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Storks among frogs, that have but croaked and died.
Strange, that such folly as lifts bloated man
To eminence, fit only for a god
Should ever drivel out of human lips,
E’en in the cradled weakness of the world!
Still stranger much, that when at length mankind
Had reached the sinewy firmness of their youth,
And could discriminate and argue well
On subjects more mysterious, they were yet 290
Babes in the cause of freedom, and should fear
And quake before the gods themselves had made!
But above measure strange, that neither proof
Of sad experience, nor examples set
By some whose patriot virtue has prevailed,
Can even now, when they are grown mature
In wisdom, and with philosophic deeds
Familiar, serve to emancipate the rest !
Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone
To reverence what is ancient, and can plead
A course of long observance for its use,
That even servitude, the worst of ills,
Because delivered down from sire to son,
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing.
But is it fit, or can it bear the shock
Of rational discussion, that a man,
Compounded and made up like other men
Of elements tumultuous, in whom lust
And folly in as ample measure meet
As in the bosoms of the slaves he rules,
Should be a despot absolute, and boast
Himself the only freeman of his land ?
Should, when he pleases, and on whom he will,
Wage war, with any or with no pretence
Of provocation given or wrong sustained,
And force the beggarly last doit by means
That his own humor dictates, from the clutch
Of poverty, that thus he may procure
His thousands, weary of penurious life,
A splendid opportunity to die?
Say ye, who (with less prudence than of old
Jotham ascribed to his assembled treeso
In politic convention) put your trust
In the shadow of a bramble, and, reclined
In fancied peace beneath his dangerous branch, 325
Rejoice in him, and celebrate his sway,
Where find ye passive fortitude? Whence springs
Your self-denying zeal that holds it good
To stroke the prickly grievance, and to hang
His thorns with streamers of continual praise ? 330
We too are friends to loyalty. We love
The king who loves the law, respects his bounds,
And reigns content within them: him we serve
Freely and with delight, who leaves us free:
But recollecting still that he is man,
We trust him not too far. King though he be,
And king in England too, he may be weak,
And vain enough to be ambitious still,
May exercise amiss his proper powers,
Or covet more than freemen choose to grant:
Beyond that mark is treason.
To administer, to guard, to adorn the State,
But not to warp or change it. We are his,
To serve him nobly in the common cause,
True to the death, but not to be his slaves.
Mark now the difference, ye that boast your love
Of kings, between your loyalty and ours:
We love the man, the paltry pageant, you;
We the chief patron of the commonwealth,
You the regardless author of its woes:
We, for the sake of liberty, a king,
You, chains and bondage for a tyrant's sake.
Our love is principle, and has its root
In reason, is judicious, manly, free;
Yours, a blind instinct, crouches to the rod,
And licks the foot that treads it in the dust.
Were kingship as true treasure as it seems,
Sterling, and worthy of a wise man's wish,
I would not be a king to be beloved
Causeless, and daubed with undiscerning praise, 360
Where love is mere attachment to the throne,
Not to the man who fills it as he ought.
Whose freedom is by sufferance, and at will
Of a superior, he is never free.
Who lives, and is not weary of a life
Exposed to manacles, deserves them well.
The State that strives for liberty, though foiled,
And forced to abandon what she bravely sought.
Deserves at least applause for her attempt,
And pity for her loss. But that's a cause
370 Not often unsuccessful; power usurped Is weakness when opposed; conscious of wrong, 'Tis pusillanimous and prone to flight. But slaves that once conceive the glowing thought Of freedom, in that hope itself possess
375 All that the contest calls for; spirit, strength, The scorn of danger, and united hearts, The surest presage of the good they seek.°
Then shame to manhood, and opprobrious more To France than all her losses and defeats,
380 Old or of later date, by sea or land, Her house of bondage, worse than that of old Which God avenged on Pharaoh — the Bastile. Ye horrid towers, the abode of broken hearts, Ye dungeons, and ye cages of despair, That monarchs have supplied from age to age With music such as suits their sovereign ears, The sighs and groans of miserable men! There's not an English heart that would not leap To hear that ye were fallen at last; to know That e'en our enemies, so oft employed In forging chains for us, themselves were free. For he who values liberty, confines His zeal for her predominance within No narrow bounds; her cause engages him 395 Wherever pleaded. 'Tis the cause of man. There dwell the most forlorn of human kind,
Immured though unaccused, condemned untried,
Cruelly spared, and hopeless of escape.
There, like the visionary emblem seen
By him of Babylon,° life stands a stump,
And, filleted about with hoops of brass,
Still lives, though all his pleasant boughs are gone.
To count the hour-bell and expect no change;
And ever as the sullen sound is heard,
Still to reflect, that, though a joyless note
To him whose moments all have one dull pace,
Ten thousand rovers in the world at large
Account it music; that it summons some
To theatre, or jocund feast, or ball;
410 The wearied hireling finds it a release From labor; and the lover, who has chid Its long delay, feels every welcome stroke Upon his heart-strings, trembling with delight To fly for refuge from distracting thought To such amusements as ingenious woe Contrives, hard shifting and without her tools — To read engraven on the mouldy walls, o In staggering types, his predecessor's tale, A sad memorial, and subjoin his own
420 To turn purveyor to an overgorged And bloated spider, till the pampered pest Is made familiar, watches his approach, Comes at his call, and serves him for a friend To wear out time in numbering to and fro 425 The studs that thick emboss his iron door,