Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BRUCE: IN PRAISE OF FREEDOM, by JOHN BARBOUR

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

BRUCE: IN PRAISE OF FREEDOM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Alas! That folk who once were free
Last Line: The sore condition of a thrall!
Subject(s): Freedom; Liberty

ALAS! that folk who once were free,
And wont in freedom aye to be,
Thro' their mischance and folly great
Were fallen on such woeful state,
Had made him judge who erst was foe --
What greater sorrow might man know?
Ah, Freedom is a noble thing!
Freedom a man to joy doth bring,
Freedom to man sweet solace gives,
He lives at ease who freely lives!
A noble heart may find no ease,
In life is naught that shall him please,
If Freedom fails, for to be free
Above all things desired shall be.
Only the man who lived before
In Freedom, knows the anguish sore,
The wrath, the wretchedness and pain
That's coupled with foul thralldom's chain.
But let him once have tested it
And then I trow he well shall wit,
And Freedom prize, and dearer hold
Than all of this world's wealth in gold;
Thus evermore things opposite
The worth of each doth bring to light.
And naught the thrall his own may call
For that he has abandoned all
Unto his lord, whoe'er he be --
Yet is he still in no wise free
To live as pleaseth him, or do
That which his heart inclines him to.
Hereof do clerks a question take
And often disputation make,
That, if a man shall bid his thrall
Do aught, and that his wife, withal,
Doth come, her right of him to pray,
Shall he his lord's command let stay,
First pay his debt, ere that he go
His lord's commandment for to do?
Or shall he leave his wife unpaid
Till that his lord's will be obeyed?
I trow that question they may try
Who be more skilled in subtlety,
But since they think there lieth strife
Betwixt the rights of wedded life
And a lord's bidding to his thrall,
Ye need no words from me withal
The ills of thralldom well to see --
For men may know, who wedded be,
That marriage is the hardest band
That any man may take on hand.
But thralldom shall be worse than death --
For while a thrall may draw his breath
It mars his life in flesh and bone,
Death vexeth him but once alone.
In short, it passeth telling all
The sore condition of a thrall!

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