1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Edward Rushton, "Verses occasioned by reading Southey's Carmen Triumphale" 1814; Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature 12 (April 1817) 243.



When man's great curse, despotic sway,
Sweeps myriads from the realms of day;
When wide o'er all the Christian world
Destruction's banners are unfurl'd;
When Europe with exhaustion reels,
Yet nor remorse nor pity feels;
At this dread period SOUTHEY stands,
The wild harp trembling in his hands;—
And whilst fanatic furor fires his mind,
"Glory to God," he cries, "deliv'rance for mankind!"

Ah, Southey, if thy boyish brood
Were prone to shed each other's blood,
Thou couldst not with unruffled mien
Behold the agonizing scene:
Why then suppose the Sire of All
Is pleased to see his creatures fall;
Why then, if carnage strew the ground,
And groans, and shrieks, and yells abound;
Why then, if ruthless havock lord it wide,
Should bigot rage exult, and God be glorified?

I grieve when earth is drench'd with gore,
And realms with woe are cover'd o'er;
I grieve, and reprobate the plan
Of thanking God for slaughter'd man:
Nor can I hope that lawless sway,
Fierce as a tiger o'er his prey,
Will ever uncompell'd resign
That power the priest proclaims divine:
No, Southey, no! oppressors ne'er unbind;
'Tis man — high minded man must liberate mankind.

Appall'd by superstitious cares,
Despots of yore have crown'd their heirs,
But when, Oh Southey! tell me when
Have despots raised their slaves to men?
Vot'ries of power, to this they bend,
For this eternally contend;
Whilst man, let despots rise or fall,
Poor abject man submits to all;
And should his wrongs beyond endurance swell,
Here glares the state's red arm, and there an endless hell.

Whether of home or foreign growth,
All despots from my soul I loath;
And as to rights — I should as soon
Expect a message from the moon,
As hope to see a courtly train
Combin'd to cherish freedom's reign—
Combin'd to humanise the heart,
And bid the nurse's dreams depart:
No, Southey, no! those scourges, when combin'd,
My desolate a world, but never free mankind.

If proof be wanting, France may shew,
In man's great cause how monarchs glow:
Thou know'st, when one immortal stroke
Her lacerating shackles broke;
Thou know'st how Europe's savage swarms
Flew, like infuriate fiends, to arms;
And how the vaunting legions came,
To quench a never-dying flame;
And well thou know'st how France sublimely rose,
Bared her resistless arm, and crush'd th' aggressing foes.

If proof be wanting, turn thine eyes
Where poor partition'd Poland lies;
By many a barb'rous band assail'd,
In freedom's cause she fought, she fail'd;
She saw her children bite the dust,
O'erwhelm'd by rapine, murder, lust;
She saw her cities blaze, and all
That 'scaped the flames by ruffians fall;
Transfix'd by groves of pikes, she heard them groan,
Then back into the flames saw writhing thousands thrown.

Poor prostrate Poland! here we find
How despots liberate mankind;
And here, unblushing bard, we see
The savage hordes extoll'd by thee;
But whether minstrels change with times,
And scatter flow'rs o'er courtly crimes;
Or truth's firm sons imprison'd lie,
Or priests the reasoning pow'rs decry;
Soon, like those brutes that shun the nightly fire
From freedom's holy flame, shall man's fierce foes retire.