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Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
O Duty ! if that name thou love
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring, and reprove;
Thou who art victory and law
When empty terrors overawe ;
From vain temptations dost set free,
And calm'st the weary strife of frail huinanity !
There are who ask not if thine eye
Be on them; who, in love and truth
Where no misgiving is, rely
Upon the genial sense of youth:
Glad hearts ! without reproach or blot,
Who do thy work, and know it not:
Oh! if through confidence misplaced
They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power ! around them
Serene will be our days and bright
And happy will our nature be
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security.
And they a blissful course may hold
Ev'n now, who, not unwisely bold,
Live in the spirit of this creed ;
Yet seek thy firm support, according to their need.
I, loving freedom, and untried,
No sport of every random gust,
Yet being to myself a guide,
Too blindly have reposed niy trust :
And oft, when in my heart was heard
Thy timely mandate, I deferr'd
The task, in smoother walks to stray ;
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.
Through no disturbance of my soul
Or strong compunction in me wrought,
I supplicate for thy controul,
But in the quietness of thought :
Me this uncharter'd freedom tires ;
I feel the weight of chance-desires :
My hopes no more must change their name;
I long for a repose that ever is the same.
Stern Lawgiver ! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead's most benignant grace ;
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face :
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,
And fragrance in thy footing treads ;
Thou dost preserve the Stars from wrong ;
And the most ancient Heavens, through Thee, are fresh
To humbler functions, awful Power!
I call thee : I myself commend
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh let my weakness have an end !
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice ;
The confidence of reason give;
And in the light of truth thy Bondman let me live.
ON THE CASTLE OF CHILLON
Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind !
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty ! thou art,
For there thy habitation is the heart-
The heart which love of Thee alone can bind ;
And when thy sons to fetters are consign'd,
To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.
Chillon ! thy prison is a holy place
And thy sad floor an altar, for 'twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard ! May none those marks efface !
For they appeal from tyranny to God.
ENGLAND AND SWITZERLAND, 1802
Two Voices are there; one is of the Sea,
One of the Mountains; each a mighty voice :
In both from age to age thou didst
They were thy chosen music, Liberty !
There came a tyrant, and with holy glee
Thou fought'st against him,--but hast vainly striven :
Thou from thy Alpine holds at length art driven,
Where not a torrent murmurs heard by thee.
-Of one deep bliss thine ear hath been bereft ;
Then cleave, o cleave to that which still is left-
For, high-sould Maid, what sorrow would it be
That M tain floods should thunder as before,
And Ocean bellow from his rocky shore,
And neither awful Voice be heard by Thee !
ON THE EXTINCTION OF THE VENETIAN
Once did She hold the gorgeous East in fee
And was the safeguard of the West; the worth
Of Venice did fall below her birth,
Venice, the eldest child of Liberty.
She was a maiden city, bright and free ;
No guile seduced, no force could violate ;
And when she took unto herself a mate,
She must espouse the everlasting Sea.
And what if she had seen those glories fade,
Those titles vanish, and that strength decay,—
Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
When her long life hath reach'd its final day :
Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade
Of that which once was great is pass'd away.
LONDON, 1802 O Friend ! I know not which way I must look For comfort, being, as I am, opprest To think that now our life is only drest For show; mean handy-work of craftsman, cook, Or groom !-We must run glittering like a brook In the open sunshine, or we are unblest ; The wealthiest man among us is the best : No grandeur now in nature or in book Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense, This is idolatry ; and these we adore : Plain living and high thinking are no more: The homely beauty of the good old cause Is gone ; our peace, our fearful innocence, And pure religion breathing household laws.
Milton ! thou shouldst be living at this hour :
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters : altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men :
Oh ! raise us up, return to us again ;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart :
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea,
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free ;
So didst thou travel on life's common way
In cheerful godliness ; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
When I have borne in memory what has tamed
Great nations ; how ennobling thoughts depart
When men change swords for ledgers, and desert
The student's bower for gold, -some fears unnamed
I had, my Country !-am I to be blamed ?
Now, when I think of thee, and what thou art,
Verily, in the bottom of my heart
Of those unfilial fears I am ashamed.
For dearly must we prize thee; we who find
In thee a bulwark for the cause of men ;
And I by my affection was beguiled :
What wonder if a Poet now and then,
Among the many movements of his mind,
Felt for thee as a lover or a child !
On Linden, when the sun was low,
All bloodless lay the untrodden snow ;
And dark as winter was the flow
Of Iser, rolling rapidly.