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PROLOGUE TO 'GUSTAVUS VASA'
Britons! this night presents a state distressed:
Though brave, yet vanquished; and though great, op-
Vice, ravening vulture, on her vitals preyed;
Her peers, her prelates, fell corruption swayed:
Their rights, for power, the ambitious weakly sold:
The wealthy, poorly, for superfluous gold.
Hence wasting ills, hence severing factions rose,
And gave large entrance to invading foes:
Truth, justice, honour, fled th' infected shore;
For freedom, sacred freedom, was no more.
Then, greatly rising in his country's right, Her hero, her deliverer sprung to light: A race of hardy northern sons he led, Guiltless of courts, untainted, and unread; Whose inborn spirit spurned th' ignoble fee, Whose hands scorned bondage, for their hearts were free.
Ask ye what law their conquering cause confessed?—
Great Nature's law, the law within the breast:
Formed by no art, and to no sect confined,
But stamped by Heaven upon th' unlettered mind.
Such, such of old, the first born natives were
Who breathed the virtues of Britannia's air,
Their realm when mighty Cæsar vainly sought,
For mightier freedom against Cæsar fought,
And rudely drove the famed invader home,
To tyrannize o'er polished-venal Rome.
Our bard, exalted in a freeborn flame,
To every nation would transfer this claim:
He to no state, no climate, bounds his page,
But bids the moral beam through every age.
Then be your judgment generous as his plan;
Ye sons of freedom! save the friend of man.
FROM CONRADE, A FRAGMENT
What do I love-what is it that mine eyes
Turn round in search of-that my soul longs after,
But cannot quench her thirst?-'Tis Beauty, Phelin!
I see it wide beneath the arch of heaven,
When the stars peep upon their evening hour,
And the moon rises on the eastern wave,
Housed in a cloud of gold! I see it wide
In earth's autumnal taints of various landscape
When the first ray of morning tips the trees,
And fires the distant rock! I hear its voice
When thy hand sends the sound along the gale,
Swept from the silver strings or on mine ear
Drops the sweet sadness! At my heart I feel
Its potent grasp, I melt beneath the touch,
When the tale pours upon my sense humane
The woes of other times! What art thou, Beauty?
Thou art not colour, fancy, sound, nor form-
These but the conduits are, whence the soul quaffs
The liquor of its heaven. Whate'er thou art,
Nature, or Nature's spirit, thou art all
I long for! Oh, descend upon my thoughts!
To thine own music tune, thou power of grace,
The cordage of my heart! Fill every shape
That rises to my dream or wakes to vision;
And touch the threads of every mental nerve,
With all thy sacred feelings!
FROM THE SPLEEN
To cure the mind's wrong bias, spleen,
Some recommend the bowling-green;
Some, hilly walks; all, exercise;
Fling but a stone, the giant dies.
Laugh and be well. Monkeys have been
Extreme good doctors for the spleen;
And kitten, if the humour hit,
Has harlequined away the fit.
Since mirth is good in this behalf,
At some particulars let us laugh:
Witlings, brisk fools, cursed with half-sense,
That stimulates their impotence;
Who buzz in rhyme, and, like blind flies,
Err with their wings for want of eyes;
Poor authors worshipping a calf,
Deep tragedies that make us laugh,
A strict dissenter saying grace,
A lecturer preaching for a place,
Folks, things prophetic to dispense,
Making the past the future tense,
The popish dubbing of a priest,
Fine epitaphs on knaves deceased.
Forced by soft violence of prayer,
The blithesome goddess soothes my care,
I feel the deity inspire,
And thus she models my desire.
Two hundred pounds half-yearly paid,
Annuity securely made,
A farm some twenty miles from town,
Small, tight, salubrious, and my own;
Two maids, that never saw the town,
A serving-man not quite a clown,
A boy to help to tread the mow,
And drive, while t'other holds the plough;
A chief, of temper formed to please,
Fit to converse, and keep the keys;
And better to preserve the peace,
Commissioned by the name of niece;
With understandings of a size
To think their master very wise.
FROM THE SCHOOLMISTRESS
Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow, Emblem right meet of decency does yield: Her apron dyed in grain, as blue, I trow, As is the harebell that adorns the field;
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays; with anxious fear entwined,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance filled;
And steadfast hate, and sharp affliction joined,
And fury uncontrolled, and chastisement unkind.
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown; A russet kirtle fenced the nipping air; 'Twas simple russet, but it was her own; 'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair! 'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare; And, sooth to say, her pupils ranged around, Through pious awe, did term it passing rare; For they in gaping wonderment abound, And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on
Lo, now with state she utters the command! Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair; Their books of stature small they take in hand, Which with pellucid horn securèd are; To save from finger wet the letters fair: The work so gay, that on their back is seen, St. George's high achievements does declare; On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been Kens the forth-coming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!
Ah, luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write!
As erst the bard by Mulla's silver stream,
Oft, as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sighed as he sung, and did in tears indite.
For brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
And down they drop; appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermilin.
O ruthful scene! when from a nook obscure,
His little sister doth his peril see:
All playful as she sate, she grows demure;
She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a prayer to set him free:
Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny, (If gentle pardon could with dames agree) To her sad grief that swells in either eye, And wrings her so that all for pity she could die.
The other tribe, aghast, with sore dismay,
Attend, and conn their tasks with mickle care:
By turns, astonied, every twig survey,
And, from their fellow's hateful wounds, beware;
Knowing, I wist, how each the same may share;
Till fear has taught them a performance meet,
And to the well-known chest the dame repairs;
Whence oft with sugared cates she doth 'em greet,
And ginger-bread y-rare; now, certes, doubly sweet!
Yet nursed with skill, what dazzling fruits appear!
Even now sagacious foresight points to show
A little bench of heedless bishops here,
And there a chancellor in embryo,
Or bard sublime, if bard may e'er be so,
As Milton, Shakespeare, names that ne'er shall die! Though now he crawl along the ground so low, Nor weeting how the muse should soar on high, Wisheth, poor starveling elf! his paper kite may fly.
WRITTEN AT AN INN AT HENLEY
To thee, fair freedom! I retire
From flattery, cards, and dice, and din;
Nor art thou found in mansions higher
Than the low cot, or humble inn.
'Tis here with boundless power I reign;
And every health which I begin,
Converts dull port to bright champagne;
Such freedom crowns it, at an inn.
I fly from pomp, I fly from plate!
I fly from falsehood's specious grin!
Freedom I love, and form I hate,
And choose my lodgings at an inn.