dares to spring ;
But poverty and wealth with equal hand
Scatter their withering curses, and unfold
The doors of premature and violent death,
To pining famine and full-fed disease,
To all that shares the lot of human life, [chain
Which poisoned body and soul, scarce drags the
That lengthens as it goes and clanks behind.
Commerce has set the mark of selfishness,
The signet of its all-enslaving power,
Upon a shining ore, and called it gold :
Before whose image bow the vulgar great,
The vainly rich, the miserable proud,
The mob of peasants, nobles, priests, and kings,
And with blind feelings reverence the power
That grinds them to the dust of misery.
But in the temple of their hireling hearts
Gold is a living god, and rules in scorn
All earthly things but virtue.
Since tyrants, by the sale of human life,
Heap luxuries to their sensualism, and fame
To their wide-wasting and insatiate pride,
Success has sanctioned to a credulous world
The ruin, the disgrace, the woe of war.
His hosts of blind and unresisting dupes
The despot numbers; from his cabinet
These puppets of his schemes he moves at will,
Even as the slaves by force or famine driven
Beneath a vulgar master, to perform
A task of cold and brutal drudgery;-
Hardened to hope, insensible to fear,
Scarce living pulleys of a dead machine,
Mere wheels of work and articles of trade,
That grace the proud and noisy pomp of wealth !
The harmony and happiness of man
Yield to the wealth of nations; that which lifts
His nature to the heaven of its pride,
Is bartered for the poison of his soul;
The weight that drags to earth his towering hopes,
Blighting all prospect but of selfish gain,
Withering all passion but of slavish fear,
Extinguishing all free and generous love
Of enterprise and daring, even the pulse
That fancy kindles in the beating heart
To mingle with sensation, it destroys,
Leaves nothing but the sordid lust of self,
The grovelling hope of interest and gold,
Unqualified, unmingled, unredeemed
Even by hypocrisy.
And bare fulfilment of the common laws
Of decency and prejudice, confines
The struggling nature of his human heart,
Is duped by their cold sophistry; he sheds
A passing tear perchance upon the wreck
Of earthly peace, when near his dwelling's door
The frightful waves are driven, when his son
Is murdered by the tyrant, or religion
Drives his wife raving mad. But the poor man,
Whose life is misery, and fear, and care;
Whom the morn wakens but to fruitless toil;
Who ever hears his famished offspring's scream,
Whom their pale mother's uncomplaining gaze
For ever meets, and the proud rich man's eye
Flashing command, and the heart-breaking scene
Of thousands like himself; he little heeds
The rhetoric of tyranny, his hate
Is quenchless as his wrongs, he laughs to scorn
The vain and bitter mockery of words,
Feeling the horror of the tyrant's deeds,
And unrestrained but by the arm of power,
That knows and dreads his enmity.
The iron rod of penury still compels
Her wretched slave to bow the knee to wealth,
And poison, with unprofitable toil,
A life too void of solace to confirm
The very chains that bind him to his doom.
Nature, impartial in munificence,
Has gifted man with all-subduing will:
Matter, with all its transitory shapes,
Lies subjected and plastic at his feet,
That, weak from bondage, tremble as they tread.
How many a rustic Milton has passed by,
Stifling the speechless longings of his heart,
In unremitting drudgery and care
How many a vulgar Cato has compelled
His energies, no longer tameless then,
To mould a pin, or fabricate a nail!
How many a Newton, to whose passive ken
Those mighty spheres that gem infinity
Were only specks of tinsel, fixed in heaven
To light the midnights of his native town
Yet every heart contains perfection's germ :
The wisest of the sages of the earth,
That ever from the stores of reason drew
Science and truth, and virtue's dreadless tone,
Were but a weak and inexperienced boy,
Proud, sensual, unimpassioned, unimbued
With pure desire and universal love,
Compared to that high being, of cloudless brain,
Untainted passion, elevated will,
Which death (who even would linger long in awe
Within his noble presence, and beneath
His changeless eye-beam), might alone subdue.
Him, every slave now dragging through the filth
Of some corrupted city his sad life,
Pining with famine, swoln with luxury,
Blunting the keenness of his spiritual sense
With narrow schemings and unworthy cares,
Or madly rushing through all violent crime,
To move the deep stagnation of his soul, -
Might imitate and equal.
But mean lust Has bound its chains so tight about the earth, That all within it but the virtuous man Is venal: gold or fame will surely reach The price prefixed by selfishness, to all