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Replete with vapours, and disposes much
All hearts to sadness, and none more than mine;
Thine unadulterate manners are less soft
And plausible than social life requires,
And thou hast need of discipline and art
To give thee what politer France receives
From Nature's bounty,--that humane address
And sweetness, without which no pleasure is 470
In converse, either starved by cold reserve,
Or flush'd with fierce dispute, a senseless brawl;
Yet being free, I love thee. For the sake
Of that one feature, can be well content,
Disgraced as thou hast been, poor as thou art,
To seek no sublunary rest beside.
But once enslaved, farewell! I could endure
Chains no where patiently, and chains at home
Where I am free by birthright, not at all.
Then what were left of roughness in the grain 480
Of British natures, wanting its excuse
That it belongs to freemen, would disgust
And shock me. I should then with double pain
Feel all the rigour of thy fickle clime;
And if I must bewail the blessing lost
485 For which our Hampdens and our Sidneys bled, I would at least bewail it under skies Milder, among a people less austere, In scenes which, having never known me free, Would not reproach me with the loss I felt. 490 Do I forebode impossible events, And tremble at vain dreams? Heaven grant I may ! But the age of virtuous politics is past, And we are deep in that of cold pretence.
Patriots are grown too shrewd to be sincere, 495
And we too wise to trust them. He that takes
Deep in his soft credulity the stamp
Designed by loud declaimers on the part
Of liberty, themselves the slaves of lust,
Incurs derision for his easy faith
And lack of knowledge, and with cause enough.
For when was public virtue to be found
Where private was not? Can he love the whole
Who loves no part ? he be a nation's friend
Who is in truth the friend of no man there? 505
Can he be strenuous in his country's cause,
Who slights the charities for whose dear sake
That country, if at all, must be beloved ?
'Tis therefore, sober and good men are sad
For England's glory, seeing it wax pale
And sickly, while her champions wear their hearts
So loose to private duty, that no brain,
Healthful and undisturb’d by factious fumes,
Can dream them trusty to the general weal.
Such were not they of old, whose temper'd blades 515
Dispersed the shackles of usurp'd controul,
And hew'd them link from link. Then Albion's sons
Were sons indeed. They felt a filial heart
Beat high within them at a mother's wrongs,
And shining each in his domestic sphere,
Shone brighter still once call’d to public view.
'Tis therefore, many whose sequester'd lot
Forbids their interference, looking on
Anticipate perforce some dire event;
And seeing the old castle of the state,
That promised once more firmness, so assail'd
That all its tempest-beaten turrets shake,
Stand motionless expectants of its fall.
All has its date below. The fatal hour
Was register'd in heaven ere time began.
We turn to dust, and all our mightiest works
Die too. The deep foundations that we lay,
Time ploughs them up, and not a trace remains.
We build with what we deem eternal rock ;
A distant age asks where the fabric stood,
535 And in the dust, sifted and search'd in vain, The undiscoverable secret sleeps.
But there is yet a liberty unsung By poets, and by senators unpraised, Which monarchs cannot grant, nor all the power 540 Of earth and hell confederate take away: A liberty, which persecution, fraud, Oppression, prisons, have no power to bind; Which whoso tastes can be enslaved no more. 'Tis liberty of heart derived from heaven,
545 Bought with His blood who gave it to mankind, And seal'd with the same token. It is held By charter, and that charter sanction'd sure By the unimpeachable and aweful oath And promise of a God. His other gifts
550 All bear the royal stamp that speaks them his, And are august, but this transcends them all. His other works, this visible display Of all-creating energy and might, Are grand no doubt, and worthy of the Word That finding an interminable space Unoccupied, has filled the void so well, And made so sparkling what was dark before.
But these are not his glory. Man, 'tis true,
Smit with the beauty of so fair a scene,
Might well suppose the artificer divine
Meant it eternal, had he not himself
Pronounced it transient, glorious as it is,
And still designing a more glorious far,
Doom'd it as insufficient for his praise.
These therefore are occasional and pass.
Form'd for the confutation of the fool
Whose lying heart disputes against a God,
That office served, they must be swept away.
Not so the labours of his love. They shine
In other heavens than these that we behold,
And fade not. There is paradise that fears
No forfeiture, and of its fruits he sends
Large prelibation oft to saints below.
Of these the first in order, and the pledge
And confident assurance of the rest,
Is liberty; a flight into His arms
Ere yet mortality's fine threads give way;
A clear escape from tyrannizing lust,
And full immunity from penal woe.
Chains are the portion of revolted man,
Stripes and a dungeon; and his body serves
The triple purpose. In that sickly, foul,
Opprobrious 16 residence, he finds them all.
Propense his heart to idols, he is held
In silly dotage on created things,
Careless of their Creator. And that low
For their dwelling place
Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame.
Par. Lost, ii. 57.
And sordid gravitation of his powers
To a vile clod, so draws him with such force
Resistless from the centre he should seek,
That he at last forgets it. All his hopes
Tend downward ; his ambition is to sink,
To reach a depth" profounder still, and still
Profounder, in the fathomless abyss
Of folly, plunging in pursuit of death.
595 But ere he gain the comfortless repose He seeks, an acquiescence of his soul In heaven-renouncing exile, he enduresWhat does he not ? from lusts opposed in vain, And self-reproaching conscience. He foresees The fatal issue to his health, fame, peace, Fortune and dignity; the loss of all That can ennoble man, and make frail life Short as it is, supportable. Still worse, Far worse than all the plagues with which his sins 605 Infect his happiest moments, he forebodes Ages of hopeless misery; future death, And death still future: not an hasty stroke Like that which sends him to the dusty grave, But unrepealable enduring death.
610 Scripture is still a trumpet to his fears; What none can prove a forgery, may be true, What none but bad men wish exploded, must. That scruple checks him. Riot is not loud Nor drunk enough to drown it. In the midst 615 Of laughter his compunctions are sincere, 17 In the lowest deep a lower deep Still threatening to devour me opens wide.
Par. Lost, iv. 76.