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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 stockjobbers 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, extoll'd 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 shrewdl.
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'rite 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 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 pow'rs,
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;
And, feasting on an onion and a crust,
We never feel the alacrity and joy,
With which he shouts and carols Vive le Roy,
Fill'd 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 power, 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 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,
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;
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 ail.
O Liberty! the pris'ner's pleasing dream,
The poet's muse, his passion, 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
It's 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 terrour 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,
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 desp'rate task;
Let active Laws apply the needful curb,
To guard the Peace, that Riot would 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;