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While Alfred's name, the father of his age,
105 And the Sixth Edward's grace th' historick page.
A. Kings then at last have but the lot of all : By their own conduct they must stand or fall.
B. True. While they live, the courtly laureat pays His quit-rent ode, his peppercorn of praise ; 110 And many a dunce, whose fingers itch to write, Adds, as he can, his tributary mite: A subject's faults a subject may proclaim, A monarch's errors are forbidden game! Thus free from censure, overaw'd by fear,
115 And prais'd for virtues that they scorn to wear, The fleeting forms of majesty engage Respect, while stalking o'er life's narrow stage; Then leave their crimes for history to scan, And ask with busy scorn, Was this the man?
120 I pity kings, whom Worship waits upon, Obsequious from the cradle to the throne ; Before whose infant eyes the flatt'rer bows, And binds a wreath about their baby brows; Whom Education stiffens into state,
125 And Death awakens from that dream too late. Oh! if Servility with supple knees, Whose trade it is to smile, to crouch, to please ; If smooth Dissimulation, skill'd to grace A devil's purpose with an angel's face ;
130 If smiling peeresses, and simp’ring peers, Encompassing his throne a few short years ; If the gilt carriage and the pamper'd steed, That wants no driving, and disdains the lead; If guards, mechanically form'd in ranks,
135 Playing, at beat of drum, their martial pranks, Should'ring and standing as if stuck to stone, While condescending majesty looks on; If monarchy consist in such base things, Sighing, I say again, I pity kings !
140 To be suspected, thwarted, and withstood, E'en when he labours for his country's good,
To see a band call'd patriot for no cause,
155 To him is relaxation and mere play,) To win no praise, when well-wrought plans prevail, But to be rudely censur'd when they fail ; To doubt the love his fav'rites may pretend, And in reality to find no friend;
160 If he indulge a cultivated taste, His gall’ries with the works of art well grac'd, To hear it call'd extravagance and waste ; If these attendants, and if such as these, Must follow royalty, then welcome ease :
166 However humble and confin’d the sphere, Happy the state that has not these to fear. A. Thus men, whose thoughts contemplative have
dwelt On situations that they never felt, Start up sagacious, cover'd with the dust
170 Of dreaming study and pedantick rust, 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; 175 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 majestick, old or new,
180 Should claim my fix'd attention more than you.
B. Not Brindley nor Bridgewater would essay
A. Vouchsafe, at least, to pitch the key of rhyme
200 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.
205 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 210 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 ; 215 Thus with a rigour, for his good design'd, She rears her fav’rite man of all mankind.
His form robust and of elastick tone,
225 But, if Authority grow wanton, wo 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 powr's, 235 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 mis’ry far away. He drinks his simple bev'rage with a gust;
240 And, feasting on an onion and a crust, We never feel the alacrity and joy With which he shouts and carols Vive le Roi ! Filld with as much true merriment and glee, As if he heard his king say–Slave, be free !! 245
Thus happiness depends, as Nature shows, Less on exteriour things than most suppose. Vigilant over all that he has made, Kind Providence attends with gracious aid ; Bids equity throughout his works prevail, 250 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
B. No. Freedom has a thousand charms to show, 260
265 She ventures onward 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,
270 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 ; 275 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 inciease, Guards well what arts and industry have won, 280 And Freedom claims him for her first-born son. Slaves fight for what were better cast awayThe chain that binds them, and a tyrant's sway; But they that fight for freedom, undertake The noblest cause mankind can have at stake 285 Religion, virtue, truth, whate'er we call A blessing—freedom is the pledge of all. O Liberty ! the pris'ners pleasing dream, The poet's muse, his passion, and his theme; Genius is thine, and thou art Fancy's nurse ;
290 Lost without thee th' ennobling pow'rs of verse ; Heroick song from thy free touch acquires Its clearest tone, the rapture it inspires.