1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Poet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo. Part the Second. The Vision.

The Poet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo: by Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laureate.

Robert Southey


The second part of the Pilgrimage shifts from topographical poetry to philosophical allegory — less in the manner of Spenser than in that of Addison and the eighteenth-century allegorists. The argument of "The Vision" reads at times like a point-for-point refutation of Shelley's Queen Mab (1812), written in a very similar literary mode.

British Critic: "The versification (the sweetest beyond compare which we have seen since the days of Spenser) flows on without much break or burst, soothing and delighting, rather than rousing or hurrying away the mind of the reader.... The author seems to have had fresh in his mind the beautiful scene between the Red Cross Knight and Despair, in the first book of the Fairy Queen, a scene which for richness and colouring, for maintenance of character, for suitableness in the tone of language and measure to the subject, has never, we will venture to say, been surpassed in any language.... We will not place the passage which occasioned these remarks, by the side of Spenser's Cave of Despair; indeed the feeling it is intended to excite is wholly of a different nature; but the resemblance in many circumstances is sufficiently strong; the placid countenance of Despair, and his mild answer to the reproaches of the Knight, his growing influence over him, and his gradual though finally imperfect triumph over his mind, are here closely followed by the composure, the unaltered mien, the 'unabashed eye, and front serene' of the Old Man, after the passionate discourse of his opponent, his pause upon a successful sophism, his increased ardour as he grows more conscious of his strength; and the painful burthen of doubt and dismay which he leaves on the unconvinced, yet shaken mind of the Poet. When we consider one as built upon the model of the other, we by no means intimate that it is a tame, or servile copy. Mr. Southey will not be offended, when we say, that he has not improved upon his master Spenser; it is no small praise to say, that he has shewn himself his worthy scholar" NS 6 (1816) 30, 37-39.

The traveler dreams, and imagines himself on a great plain strewn with the dead. His name is called, and looking up beholds a vast tower like that of Babel. He ascends, and on the top discovers an old man, who calls himself Wisdom. He advises the traveler to "Live whilst thou livest, for this life is all!" p. 109. After peering through an optic glass which discovers all to be darkness, they engage in a debate over the ethics of materialism, the traveler championing the patriots and martyrs who expect their reward in Heaven. To which Wisdom replies, "Look where thou wilt, the history of man | Is but a thorny maze, without a plan!" p. 132.

The traveler hears the voice of the Muse, who rebukes him for allowing Wisdom to weaken his faith. The traveler despondently remarks that while France is defeated, Europe will return to tyranny and Catholicism. His is then led by the Muse to a delicious grove filled with emblematic trees and flowers. There he discovers the Holy Rood, the Well of Life, and a branch of the Tree of Knowledge. He drinks of the water and eats of the fruit, and with the Muse climbs the sacred hill and gains a commanding view of human history in its providential design. Mankind is free to choose good or ill; "Napoleon is that man, in guilt the first, | Pre-eminently bad among the worst" p. 170. The traveler next beholds in vision the prospect for Britain, rich and peaceful, extending justice and prosperity to the far corners of the globe. The poem concludes as the Muse exhorts the Laureate to "Hold fast the faith which animates thy mind, | And in thy songs proclaim the hopes of humankind" p. 193.



I.
THE TOWER.
I thought upon these things in solitude,
And mused upon them in the silent night;
The open graves, the recent scene of blood,
Were present to the soul's creative sight;
These mournful images my mind possest,
And mingled with the visions of my rest.

Methought that I was travelling o'er a plain
Whose limits, far beyond all reach of sense,
The aching anxious sight explored in vain.
How I came there I could not tell, nor whence;
Nor where my melancholy journey lay;
Only that soon the night would close upon my way.

Behind me was a dolorous, dreary scene,
With huge and mouldering ruins widely spread;
Wastes which had whilome fertile regions been,
Tombs which had lost all record of the dead;
And where the dim horizon seemed to close,
Far off the gloomy Pyramids arose.

Full fain would I have known what lay before,
But lifted there in vain my mortal eye;
That point with cloud and mist was covered o'er,
As though the earth were mingled with the sky.
Yet thither, as some power unseen impell'd,
My blind involuntary way I held.

Across the plain innumerable crouds
Like me were on their destined journey bent,
Toward the land of shadows and of clouds:
One pace they travelled, to one point they went; . .
A motley multitude of old and young,
Men of all climes and hues, and every tongue.

Ere long I came upon a field of dead,
Where heaps of recent carnage fill'd the way;
A ghastly sight, . . nor was there where to tread,
So thickly slaughtered, horse and man, they lay.
Methought that in that place of death I knew
Again the late-seen field of Waterloo.

Troubled I stood, and doubtful where to go, . .
A cold damp shuddering ran through all my frame;
Fain would I fly from that dread scene, when lo!
A voice as from above pronounced my name;
And looking to the sound, by the way-side
I saw a lofty structure edified.

Most like it seemed to that aspiring Tower
Which old Ambition reared on Babel's plain,
As if he weened in his presumptuous power
To scale high Heaven with daring pride profane;
Such was its giddy height: and round and round
The spiral steps in long ascension wound.

Its frail foundations upon sand were placed,
And round about it mouldering rubbish lay;
For easily by time and storms defaced,
The loose materials crumbled in decay:
Rising so high, and built so insecure,
Ill might such perishable work endure.

I not the less went up, and as I drew
Toward the top, more firm the structure seemed,
With nicer art composed, and fair to view:
Strong and well-built perchance I might have deemed
The pile, had I not seen and understood
Of what frail matter formed, and on what base it stood.

There on the summit a grave personage
Received and welcomed me in courteous guise;
On his grey temples were the marks of age,
As one whom years methought should render wise.
I saw that thou wert filled with doubt and fear,
He said, and therefore have I called thee here.

Hence from this eminence sublime I see
The wanderings of the erring crowd below,
And pitying thee in thy perplexity,
Will tell thee all that thou canst need to know
To guide thy steps aright. I bent my head
As if in thanks, . . And who art thou? I said.

He answered, I am Wisdom. Mother Earth
Me, in her vigour self-conceiving, bore;
And as from eldest time I date my birth,
Eternally with her shall I endure;
Her noblest offspring I, to whom alone
The course of sublunary things is known.

Master! quoth I, regarding him, I thought
That Wisdom was the child divine of Heaven.
So, he replied, have fabling preachers taught,
And the dull World a light belief hath given.
But vainly would these fools my claim decry, . .
Wisdom I am, and of the Earth am I.

Thus while he spake I scanned his features well,
Small but audacious was the Old Man's eye;
His countenance was hard, and seemed to tell
Of knowledge less than of effrontery.
Instruct me then, I said, for thou shouldst know,
From whence I came, and whither I must go.

Art thou then one who would his mind perplex
With knowledge bootless even if attained?
Fond man! he answered; . . wherefore shouldst thou vex
Thy heart with seeking what may not be gained!
Regard not what has been, nor what may be,
O Child of Earth, this Now is all that toucheth thee!

He who performs the journey of to-day
Cares not if yesterday were shower or sun:
To-morrow let the heavens be what they may,
And what recks he? . . his wayfare will be done.
Heedless of what hereafter may befall,
Live whilst thou livest, for this life is all!

I kept my rising indignation down,
That I might hear what farther he would teach;
Yet on my darkened brow the instinctive frown,
Gathering at that abominable speech,
Maintained its place: he marked it and pursued,
Tuning his practised tongue to subtle flattery's mood:

Do I not know thee, . . that from earliest youth
Knowledge hath been thy only heart's-desire?
Here seeing all things as they are in truth,
I show thee all to which thy thoughts aspire:
No vapours here impede the exalted sense,
Nor mists of earth attain this eminence.

Whither thy way, thou askest me, and what
The region dark whereto thy footsteps tend,
And where by one inevitable lot
The course of all yon multitude must end.
Take thou this glass, whose perfect power shall aid
Thy faulty vision, and therewith explore the shade.

Eager I look'd; but seeing with surprize
That the same darkness still the view o'erspread,
Half angrily I turned away mine eyes.
Complacent then the Old Man smiled and said,
Darkness is all! what more wouldst thou descry?
Rest now content, for farther none can spy.

Now mark me, Child of Earth! he thus pursued;
Let not the hypocrites thy reason blind,
And to the quest of some unreal good
Divert with dogmas vain thine erring mind:
Learn thou, whate'er the motive they may call,
That Pleasure is the aim, and Self the spring of all.

This is the root of knowledge. Wise are they
Who to this guiding principle attend;
They as they press along the world's high-way,
With single aim pursue their steady end;
No vain compunction checks their sure career;
No idle dreams deceive; their heart is here.

They from the nature and the fate of man,
Thus clearly understood, derive their strength;
Knowing that as from nothing they began,
To nothing they must needs return at length;
This knowledge steels the heart and clears the mind,
And they create on earth the Heaven they find.

Such, I made answer, was the Tyrant's creed
Who bruised the nations with his iron rod,
Till on yon field the wretch received his meed
From Britain, and the outstretched arm of God!
Behold him now, . . Death ever in his view,
The only change for him, . . and Judgement to ensue!

Behold him when the unbidden thoughts arise
Of his old passions and unbridled power;
As the fierce tiger in confinement lies,
And dreams of blood that he must taste no more, . .
Then waking in that appetite of rage,
Frets to and fro within his narrow cage.

Hath he not chosen well? the Old Man replied;
Bravely he aimed at universal sway;
And never earthly Chief was glorified
Like this Napoleon in his prosperous day.
All-ruling Fate itself hath not the power
To alter what has been: and he has had his hour!

Take him, I answered, at his fortune's flood;
Russia his friend, the Austrian wars surceased,
When Kings, his creatures some, and some subdued,
Like vassals waited at his marriage feast;
And Europe like a map before him lay,
Of which he gave at will, or took away.

Call then to mind Navarre's heroic chief,
Wandering by night and day through wood and glen,
His country's sufferings like a private grief
Wringing his heart: would Mina even then
Those perils and that sorrow have foregone
To be that Tyrant on his prosperous throne?

But wherefore name I him whose arm was free?
A living hope his noble heart sustained,
A faith which bade him through all dangers see
The triumph his enduring country gained.
See Hofer with no earthly hope to aid, . .
His country lost, himself to chains and death betrayed!

By those he served deserted in his need;
Given to the unrelenting Tyrant's power,
And by his mean revenge condemned to bleed, . .
Would he have bartered in that aweful hour
His heart, his conscience, and his sure renown,
For the malignant murderer's crimes and crown?

Him too, I know, a worthy thought of fame
In that dread trance upheld; . . the foresight sure
That in his own dear country his good name
Long as the streams and mountains should endure;
The herdsmen on the hills should sing his praise,
And children learn his deeds through all succeeding days.

Turn we to those in whom no glorious thought
Lent its strong succour to the passive mind;
Nor stiring enterprize within them wrought; . .
Who to their lot of bitterness resign'd,
Endured their sorrows by the world unknown,
And look'd for their reward to Death alone:

Mothers within Gerona's leagered wall,
Who saw their famished children pine and die; . .
Widows surviving Zaragoza's fall
To linger in abhorred captivity; . .
Yet would not have exchanged their sacred woe
For all the empire of their miscreant foe!

Serene the Old Man replied, and smiled with scorn,
Behold the effect of error! thus to wear
The days of miserable life forlorn,
Struggling with evil and consumed with care; . .
Poor fools, whom vain and empty hopes mislead!
They reap their sufferings for their only meed.

O false one! I exclaimed, whom canst thou fool
With such gross sophisms, but the wicked heart?
The pupils of thine own unhappy school
Are they who chuse the vain and empty part;
How oft in age, in sickness, and in woe,
Have they complained that all was vanity below!

Look at that mighty Gaznevide, Mahmood,
When pining in his Palace of Delight,
He bade the gathered spoils of realms subdued
Be spread before him to regale his sight,
Whate'er the Orient boasts of rich and rare, . .
And then he wept to think what toys they were!

Look at the Russian minion when he played
With pearls and jewels which surpassed all price;
And now apart their various hues arrayed,
Blended their colours now in union nice,
Then weary of the baubles, with a sigh,
Swept them aside, and thought that all was vanity!

Weaned by the fatal Messenger from pride,
The Syrian through the streets exposed his shroud;
And one that ravaged kingdoms far and wide
Upon the bed of sickness cried aloud,
What boots my empire in this mortal throe,
For the Grave calls me now, and I must go!

Thus felt these wretched men, because decay
Had touched them in their vitals; Death stood by;
And Reason when the props of flesh gave way,
Purged as with euphrasy the mortal eye.
Who seeks for worldly honours, wealth or power,
Will find them vain indeed at that dread hour!

These things are vain; but all things are not so,
The virtues and the hopes of human kind! . .
Yea, by the God whom ordering all below,
In his own image made the immortal mind,
Desires there are which draw from Him their birth,
And bring forth lasting fruits for Heaven and Earth.

Therefore through evil and through good content,
The righteous man performs his part assigned;
In bondage lingering, or with sufferings spent,
Therefore doth peace support the heroic mind;
And from the dreadful sacrifice of all,
Meek woman doth not shrink at Duty's call.

Therefore the Martyr clasps the stake in faith,
And sings thanksgiving while the flames aspire;
Victorious over agony and death,
Sublime he stands and triumphs in the fire,
As though to him Elijah's lot were given,
And that the Chariot and the steeds of Heaven.

II.
THE EVIL PROPHET.
With that my passionate discourse I brake;
Too fast the thought, too strong the feeling came.
Composed the Old Man listened while I spake,
Nor moved to wrath, nor capable of shame;
And when I ceased, unaltered was his mien,
His hard eye unabashed, his front serene.

Hard is it error from the mind to weed,
He answered, where it strikes so deep a root.
Let us to other argument proceed,
And if we may, discover what the fruit
Of this long strife, . . what harvest of great good
The World shall reap for all this cost of blood!

Assuming then a frown as thus he said,
He stretched his hand from that commanding height,
Behold, quoth he, where thrice ten thousand dead
Are laid, the victims of a single fight!
And thrice ten thousand more at Ligny lie,
Slain for the prelude to this tragedy!

This but a page of the great book of war, . .
A drop amid the sea of human woes! . . .
Thou canst remember when the Morning Star
Of Freedom on rejoicing France arose,
Over her vine-clad hills and regions gay,
Fair even as Phosphor who foreruns the day.

Such and so beautiful that Star's uprise;
But soon the glorious dawn was overcast:
A baleful track it held across the skies,
Till now through all its fatal changes past,
Its course fulfilled, its aspects understood,
On Waterloo it hath gone down in blood.

Where now the hopes with which thine ardent youth
Rejoicingly to run its race began?
Where now the reign of Liberty and Truth,
The Rights Omnipotent of Equal Man,
The principles should make all discord cease,
And bid poor humankind repose at length in peace?

Behold the Bourbon to that throne by force
Restored, from whence by fury he was cast:
Thus to the point where it began its course,
The melancholy cycle comes at last;
And what are all the intermediate years? . .
What, but a bootless waste of blood and tears!

The peace which thus at Waterloo ye won,
Shall it endure with this exasperate foe?
In gratitude for all that ye have done,
Will France her ancient enmity forego?
Her wounded spirit, her envenomed will
Ye know, . . and ample means are left her still.

What tho' the tresses of her strength be shorn,
The roots remain untouched; and as of old
The bondsman Samson felt his power return
To his knit sinews, so shall ye behold
France, like a giant fresh from sleep, arise
And rush upon her slumbering enemies.

Woe then for Belgium! for this ill-doomed land,
The theatre of strife through every age!
Look from this eminence whereon we stand, . .
What is the region round us but a stage
For the mad pastime of Ambition made,
Whereon War's dreadful drama may be played?

Thus hath it been from history's earliest light,
When yonder by the Sabis Caesar stood,
And saw his legions, raging from the fight,
Root out the noble nation they subdued;
Even at this day the peasant findeth there
The relics of that ruthless massacre.

Need I recall the long religious strife?
Or William's hard-fought fields? or Marlborough's fame
Here purchased at such lavish price of life, . .
Or Fontenoy, or Fleurus' later name?
Wherever here the foot of man may tread,
The blood of man hath on that spot been shed.

Shall then Futurity a happier train
Unfold, than this dark picture of the past?
Dreamest thou again of some Saturnian reign,
Or that this ill-compacted realm should last?
Its wealth and weakness to the foe are known,
And the first shock subverts its baseless throne.

O wretched country, better should thy soil
Be laid again beneath the invading seas,
Thou goodliest masterpiece of human toil,
If still thou must be doomed to scenes like these!
O Destiny inexorable and blind!
O miserable lot of poor mankind!

Saying thus, he fixed on me a searching eye
Of stern regard, as if my heart to reach:
Yet gave he now no leisure to reply;
For ere I might dispose my thoughts for speech,
The Old Man, as one who felt and understood
His strength, the theme of his discourse pursued.

If we look farther, what shall we behold
But every where the swelling seeds of ill,
Half-smothered fires, and causes manifold
Of strife to come; the powerful watching still
For fresh occasion to enlarge his power,
The weak and injured waiting for their hour!

Will the rude Cossack with his spoils bear back
The love of peace and humanizing art?
Think ye the mighty Moscovite shall lack
Some specious business for the ambitious heart;
Or the black Eagle, when she moults her plume,
The form and temper of the Dove assume?

From the old Germanic chaos hath there risen
A happier order of established things?
And is the Italian Mind from papal prison
Set free to soar upon its native wings?
Or look to Spain, and let her Despot tell
If there thy high-raised hopes are answered well!

At that appeal my spirit breathed a groan,
But he triumphantly pursued his speech:
O Child of Earth, he cried with loftier tone,
The present and the past one lesson teach;
Look where thou wilt, the history of man
Is but a thorny maze, without a plan!

The winds which have in viewless heaven their birth,
The waves which in their fury meet the clouds,
The central storms which shake the solid earth,
And from volcanoes burst in fiery floods,
Are not more vague and purportless and blind,
Than is the course of things among mankind!

Rash hands unravel what the wise have spun;
Realms which in story fill so large a part,
Reared by the strong are by the weak undone;
Barbarians overthrow the works of art,
And what force spares is sapt by sure decay, . .
So earthly things are changed and pass away.

And think not thou thy England hath a spell,
That she this general fortune should elude;
Easier to crush the foreign foe, than quell
The malice which misleads the multitude,
And that dread malady of erring zeal,
Which like a cancer eats into the commonweal.

The fabric of her power is undermined;
The earthquake underneath it will have way,
And all that glorious structure, as the wind
Scatters a summer cloud, be swept away:
For Destiny on this terrestrial ball
Drives on her iron car, and crushes all.

Thus as he ended, his mysterious form
Enlarged, grew dim, and vanished from my view.
At once on all sides rushed the gathered storm,
The thunders rolled around, the wild winds blew,
And as the tempest round the summit beat,
The whole frail fabric shook beneath my feet.

III.
THE SACRED MOUNTAIN.
But then methought I heard a voice exclaim,
Hither, my Son, Oh, hither take thy flight!
A heavenly voice which called me by my name,
And bade me hasten from that treacherous height:
The voice it was which I was wont to hear,
Sweet as a Mother's to her infant's ear.

I hesitated not, but at the call
Sprung from the summit of that tottering tower.
There is a motion known in dreams to all,
When buoyant by some self-sustaining power,
Through air we seem to glide, as if set free
From all encumbrance of mortality.

Thus borne aloft I reached the Sacred Hill,
And left the scene of tempests far behind:
But that old tempter's parting language still
Prest like a painful burthen on my mind;
The troubled soul had lost her inward light,
And all within was black as Erebus and Night.

The Thoughts which I had known in youth returned,
But, oh, how changed! a sad and spectral train:
And while for all the miseries past I mourned,
And for the lives which had been given in vain,
In sorrow and in fear I turned mine eye
From the dark aspects of futurity.

I sought the thickest woodland's shade profound,
As suited best my melancholy mood,
And cast myself upon the gloomy ground.
When lo! a gradual radiance filled the wood;
A heavenly presence rose upon my view,
And in that form divine the aweful Muse I knew.

Hath then that Spirit false perplexed thy heart,
O thou of little faith! severe she cried.
Bear with me, Goddess, heavenly as thou art,
Bear with my earthly nature! I replied,
And let me pour into thine ear my grief:
Thou canst enlighten, thou canst give relief.

The ploughshare had gone deep, the sower's hand
Had scattered in the open soil the grain;
The harrow too had well prepared the land;
I looked to see the fruit of all this pain! . .
Alas! the thorns and old inveterate weed
Have sprung again, and stifled the good seed.

I hoped that Italy should break her chains,
Foreign and papal, with the world's applause,
Knit in firm union her divided reigns,
And rear a well-built pile of equal laws:
Then might the wrongs of Venice be forgiven,
And joy should reach Petrarca's soul in Heaven.

I hoped that that abhorred Idolatry
Had in the strife received its mortal wound:
The Souls which from beneath the Altar cry,
At length, I thought, had their just vengeance found; . .
In purple and in scarlet clad, behold
The Harlot sits, adorned with gems and gold!

The golden cup she bears full to the brim
Of her abominations as of yore!
Her eyeballs with inebriate triumph swim;
Tho' drunk with righteous blood she thirsts for more,
Eager to reassert her influence fell,
And once again let loose the Dogs of Hell.

Woe for that people too who by their path
For these late triumphs first made plain the way;
Whom in the Valley of the Shade of Death
No fears nor fiery sufferings could dismay:
Art could not tempt, nor violence enthrall
Their firm devotion, faithful found through all.

Strange race of haughty heart and stubborn will,
Slavery they love and chains with pride they wear;
Inflexible alike in good or ill,
The inveterate stamp of servitude they bear.
Oh fate perverse, to see all change withstood,
There only where all change must needs be good!

But them no foe can force, nor friend persuade;
Impassive souls in iron forms inclosed,
As though of human mould they were not made,
But of some sterner elements composed,
Against offending nations to be sent,
The ruthless ministers of punishment.

Where are those Minas after that career
Wherewith all Europe rang from side to side?
In exile wandering! Where the Mountaineer, . .
Late, like Pelayo, the Asturian's pride?
Had Ferdinand no mercy for that life,
Exposed so long for him in daily, . . hourly strife!

From her Athenian orator of old
Greece never listen'd to sublimer strain
Than that with which, for truth and freedom bold,
Quintana moved the inmost soul of Spain.
What meed is his let Ferdinand declare...
Chains, and the silent dungeon, and despair!

For this hath England borne so brave a part!
Spent with endurance, or in battle slain,
Is it for this so many an English heart
Lies mingled with the insensate soil of Spain!
Is this the issue, this the happy birth
In those long throes and that strong agony brought forth!

And oh! if England's fatal hour draw nigh, . .
If that most glorious edifice should fall
By the wild hands of bestial Anarchy, . .
Then might it seem that He who ordereth all
Doth take for sublunary things no care: . .
The burthen of that thought is more than I can bear.

Even as a mother listens to her child
My plaint the Muse divine benignant heard,
Then answered in reproving accents mild,
What if thou seest the fruit of hope deferred,
Dost thou for this in faltering faith repine?
A manlier, wiser virtue should be thine!

Ere the good seed can give its fruit in Spain,
The light must shine on that bedarkened land,
And Italy must break her papal chain,
Ere the soil answer to the sower's hand;
For till the sons their fathers' fault repent,
The old error brings its direful punishment.

Hath not experience bade the wise man see
Poor hope from innovations premature?
All sudden change is ill: slow grows the tree
Which in its strength through ages shall endure.
In that ungrateful earth it long may lie
Dormant, but fear not that the seed should die.

Falsely that Tempter taught thee that the past
Was but a blind inextricable maze;
Falsely he taught that evil overcast
With gathering tempests these propitious days,
That he in subtle snares thy soul might bind,
And rob thee of thy hopes for humankind.

He told thee the beginning and the end
Were indistinguishable all, and dark;
And when from his vain Tower he bade thee bend
Thy curious eye, well knew he that no spark
Of heavenly light would reach the baffled sense,
The mists of earth lay round him all too dense.

Must I, as thou hadst chosen the evil part,
Tell thee that Man is free and God is good?
These primal truths are rooted in thy heart:
But these being rightly felt and understood,
Should bring with them a hope, calm, constant, sure,
Patient, and on the rock of faith secure.

The Monitress Divine, as thus she spake,
Induced me gently on, ascending still,
And thus emerging from that mournful brake
We drew toward the summit of the hill,
And reached a green and sunny place, so fair
As well with long-lost Eden might compare.

Broad cedars grew around that lovely glade,
Exempted from decay, and never sere,
Their wide-spread boughs diffused a fragrant shade;
The cypress incorruptible was here,
With fluted stem and head aspiring high,
Nature's proud column, pointing to the sky.

There too the vigorous olive in its pride,
As in its own Apulian soil uncheck'd,
Towered high, and spread its glaucous foliage wide:
With liveliest hues the mead beneath was decked,
Gift of that grateful tree that with its root
Repays the earth from whence it feeds its fruit.

There too the sacred bay of brighter green,
Exalted its rejoicing head on high;
And there the martyrs' holier palm was seen
Waving its plumage as the breeze went by.
All fruits which ripen under genial skies
Grew there as in another Paradise.

And over all that lovely glade there grew
All wholesome roots and plants of healing power;
The herb of grace, the medicinal rue,
The poppy rich in worth as gay in flower;
The heart's-ease that delighteth every eye,
And sage divine and virtuous euphrasy.

Unwounded here Judaea's balm distilled
Its precious juice; the snowy jasmine here
Spread its luxuriant tresses wide, and filled
With fragrance the delicious atmosphere;
More piercing still did orange-flowers dispense
From golden groves the purest joy of sense.

As low it lurked the tufted moss between,
The violet there its modest perfume shed,
Like humble virtue, rather felt than seen:
And here the Rose of Sharon reared its head,
The glory of all flowers, to sense and sight
Yielding their full contentment of delight.

A gentle river wound its quiet way
Through this sequestered glade, meandering wide;
Smooth as a mirror here the surface lay,
Where the pure lotus floating in its pride,
Enjoyed the breath of heaven, the sun's warm beam,
And the cool freshness of its native stream.

Here o'er green weeds whose tresses waved outspread,
With silent lapse the glassy waters run;
Here in fleet motion o'er a pebbly bed
Gliding they glance and ripple to the sun;
The stirring breeze that swept them in its flight,
Raised on the stream a shower of sparkling light.

And all sweet birds sung there their lays of love;
The mellow thrush, the black-bird loud and shrill,
The rapturous nightingale that shook the grove,
Made the ears vibrate and the heart-strings thrill;
The ambitious lark, that soaring in the sky,
Poured forth her lyric strain of ecstacy.

Sometimes when that wild chorus intermits,
The linnet's song was heard amid the trees,
A low sweet voice; and sweeter still, at fits
The ring-dove's wooing came upon the breeze;
While with the wind which moved the leaves among,
The murmuring waters joined in undersong.

The hare disported here and feared no ill,
For never evil thing that glade came nigh;
The sheep were free to wander at their will,
As needing there no earthly shepherd's eye;
The bird sought no concealment for her nest,
So perfect was the peace wherewith those bowers were blest.

All blending thus with all in one delight,
The soul was soothed and satisfied and filled:
This mingled bliss of sense and sound and sight,
The flow of boisterous mirth might there have stilled,
And sinking in the gentle spirit deep,
Have touched those strings of joy which make us weep.

Even thus in earthly gardens had it been,
If earthly gardens might with these compare;
But more than all such influences, I ween
There was a heavenly virtue in the air,
Which laid all vain perplexing thoughts to rest,
And healed and calmed and purified the breast.

Then said I to that guide divine, My soul
When here we entered, was o'ercharged with grief,
For evil doubts which I could not controul
Beset my troubled spirit. This relief, . .
This change, . . whence are they? Almost it might seem
I never lived till now; . . all else had been a dream.

My heavenly teacher answer'd, Say not seem; . .
In this place all things are what they appear;
And they who feel the past a feverish dream,
Wake to reality on entering here.
These waters are the Well of Life, and lo!
The Rock of Ages there, from whence they flow.

Saying thus we came upon an inner glade,
The holiest place that human eyes might see;
For all that vale was like a temple made
By Nature's hand, and this the sanctuary;
Where in its bed of living rock, the Rood
Of Man's redemption, firmly planted stood.

And at its foot the never-failing Well
Of Life profusely flowed that all might drink.
Most blessed Water! Neither tongue can tell
The blessedness thereof, nor heart can think,
Save only those to whom it hath been given
To taste of that divinest gift of Heaven.

There grew a goodly Tree this Well beside; . .
Behold a branch from Eden planted here,
Plucked from the Tree of Knowledge, said my guide.
O Child of Adam, put away thy fear, . .
In thy first father's grave it hath its root;
Taste thou the bitter, but the wholesome fruit.

In awe I heard, and trembled, and obeyed:
The bitterness was even as of death;
I felt a cold and piercing thrill pervade
My loosened limbs, and losing sight and breath,
To earth I should have fallen in my despair,
Had I not clasped the Cross and been supported there.

My heart, I thought, was bursting with the force
Of that most fatal fruit; soul-sick I felt,
And tears ran down in such continuous course,
As if the very eyes themselves should melt.
But then I heard my heavenly teacher say,
Drink, and this mortal stound will pass away.

I stoopt and drank of that divinest Well,
Fresh from the Rock of Ages where it ran;
It had a heavenly quality to quell
My pain: . . I rose a renovated man,
And would not now when that relief was known
For worlds the needful suffering have foregone.

Even as the Eagle (ancient storyers say)
When faint with years she feels her flagging wing,
Soars up toward the mid sun's piercing ray,
Then filled with fire into some living spring
Plunges, and casting there her aged plumes,
The vigorous strength of primal youth resumes:

Such change in me that blessed Water wrought;
The bitterness which from its fatal root,
The Tree derived with painful healing fraught,
Passed clean away; and in its place the fruit
Produced by virtue of that wondrous wave,
The savour which in Paradise it gave.

Now, said the heavenly Muse, thou mayst advance,
Fitly prepared toward the mountain's height.
O Child of Man, this necessary trance
Hath purified from flaw thy mortal sight,
That with scope unconfined of vision free,
Thou the beginning and the end mayst see.

She took me by the hand and on we went,
Hope urged me forward and my soul was strong;
With winged speed we scaled the steep ascent,
Nor seemed the labour difficult or long,
Ere on the summit of the sacred hill
Upraised I stood, where I might gaze my fill.

Below me lay, unfolded like a scroll,
The boundless region where I wandered late,
Where I might see realms spread and oceans roll,
And mountains from their cloud-surmounting state
Dwarfed like a map beneath the excursive sight,
So ample was the range from that commanding height.

Eastward with darkness round on every side,
An eye of light was in the farthest sky.
Lo, the beginning! . . said my heavenly Guide;
The steady ray which there thou canst descry,
Comes from lost Eden, from the primal land
Of man "waved over by the fiery brand."

Look now toward the end! no mists obscure,
Nor clouds will there impede the strengthened sight;
Unblenched thine eye the vision may endure.
I looked, . . surrounded with effulgent light
More glorious than all glorious hues of even,
The Angel Death stood there in the open Gate of Heaven.

IV.
THE HOPES OF MAN.
Now, said my heavenly Teacher, all is clear! . .
Bear the Beginning and the End in mind,
The course of human things will then appear
Beneath its proper laws; and thou wilt find,
Through all their seeming labyrinth, the plan
Which "vindicates the ways of God to Man."

Free choice doth Man possess of good or ill,
All were but mockery else. From Wisdom's way
Too oft perverted by the tainted will
Is his rebellious nature drawn astray;
Therefore an inward monitor is given,
A voice that answers to the law of Heaven.

Frail as he is, and as an infant weak,
The knowledge of his weakness is his strength;
For succour is vouchsafed to those who seek
In humble faith sincere; and when at length
Death sets the disembodied spirit free,
According to their deeds their lot shall be.

Thus, should the chance of private fortune raise
A transitory doubt, Death answers all.
And in the scale of nations, if the ways
Of Providence mysterious we may call,
Yet rightly viewed, all history doth impart
Comfort and hope and strength to the believing heart.

For through the lapse of ages may the course
Of moral good progressive still be seen,
Though mournful dynasties of Fraud and Force,
Dark Vice and purblind Ignorance intervene;
Empires and Nations rise, decay and fall,
But still the Good survives and perseveres thro' all.

Yea even in those most lamentable times,
When every-where to wars and woes a prey,
Earth seemed but one wide theatre of crimes,
Good unperceived had worked its silent way,
And all those dread convulsions did but clear
The obstructed path to give it free career.

But deem not thou some over-ruling Fate,
Directing all things with benign decree,
Through all the turmoil of this mortal state,
Appoints that what is best shall therefore be;
Even as from man his future doom proceeds,
So nations rise or fall according to their deeds.

Light at the first was given to humankind,
And Law was written in the human heart.
If they forsake the Light, perverse of mind,
And wilfully prefer the evil part,
Then to their own devices are they left,
By their own choice of Heaven's support bereft.

The individual culprit may sometimes
Unpunished to his after reckoning go:
Not thus collective man, . . for public crimes
Draw on their proper punishment below;
When Nations go astray, from age to age
The effects remain, a fatal heritage.

Bear witness Egypt thy huge monuments
Of priestly fraud and tyranny austere!
Bear witness thou whose only name presents
All holy feelings to religion dear, . .
In Earth's dark circlet once the precious gem
Of living light, . . O fallen Jerusalem!

See barbarous Africa, on every side
To error, wretchedness, and crimes resigned!
Behold the vicious Orient, far and wide
Enthralled in slavery! As the human mind
Corrupts and goes to wreck, Earth sickens there,
And the contagion taints the ambient air.

They had the Light, and from the Light they turned;
What marvel if they grope in darkness lost?
They had the Law; . . God's natural Law they scorned,
And chusing error, thus they pay the cost!
Wherever Falsehood and Oppression reign,
There degradation follows in their train.

What then in these late days had Europe been, . .
This moral, intellectual heart of earth, . .
From which the nations who lie dead in sin
Should one day yet receive their second birth, . .
To what had she been sunk if brutal Force
Had taken unrestrained its impious course!

The Light had been extinguished, . . this be sure
The first wise aim of conscious Tyranny,
Which knows it may not with the Light endure:
But where Light is not, Freedom cannot be;
"Where Freedom is not, there no Virtue is;"
Where Virtue is not, there no Happiness.

If among hateful Tyrants of all times
For endless execration handed down,
One may be found surpassing all in crimes,
One that for infamy should bear the crown,
Napoleon is that man, in guilt the first,
Pre-eminently bad among the worst.

For not, like Scythian conquerors, did he tread
From his youth up the common path of blood;
Nor like some Eastern Tyrant was he bred
In sensual harems, ignorant of good; . .
Their vices from the circumstance have grown,
His by deliberate purpose were his own,

Not led away by circumstance he erred,
But from the wicked heart his error came:
By Fortune to the highest place preferred,
He sought through evil means an evil aim,
And all his ruthless measures were designed
To enslave, degrade, and brutalize mankind.

Some barbarous dream of empire to fulfil,
Those iron ages he would have restored,
When Law was but the ruffian soldier's will,
Might governed all, the sceptre was the sword,
And Peace, not elsewhere finding where to dwell,
Sought a sad refuge in the convent-cell.

Too far had he succeeded! In his mould
An evil generation had been framed,
By no religion tempered or controlled,
By foul examples of all crimes inflamed,
Of faith, of honour, of compassion void; . .
Such were the fitting agents he employed.

Believing as yon lying Spirit taught,
They to that vain philosophy held fast,
And trusted that as they began from nought,
To nothing they should needs return at last;
Hence no restraint of conscience, no remorse,
But every baleful passion took its course.

And had they triumphed, Earth had once again,
To Violence subdued, and impious Pride,
Verged to such state of wickedness, as when
The Giantry of old their God defied,
And Heaven, impatient of a world like this,
Opened its flood-gates, and broke up the abyss.

That danger is gone by. On Waterloo
The Tyrant's fortune in the scale was weighed, . .
His fortune and the World's, . . and England threw
Her sword into the balance... down it swayed:
And when in battle first he met that foe,
There he received his mortal overthrow.

O my brave Countrymen, with that I said,
For then my heart with transport overflowed,
O Men of England! nobly have ye paid
The debt which to your ancestors ye owed,
And gathered for your children's heritage
A glory that shall last from age to age!

And we did well when on our Mountain's height
For Waterloo we raised the festal flame,
And in our triumph taught the startled night
To ring with Wellington's victorious name,
Making the far-off mariner admire
To see the crest of Skiddaw plumed with fire.

The Moon who had in silence visited
His lonely summit from the birth of time,
That hour an unavailing splendour shed,
Lost in the effulgence of the flame sublime,
In whose broad blaze rejoicingly we stood,
And all below a depth of blackest solitude.

Fit theatre for this great joy we chose;
For never since above the abating Flood
Emerging, first that pinnacle arose,
Had cause been given for deeper gratitude,
For prouder joy to every English heart,
When England had so well performed her arduous part.

The Muse replied with gentle smile benign, . .
Well mayst thou praise the land that gave thee birth,
And bless the Fate which made that country thine;
For of all ages and all parts of earth,
To chuse thy time and place did Fate allow,
Wise choice would be this England and this Now.

From bodily and mental bondage, there
Hath Man his full emancipation gained;
The viewless and illimitable air
Is not more free than Thought; all unrestrained,
Nor pined in want, nor sunk in sensual sloth,
There may the immortal Mind attain its growth.

There under Freedom's tutelary wing,
Deliberate Courage fears no human foe;
There undefiled as in their native spring,
The living waters of Religion flow;
There like a beacon the transmitted Light
Conspicuous to all nations burneth bright.

The virtuous will she hath, which should aspire
To spread the sphere of happiness and light;
She hath the power to answer her desire,
The wisdom to direct her power aright;
The will, the power, the wisdom thus combined,
What glorious prospects open on mankind!

Behold! she cried, and lifting up her hand,
The shaping elements obeyed her will; . .
A vapour gathered round our lofty stand,
Rolled in thick volumes o'er the Sacred Hill,
Descending then, its surges far and near
Filled all the wide subjacent atmosphere.

As I have seen from Skiddaw's stony height
The fleecy clouds scud round me on their way,
Condense beneath, and hide the vale from sight,
Then opening, just disclose where Derwent lay
Burnished with sunshine like a silver shield,
Or old Enchanter's glass, for magic for magic forms fit field;

So at her will, in that receding sheet
Of mist where with the world was overlaid,
A living picture moved beneath our feet.
A spacious City first was there displayed,
The seat where England from her ancient reign
Doth rule the Ocean as her own domain.

In splendour with those famous cities old,
Whose power it hath surpassed, it now might vie;
Through many a bridge the wealthy river rolled;
Aspiring columns reared their heads on high,
Triumphal arches spanned the roads, and gave
Due guerdon to the memory of the brave.

A landscape followed, such as might compare
With Flemish fields for well-requited toil:
The wonder-working hand had every where
Subdued all circumstance of stubborn soil;
In fen and moor reclaimed rich gardens smiled,
And populous hamlets rose amid the wild.

There the old seaman on his native shore
Enjoyed the competence deserved so well;
The soldier, his dread occupation o'er,
Of well-rewarded service loved to tell;
The grey-haired labourer there whose work was done,
In comfort saw the day of life go down.

Such was the lot of eld; for childhood there
The duties which belong to life was taught:
The good seed early sown and nursed with care,
This bounteous harvest in its season brought;
Thus youth for manhood, manhood for old age
Prepared, and found their weal in every stage.

Enough of knowledge unto all was given
In wisdom's way to guide their steps on earth,
And make the immortal spirit fit for heaven.
This needful learning was their right of birth;
Further might each who chose it persevere;
No mind was lost for lack of culture here.

And that whole happy region swarmed with life, . .
Village and town; . . as busy bees in spring
In sunny days when sweetest flowers are rife,
Fill fields and gardens with their murmuring.
Oh joy to see the State in perfect health!
Her numbers were her pride and power and wealth.

Then saw I, as the magic picture moved,
Her shores enriched with many a port and pier;
No gift of liberal Nature unimproved.
The seas their never-failing harvest here
Supplied, as bounteous as the air which fed
Israel, when manna fell from heaven for bread.

Many a tall vessel in her harbours lay,
About to spread its canvass to the breeze,
Bound upon happy errand to convey
The adventurous colonist beyond the seas,
Toward those distant lands where Britain blest
With her redundant life the East and West.

The landscape changed; . . a region next was seen,
Where sable swans on rivers yet unfound
Glided through broad savannahs ever-green;
Innumerous flocks and herds were feeding round,
And scattered farms appeared and hamlets fair,
And rising towns which made another Britain there.

Then thick as stars which stud the moonless sky,
Green islands in a peaceful sea were seen;
Darkened no more with blind idolatry,
Nor curst with hideous usages obscene,
But healed of leprous crimes, from butchering strife
Delivered, and reclaimed to moral life.

Around the rude Morai, the temple now
Of truth, hosannahs to the Holiest rung:
There from the Christian's equal marriage-vow,
In natural growth the household virtues sprung;
Children were taught the paths of heavenly peace,
And age in hope looked on to its release.

The light those happy Islanders enjoyed,
Good messengers from Britain had conveyed;
(Where might such bounty wiselier be employed?)
One people with their teachers were they made,
Their arts, their language, and their faith the same,
And blest in all, for all they blest the British name.

Then rose a different land, where loftiest trees
High o'er the grove their fan-like foliage near;
Where spicy bowers upon the passing breeze
Diffuse their precious fragrance far and near;
And yet untaught to bend his massive knee,
Wisest of brutes, the elephant roams free.

Ministrant there to health and public good,
The busy axe was heard on every side,
Opening new channels, that the noxious wood
With wind and sunshine might be purified,
And that wise Government, the general friend,
Might every where its eye and arm extend.

The half-brutal Bedah came from his retreat,
To human life by human kindness won;
The Cingalese beheld that work compleat
Which Holland in her day had well begun;
The Candian, prospering under Britain's reign,
Blest the redeeming hand which broke his chain.

Colours and castes were heeded there no more;
Laws which depraved, degraded, and opprest,
Were laid aside, for on that happy shore
All men with equal liberty were blest;
And through the land, the breeze upon its swells
Bore the sweet music of the sabbath bells.

Again the picture changed; those Isles I saw
With every crime thro' three long centuries curst,
While unrelenting Avarice gave the law;
Scene of the injured Indians' sufferings first,
Then doomed, for Europe's lasting shame, to see
The wider-wasting guilt of Slavery.

That foulest blot had been at length effaced;
Slavery was gone, and all the power it gave,
Whereby so long our nature was debased,
Baleful alike to master and to slave.
O lovely Isles! ye were indeed a sight
To fill the spirit with intense delight!

For willing industry and chearful toil
Performed their easy task, with Hope to aid;
And the free children of that happy soil
Dwelt each in peace beneath his cocoa's shade; . .
A race, who with the European mind,
The adapted mould of Africa combined.

Anon, methought that in a spacious Square
Of some great town the goodly ornament,
Three statues I beheld, of sculpture fair:
These, said the Muse, are they whom one consent
Shall there deem worthy of the purest fame; . .
Knowest thou who best such gratitude may claim?

Clarkson, I answered, first; whom to have seen
And known in social hours may be my pride,
Such friendship being praise; and one, I ween,
Is Wilberforce, placed rightly at his side,
Whose eloquent voice in that great cause was heard
So oft and well. But who shall be the third?

Time, said my Teacher, will reveal the name
Of him who with these worthies shall enjoy
The equal honour of enduring fame; . .
He who the root of evil shall destroy,
And from our Laws shall blot the accursed word
Of Slave, shall rightly stand with them preferred.

Enough! the Goddess cried; with that the cloud
Obeyed, and closed upon the magic scene:
Thus much, quoth she, is to thine hopes allowed;
Ills may impede, delays may intervene,
But scenes like these the coming age will bless,
If England but pursue the course of righteousness.

On she must go progressively in good,
In wisdom and in weal, . . or she must wane.
Like Ocean, she may have her ebb and flood,
But stagnates not. And now her path is plain:
Heaven's first command she may fulfil in peace,
Replenishing the earth with her increase.

Peace she hath won, . . with her victorious hand
Hath won through rightful war auspicious peace;
Nor this alone, but that in every land
The withering rule of violence may cease.
Was ever War with such blest victory crowned!
Did ever Victory with such fruits abound!

Rightly for this shall all good men rejoice,
They most who most abhor all deeds of blood;
Rightly for this with reverential voice
Exalt to Heaven their hymns of gratitude;
For ne'er till now did Heaven thy country bless
With such transcendent cause for joy and thankfulness.

If they in heart all tyranny abhor,
This was the fall of Freedom's direst foe;
If they detest the impious lust of war,
Here hath that passion had its overthrow; . .
As the best prospects of mankind are dear,
Their joy should be compleat, their prayers of praise sincere.

And thou to whom in spirit at this hour
The vision of thy Country's bliss is given,
Who feelest that she holds her trusted power
To do the will and spread the word of Heaven, . .
Hold fast the faith which animates thy mind,
And in thy songs proclaim the hopes of humankind.

[pp. 101-92]