Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ODE TO FRANCE.

FEBRUARY, 1848.

I.

As, flake by flake, the beetling avalanches
Build up their imminent crags of noiseless

snow, Till some chance thrill the loosened ruin launches

And the blind havoc leaps unwarned below, So grew and gathered through the silent years

The madness of a People, wrong by wrong. There seemed no strength in the dumb toiler's

tears, No strength in suffering ;--but the Past was

strong: The brute despair of trampled centuries Leaped up with one hoarse yell and snapped its

bands, Groped for its right with horny, callous hands, And stared around for God with bloodshot eyes.

What wonder if those palms were all too hard For nice distinctions,—if that mænad throng

They whose thick atmosphere no bard
Had shivered with the lightning of his song,

Brutes with the memories and desires of men,
Whose chronicles were writ with iron pen,
In the crooked shoulder and the forehead

low-
Set wrong to balance wrong,
And physicked woe with woe ?

II.

They did as they were taught; not theirs the

blame, If men who scattered firebrands reaped the flame : They trampled Peace beneath their

savage feet, And by her golden tresses drew Mercy along the pavement of the street. 0, Freedom ! Freedom! is thy morning-dew So

gory red ? Alas, thy light had ne'er Shone in upon the chaos of their lair ! They reared to thee such symbol as they knew,

And worshipped it with flame and blood,

A Vengeance, axe in hand, that stood Holding a tyrant's head up by the clotted

hair.

III.

What wrongs the Oppressor suffered, these we.

know; These have found piteous voice in song and

prose; But for the Oppressed, their darkness and their

woe, Their grinding centuries,—what Muse had those ? Though ħall and palace had nor eyes nor ears,

Hardening a people's heart to senseless stone, Thou knowest them, O Earth, that drank their

tears, O Heaven, that heard their inarticulate moan ! They noted down their fetters, link by link; Coarse was the hand that scrawled, and red the

ink; Rude was their score,

as suits unlettered men, Notched with a headsman's axe upon a block :

What marvel if, when came the avenging shock,

'Twas Ate, not Urania, held the pen ?

IV.

With eye averted and an anguished frown, Loathingly glides the Muse through scenes of

strife, Where, like the heart of Vengeance up and

down, Throbs in its framework the blood-muffled

knife; Slow are the steps of Freedom, but her feet

Turn never backward : hers no bloody glare; Her light is calm, and innocent, and sweet,

And where it enters there is no despair : Not first on palace and cathedral spire Quivers and gleams that unconsuming fire; While these stand black against her morning

skies, The peasant sees it leap from peak to peak

Along his hills; the craftsman's burning eyes Own with cool tears its influence mother-meek ;

It lights the poet's heart up like a star ;

Ah! while the tyrant deemed it still afar, And twined with golden threads his futile snare, That swift, convicting glow all round him

ran ; 'Twas close beside him there, Sunrise whose Memnon is the soul of man.

V.

O Broker-King, is this thy wisdom's fruit ?

A dynasty plucked out as 'twere a weed

Grown rankly in a night, that leaves no seed ! Could eighteen years strike down no deeper

root? But now thy vulture eye was turned on Spain,A shout from Paris, and thy crown falls off,

Thy race has ceased to reign,
And thou become a fugitive and scoff :

Slippery the feet that mount by stairs of gold, And weakest of all fences one of steel ;

Go and keep school again like him of old, The Syracusan tyrant;—thou mayst feel Royal amid a birch-swayed commonweal !

VI.

Not long can he be ruler who allows

His time to run before him; thou wast naught Soon as the strip of gold about thy brows

Was no more emblem of the People's thought : Vain were thy bayonets against the foe

Thou hadst to cope with; thou didst wage War not with Frenchmen merely ;-no,

Thy strife was with the Spirit of the Age, The invisible Spirit whose first breath divine

Scattered thy frail endeavor,
And, like poor last year's leaves, whirled thee and

thine
Into the Dark forever!

VII.

Is here no triumph ? Nay, what though The yellow blood of Trade meanwhile should

pour
Along its arteries a shrunken flow,
And the idle canvas droop around the shore ?

These do not make a state,
Nor keep it great ;

I think God made
The earth for man, not trade;
And where each humblest human creature
Can stand, no more suspicious or afraid,
Erect and kingly in his right of nature,

To heaven and earth knit with harmonious ties,

Where I behold the exultation
Of manhood glowing in those eyes

That had been dark for ages,

Or only lit with bestial loves and ragesThere I behold a Nation :

The France which lies Between the Pyrenees and Rhine

Is the least part of France ; I see her rather in the soul whose shine Burns through the craftsman's grimy countenance, In the new energy divine

Of Toil's enfranchised glance.

VIII. And if it be a dream,If the great Future be the little Past ’Neath a new mask, which drops and shows at

last The same weird, mocking face to balk and

blast, Yet, Muse, a gladder measure suits the theme,

And the Tyrtæan harp

Loves notes more resolute and sharp, Throbbing, as throbs the bosom, hot and fast :

Such visions are of morning,

Theirs is no vague forewarning,
The dreams which nations dream come true,

And shape the world anew;

If this be a sleep,

Make it long, make it deep,
O Father, who sendest the harvests men reap!

While Labor so sleepeth

His sorrow is gone,
No longer he weepeth,
But smileth and steepeth

His thoughts in the dawn;

« ElőzőTovább »