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A right to feast, and drain immortal bowls
In Odin's hall; whose blazing roof resounds
The genial uproar of those shades, who fall
In desperate fight, or by some brave attempt;
And though more polish'd times the martial creed
Disown, yet still the fearless habit lives.
Nor were the surly gifts of war their all.
Wisdom was likewise theirs, indulgent laws,
The calm gradations of art-nursing peace,
And matchless order, the deep basis still
On which ascends my British reign. Untam'd
To the refining subtleties of slaves,
They brought an happy government along,
Form'd by that freedom, which, with secret voice,
Impartial Nature teaches all her sons,
And which of old through the whole Scythian mass
I strong inspir'd. Monarchical their state,
But prudently confin'd, and mingled wise
Of each harmonious power: only, too much
Imperious war into their rule infus'd,
Prevail'd their general-king, and chieftain-thanes.
"In many a field, by civil fury stain'd,
Bled the discordant heptarchy and long
(Educing good from ill) the battle groan'd;
Ere, blood-cemented, Anglo-Saxons saw
Egbertt and Peace on one united throne.
"No sooner dawn'd the fair disclosing calm
Of brighter days, when, lo! the North anew,
With stormy nations black, on England pour'd
Woes the severest e'er a people felt.
The Danish raven, lur'd by annual prey,
Hung o'er the land incessant. Fleet on fleet
Of barbarous pirates unremitting tore
The miserable coast. Before them stalk'd,
Far-seen, the demon of devouring flame;
Rapine, and murder, all with blood besmear'd,
Without or ear, or eye, or feeling heart;
Thus cruel ages pass'd; and rare appear'd
White-mantled Peace, exulting o'er the vale,
As when with Alfred,* from the wilds she came
To polic'd cities and protected plains.
Thus by degrees the Saxon empire sunk,
Then set entire in Hastingst bloody field.
"Compendious war! (on Britain's glory bent,
So Fate ordain'd) in that decisive day,
The haughty Norman seiz'd at once an isle,
From which, through many a century, in vain,
The Roman, Saxon, Dane, had toil'd and bled.
Of Gothic nations this the final burst;
And, mix'd with the genius of these people, all
These virtues mix'd in one exalted stream,
Here the rich tide of English blood grew full.
"Awhile my spirit slept; the land awhile,
Affrighted, droop'd beneath despotic rage.
Instead of Edward'st equal gentle laws,
The furious victor's partial will prevail'd.
All prostrate lay; and, in the secret shade,
Deep-stung, but fearful, Indignation gnash'd
His teeth. Of freedom, property, despoil'd.
And of their bulwark, arms; with castles crush'd,
With ruffians quarter'd o'er the bridled land;
The shivering wretches, at the curfew sound
Dejected shrunk into their sordid beds,
And, through the mournful gloom, of ancient times
Mus'd sad, or dreamt of better. Ev'n to feed
A tyrant's idle sport the peasant starv'd:
To the wild herd, the pasture of the tame,
The cheerful hamlet, spiry town, was given,
And the brown forest || roughen'd wide around.
"But this so dead, so vile submission, long Endur'd not. Gathering force, my gradual flame Shook off the mountain of tyrannic sway. Unus'd to bend, impatient of control,
Tyrants themselves the common tyrant check'd.
While close behind them march'd the sallow power The church, by kings intractable and fierce,
Of desolating famine, who delights
In grass-grown cities, and in desert fields;
And purple-spotted pestilence, by whom
Ev'n friendship scar'd, in sickening horror sinks
Each social sense and tenderness of life.
Fixing at last, the sanguinary race
Spread, from the Humber's loud-resounding shore,
To where the Thames devolves his gentle maze,
And with superior arm the Saxon aw'd.
But superstition first, and monkish dreams,
And monk-directed cloister-seeking kings,
Had ate away his vigor, ate away
His edge of courage, and depress'd the soul
Of conquering freedom, which he once respir'd.
skulls of their enemies they had slain; according to the number of whom, every one in these mansions of plea
sure was the most honored and best entertained.
Sir William Temple's Essay on Heroic Virtue. *The seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxons, considered as being united into one common government, under a general in chief, or monarch, and by the means of an assembly general, or Wittenagemot.
† Egbert, king of Wessex, who, after having reduced all the other kingdoms of the heptarchy under his dominion, was the first king of England.
↑ A famous Danish standard, called reafan, or raven.The Danes imagined that, before a battle, the raven wrought upon this standard clapt its wings or hung down its head, in token of victory or defeat.
Denied her portion of the plunder'd state,
Or, tempted, by the timorous and weak,
To gain new ground, first taught their rapine law
The barons next a nobler league began,
Both those of English and of Norman race,
In one fraternal nation blended now,
The nation of the free !T press'd by a band
Of patriots, ardent as the Summer's noon
That looks delighted on, the tyrant see!
Mark! how with feign'd alacrity he bears
His strong reluctance down, his dark revenge,
Alfred the Great, renowned in war, and no less famous in peace for his many excellent institutions, particularly that of juries.
†The battle of Hastings, in which Harold II., the last of the Saxon kings, was slain, and William the Conqueror made himself master of England.
Edward III. the Confessor, who reduced the West. Saxon, Mercian, and Danish laws, into one body, which from that time became common to all England, under the name of the Laws of Edward.
§ The curfew bell (from the French couvrefeu,) which was rung every night at eight of the clock, to warn the English to put out their fires and candles, under the penalty of a severe fine.
The New Forest, in Hampshire, t make which the country for above thirty miles in ompass was laid waste.
On the 5th of June, 1215, King John, met by the bar. ons on Runnemede, signed the great charter of liberties or Magna Charta.
And gives the charter, by which life indeed
Becomes of price, a glory to be man.
By counsels weak and wicked, easy rous'd
To paltry schemes of absolute command,
"Through this and through succeeding reigns To seek their splendor in their sure disgrace,
These long-contested rights, the wholesome winds
Of opposition* hence began to blow,
And often since have lent the country life.
Before their breath corruption's insect blights,
The darkening clouds of evil counsel, fly;
Or, should they sounding swell, a putrid court,
A pestilential ministry, they purge,
And ventilated states renew their bloom.
And in a broken ruin'd people wealth:
When such o'ercast the state, no bond of love,
No heart, no soul, no unity, no nerve,
Combin'd the loose disjointed public, lost
To fame abroad, to happiness at home.
But when an Edward and an Henry* breath'd
Through the charm'd whole one all-exerting soul:
Drawn sympathetic from his dark retreat,
When wide-attracted merit round them glow'd:
"Though with the temper'd monarchy here mix'd When counsels just, extensive, generous, firm, Aristocratic sway, the people still,
Flatter'd by this or that, as interest lean'd,
No full perfection knew. For me reserv'd,
And for my commons, was that glorious turn.
They crown'd my first attempt,† in senates rose,
The fort of freedom! slow till then, alone,
Had work'd that general liberty, that soul,
Which generous Nature breathes, and which, when
By me to bondage was corrupted Rome,
I through the northern nations wide diffus'd.
Hence many a people, fierce with freedom, rush'd
From the rude iron regions of the North,
To Libyan deserts, swarm protruding swarm,
And pour'd new spirit through a slavish world.
Yet, o'er these Gothic states, the king and chiefs
Retain'd the high prerogative of war,
And with enormous property engross'd
The mingled power. But on Britannia's shore
Now present, I to raise my reign began
By raising the democracy, the third disclos'd
And broadest bulwark of the guarded state.
Then was the full, the perfect plan disclos'd
Of Britain's matchless constitution, mixt
Of mutual checking and supporting powers,
King, lords, and commons; nor the name of free
Deserving, while the vassal-many droop'd:
For since the moment of the whole they form,
So, as depress'd or rais'd, the balance they
Of public welfare and of glory cast.
Mark from this period the continual proof.
"When kings of narrow genius, minion-rid,
Neglecting faithful worth for fawning slaves;
Proudly regardless of their people's plaints,
And poorly passive of insulting foes;
Double, not prudent, obstinate, not firm,
Their mercy fear, necessity their faith;
Instead of generous fire, presumptuous, hot,
Rash to resolve, and slothful to perform;
Tyrants at once, and slaves, imperious, mean,
To want rapacious joining shameful waste;
The league formed by the barons, during the reign of John, in the year 1213, was the first confederacy made in England in defence of the nation's interest against the king.
The Commons are generally thought to have been first represented in parliament towards the end of Henry the Third's reign. To a parliament called in the year 1264, each county was ordered to send four knights, as, representatives of their respective shires; and to a parlia. ment called in the year following, each county was or dered to send, as their representatives, two knights, and each city and borough as many citizens and burgesses. Till then, history makes no mention of them; whence a very strong argument may be drawn, to fix the original of the House of Commons to that era.
Amid the maze of state, determin'd kept
Some ruling point in view: when, on the stock
Of public good and glory grafted, spread
Their palms, their laurels; or, if thence they stray'd
Swift to return, and patient of restraint:
When legal state, pre-eminence of place,
They scorn'd to deem pre-eminence of ease,
To be luxurious drones, that only rob
The busy hive: as in distinction, power,
Indulgence, honor, and advantage, first;
When they too claim'd in virtue, danger, toil,
Superior rank; with equal hand, prepar'd
To guard the subject, and to quell the foe:
When such with me their vital influence shed,
No mutter'd grievance, hopeless sigh, was heard,
No foul distrust through wary senates ran,
Confin'd their bounty, and their ardor quench'd:
On aid, unquestion'd, liberal aid was given:
Safe in their conduct, by their valor fir'd,
Fond where they led victorious armies rush'd;
And Cressy, Poitiers, Agincourt proclaim
What kings supported by almighty love,
And people fir'd with liberty, can do.
Be veil'd the savage reigns, when kindred rage
The numerous once Plantagenets devour'd,
A race to vengeance vow'd! and when, oppress'd
By private feuds, almost extinguish'd lay
My quivering flame. But, in the next, behold!
A cautious tyrant lent it oil anew.
"Proud, dark, suspicious, brooding o'er his gold
As how to fix his throne he jealous cast
His crafty views around; pierc'd with a ray,
Which on his timid mind I darted full,
He mark'd the barons of excessive sway,
At pleasure making and unmaking kings;||
And hence, to crush these petty tyrants, plann'd
A law,¶ that let them, by the silent waste
Of luxury, their landed wealth diffuse,
And with that wealth their implicated power.
By soft degrees a mighty change ensued,
Ev'n working to this day. With streams, deduc'd
From these diminish'd floods, the country smil'd.
As when impetuous from the snow-heap'd Alps,
To vernal suns relenting, pours the Rhine;
While undivided, oft, with wasteful sweep,
He foams along; but, through Batavian meads,
Branch'd into fair canals, indulgent flows;
Waters a thousand fields; and culture, trade,
Towns, meadows, gliding ships, and villas mix'd,
A rich, a wondrous landscape rises round.
"His furious son* the soul-enslaving chain,t
Which many a doting venerable age
Had link by link strong-twisted round the land,
Shook off. No longer could be borne a power,
From Heaven pretended, to deceive, to void
Each solemn tie, to plunder without bounds,
To curb the gererous soul, to fool mankind;
And, wild at last, to plunge into a sea
Of blood, and horror. The returning light,
That first through Wickliff streak'd the priestly
Now burst in open day. Bar'd to the blaze,
Forth from the haunts of superstition crawl'd
Her motley sons, fantastic figures all;
And, wide-dispers'd, their useless fetid wealth
In graceful labor bloom'd, and fruits of peace.
"Trade, join'd to these, on every sea display'd
A daring canvas, pour'd with every tide
A golden flood. From other worlds were roll'd
The guilty glittering stores, whose fatal charms,
By the plain Indian happily despis'd.
Yet work'd his woe; and to the blissful groves,
Where Nature liv'd herself among her sons,
And innocence and joy for ever dwelt,
Drew rage unknown to Pagan climes before,
The worst the zeal-inflam'd barbarian drew.
Be no such horrid commerce, Britain, thine!
But want for want, with mutual aid, supply.
"The commons thus enrich'd, and powerful grown,
Against the barons weigh'd. Eliza then,
Amid these doubtful motions, steady, gave
The beam to fix. She! like the secret eye
That never closes on a guarded world,
So sought, so mark'd, so seiz'd the public good,
That self-supported, without one ally,
She aw'd her inward, quell'd her circling foes.
Inspir'd by me, beneath her sheltering arm,
In spite of raging universal sway,¶
And raging seas repress'd, the Belgic states,
My bulwark on the Continent, arose.
Matchless in all the spirit of her days!
With confidence, unbounded, fearless love
Elate, her fervent people waited gay,
Cheerful demanded the long-threaten'd fleet,**
And dash'd the pride of Spain around their isle.
Nor ceas'd the British thunder here to rage:
The deep, reclaim'd, obey'd its awful call;
In fire and smoke Iberian ports involv'd,
The trembling foe ev'n to the centre shook
Of their new-conquer'd world, and skulking stole
By veering winds their Indian treasure home.
Came in the prince,* who, drunk with flattery, dreamt,
His vain pacific counsels rul'd the world;
Though scorn'd abroad, bewilder'd in a maze
Of fruitless treaties; while at home enslav'd,
And by a worthless crew insatiate drain'd,
He lost his people's confidence and love;
Irreparable loss! whence crowns become
An anxious burden. Years inglorious pass'd:
Triumphant Spain the vengeful draught enjoy'd
Abandon'd Frederickt pin'd, and Raleigh bled.
But nothing that to these internal broils,
That rancor, he began; while lawless sway
He, with his slavish doctors, tried to rear
On metaphysic, on enchanted ground,‡
And all the mazy quibbles of the schools:
As if for one, and sometimes for the worst,
Heaven had mankind in vengeance only made.
Vain the pretence! not so the dire effect,
The fierce, the foolish discord thence deriv'd,§
That tears the country still, by party-rage
And ministerial clamor kept alive.
In action weak, and for the wordy war
Best fitted, faint this prince pursu'd his claim:
Content to teach the subject herd, how great,
How sacred he! how despicable they!
But his unyielding son these doctrines drank,
With all a bigot's rage (who never damps
By reasoning his fire;) and what they taught
Warm and tenacious, into practice push'd.
Senates, in vain, their kind restraint applied:
The more they struggled to support the laws,
His justice-dreading ministers the more
Drove him beyond their bounds. Tir'd with the
Of faithful love, and with the flattery pleas'd
Of false designing guilt, the fountain he
Of public wisdom and of justice shut.T
Wide mourn'd the land. Straight to the voted aid
Free, cordial, large, of never-failing source,
Th' illegal imposition follow'd harsh,
With execration given, or ruthless squeez'd
From an insulted people, by a band
Of the worst ruffians, those of tyrant power.
Oppression walk'd at large, and pour'd abroad
Her unrelenting train: informers, spies,
Blood-hounds, that sturdy freedom to the grove
Pursue; projectors of aggrieving schemes
Commerce to load for unprotected seas,*
To sell the starving many to the few,t
And drain a thousand ways th' exhausted land.
Ev'n from that healing place, whence peace should
And gospel truth, inhuman bigots shed
Their poison round; and on the venal bench,
Instead of justice, party held the scale,
And violence the sword. Afflicted years,
Too patient, felt at last their vengeance full.
"Mid the low murmurs of submissive fear
And mingled rage, my Hampden rais'd his voice,
And to the laws appeal'd; the laws no more
In judgment sate, behov'd some other ear.
When instant from the keen resentive North,
By long oppression by religion rous'd,
The guardian army came. Beneath its wing
Was called, though meant to furnish hostile aid,
The more than Roman senate. There a flame
Broke out, that clear'd, consum'd, renew'd the land.
In deep emotion hurl'd, nor Greece, nor Rome,
Indignant bursting from a tyrant's chain,
While, full of me, each agitated soul
Strung every nerve, and flam'd in every eye,
Had e'er beheld such light and heat combin'd!
Such heads and hearts! such dreadful zeal, led on
By calm majestic wisdom, taught its course
What nuisance to devour; such wisdom fir'd
With unabating zeal, and aim'd sincere
To clear the weedy state, restore the laws,
And for the future to secure their sway.
"This then the purpose of my mildest sons.
But man is blind. A nation once inflam'd
(Chief, should the breath of factious fury blow
With the wild rage of mad enthusiasts swell'd)
Not easy cools again. From breast to breast,
From eye to eye, the kindling passions mix
In heighten'd blaze; and, ever wise and just,
High Heaven to gracious ends directs the storm.
Thus, in one conflagration Britain wrapt,
And by confusion's lawless sons despoil'd,
King, lords, and commons, thundering to the ground,
Successive rush'd-Lo! from their ashes rose,
Gay-beaming radiant youth, the Phoenix-state.
"The grievous yoke of vassalage, the yoke Of private life, lay by those flames dissolv'd; And, from the wasteful, the luxurious king.|| Was purchas'd that which taught the young bend.T
Stronger restor'd, the commons tax'd the whole,
And built on that eternal rock their power.
The crown, of its hereditary wealth
Despoil'd, on senates more dependent grew,
And they more frequent, more assur'd. Yet liv'd,
And in full vigor spread that bitter root,
The passive doctrines, by their patrons first
Oppos'd ferocious, when they touch themselves.
This wild delusive cant; the rash cabal
Of hungry courtiers, ravenous for prey;
The bigot, restless in a double chain
To bind anew the land; the constant need
Of finding faithless means, of shifting forms,
And flattering senates, to supply his waste;
These tore some moments from the careless prince,
And in his breast awak'd the kindred plan.
By dangerous softness long he min'd his way;
By subtle arts, dissimulation deep;
By sharing what corruption shower'd, profuse;
By breathing wide the gay licentious plague,
And pleasing manners, fitted to deceive.
"At last subsided the delirious joy,
On whose high billow, from the saintly reign
The nation drove too far. A pension'd king,
Against his country brib'd by Gallic gold;
The port pernicious sold, the Scylla since,
And fell Charybdis of the British seas;
Freedom attack'd abroad,† with surer blow
To cut it off at home; the savior league
Of Europe broke; the progress ev'n advanc'd
Of universal sway, which to reduce
Such seas of blood and treasure Britain cost;
The millions, by a generous people given,
Or squander'd vile, or to corrupt, disgrace,
And awe the land with forces not their own.!!
Employ'd; the darling church herself betray'd;
All these, broad-glaring, op'd the general eye,
And wak'd my spirit, the resisting soul.
Mild was, at first, and half asham'd, the check Of senates, shook from the fantastic dream
Of absolute submission, tenets vile!
Which slaves would blush to own, and which, reduc'd
To practice, always honest Nature shock.
Not ev'n the mask remov'd, and the fierce front
Of tyranny disclos'd; nor trampled laws;
Nor seiz'd each badge of freedom through the
Nor Sidney bleeding for the unpublish'd page;
Nor on the bench avow'd corruption plac'd,
And murderous rage itself, in Jeffries' form;
Nor endless acts of arbitrary power,
Cruel and false, could raise the public arm.
Distrustful, scatter'd, of combining chiefs
Devoid, and dreading blind rapacious war,
The patient public turns not, till impell'd
To the near verge of ruin. Hence I rous'd
The bigot king,** and hurried fated on
His measures immature. But chief his zeal,
to Out-flaming Rome herself, portentous scar'd
The troubled nation: Mary's horrid days
To fancy bleeding rose, and the dire glare
Of Smithfield lighten'd in his eyes anew.
Yet silence reign'd. Each on another scowl'd
Rueful amazement, pressing down his rage:
As, mustering vengeance, the deep thunder frowns,
Awfully still, waiting the high command
The raging high-church sermons of these times, inspiring at once a spirit of slavish submission to the court, and of bitter persecution against those whom they call Church and State Puritans.
§ At the Restoration.
T Court of wards.
To spring. Straight from his country, Europe sav'd,
The war, in conjunction with France, against the
The triple alliance.
§ Under Lewis XIV.
A standing army, raised without the consent of par liament.
The charters of corporations. ** James II.
To save Britannia, lo! my darling son,
Than hero more, the patriot of mankind!
Immortal Nassau came. I hush'd the deep,
By demons rous'd, and bade the listed winds,*
Still shifting, as behov'd, with various breath,
Waft the deliverer to the longing shore.
See! wide alive, the foaming Channelt bright
With swelling sails, and all the pride of war.
Delightful view! when Justice draws the sword:
And, mark! diffusing ardent soul around,
And sweet contempt of death, my streaming flag.‡
Ev'n adverse navies bless'd the binding gale,
Kept down the glad acclaim, and silent joy'd.
Arriv'd, the pomp, and not the waste of arms
His progress mark'd. The faint opposing host ||
For once, in yielding, their best victory found,
And by desertion prov'd exalted faith;
While his the bloodless conquest of the heart,
Shouts without groan, and triumph without war.
Then dawn'd the period destin'd to confine
The surge of wild prerogative, to raise
A mound restraining its imperious rage,
And bid the raving deep no farther flow.
Nor were, without that fence, the swallow'd state
Better than Belgian plains without their dykes,
Sustaining weighty seas. This, often sav'd
By more than human hand, the public saw,
With starving labor pampering idle waste.
To clothe the naked, feed the hungry, wipe
The guiltless tear from lone affliction's eye;
To raise hid merit, set th' alluring light
Of virtue high to view; to nourish arts,
Direct the thunder of an injur'd state,
Make a whole glorious people sing for joy,
Bless human-kind, and through the downward depth
Of future times to spread that better sun
Which lights up British soul: for deeds like these,
The dazzling fair career unbounded lies;
While (still superior bliss!) the dark abrupt
Is kindly barr'd, the precipice of ill.
Oh, luxury divine! Oh, poor to this,
Ye giddy glories of despotic thrones!
By this, by this indeed, is imag'd Heaven,
By boundless good, without the power of ill
"And now behold! exalted as the cope
That swells immense o'er many-peopled earth
And like it free, my fabric stands complete,
The Palace of the Laws. To the four Heavens
Four gates impartial thrown, unceasing crowds,
With kings themselves the hearty peasant mix'd
Pour urgent in. And though to different ranks
Responsive place belongs, yet equal spreads
The sheltering roof o'er all; while plenty flows,
And glad contentment echoes round the whole.
And seiz'd the white-wing'd moment. Pleas'd to Ye floods, descend! ye winds, confirming, blow!
Destructive power, a wise heroic prince**
Ev'n lent his aid. Thrice happy! did they know
Their happiness, Britannia's bounded kings.
What though not theirs the boast, in dungeon glooms
To plunge bold freedom; or, to cheerless wilds,
To drive him from the cordial face of friend;
Or fierce to strike him at the midnight hour,
By mandate blind, not justice, that delights
To dare the keenest eye of open day.
What though no glory to control the laws,
And make injurious will their only rule,
They deem it! what though, tools of wanton power,
Pestiferous armies swarm not at their call!
What though they give not a relentless crew
Of civil furies, proud oppression's fangs!
To tear at pleasure the dejected land,
to imagine what a glorious show the fleet made. Five or six hundred ships in so narrow a channel, and both the English and French shores covered with numberless spec. tators, are no common sight. For my part, who was then on board the fleet, I own it struck me extremely."
The Prince placed himself in the main body, carrying a flag with English colors, and their highnesses' arms surrounded with this motto: "The Protestant Religion and the Liberties of England:" and underneath the motto of the House of Nassau, Je Maintiendrai, I will main. tain.-Rapin.
Nor outward tempest, nor corrosive time,
Nought but the felon undermining hand
Of dark corruption, can its frame dissolve,
And lay the toil of ages in the dust."
The author addresses the goddess of Liberty, marking the happiness and grandeur of Great Britain, as arising from her influence. She resumes her discourse, and points out the chief virtues which are necessary to maintain her establishment there. Recommends, as its last ornament and finishing, sciences, fine arts, and public works. The encouragement of these urged from the example of France, though under a despotic government. The whole concludes with a prospect of future times, given by the goddess of Liberty: this de scribed by the author, as it passes in vision before him.
HERE interposing, as the goddess paus'd!—
"Ch, blest Britannia! in thy presence blest,
Thou guardian of mankind! whence spring, alone
All human grandeur, happiness, and fame:
For toil, by thee protected, feels no pain;
The poor man's lot with milk and honey flows;
And, gilded with thy rays, ev'n death looks gay.
Let other lands the potent blessings boast
Of more exalting suns. Let Asia's woods,
| Untended, yield the vegetable fleece: