Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CONTRAST BETWEEN TWO LORDS AT THEIR EXECUTION, by JOHN BYROM



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THE CONTRAST BETWEEN TWO LORDS AT THEIR EXECUTION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: As crowds attended when the fatal blow
Last Line: "and balmerino call, ""a valiant martyr."
Subject(s): Balmerino, Arthur Elphinstone, Lord; Capital Punishment; Crime & Criminals; Jacobite Rebellion (1745-1746); Kilmarnock, William Boyd, Earl Of; Punishment; Hanging; Executions; Death Penalty


AS crowds attended when the fatal blow
Took off Kilmarnock and Balmerino,
Men were surpris'd that warriors on a side
Should in the common field of death divide:
By the same path descending to the grave,
In the same cause so widely to behave!—
What turns of anger, pity, censure, praise,
Did such a contrast of deportment raise!

ONE, struck with horror at rebellion's crime,
Seeks by repentance to redeem the time;
Begs of offended Majesty the grace,
That future conduct may the past efface;
Would live,—but only till his blood be spilt
In such a cause as may atone for guilt;
Would die,—if such shall be his SOVEREIGN'S doom,
And, praying for HIS race, approach the tomb.

Approach he must, and be the first to bleed;
The scene beheld—'Tis terrible indeed!
The sable scaffold, coffin, axe, and block,
And circling eyes, on him concenter'd, shock
Yet not confound: instructed to prepare,
He meets with death too serious to dare;
Receives (his crime avow'd, and mercy clos'd)
Th' impending stroke reluctantly compos'd.

THE OTHER, firm and steady in the cause
Of injur'd monarchs and of ancient laws,
By change of conduct never stain'd his fame,—
Child, youth, and man,—his principles the same.
How greatly generous his last adieu,
That from his friend one more confession drew!
He clears his Prince's honour and his own,
And only sorrows not to die alone.

"Pledge me," he cries, "one step to heav'n, my friends!"
And in his wonted dress thereon ascends;
Scorning when past thro' life with conscience clear,
In death to play the hypocrite and fear.
His head adorned with the Scottish plaid,
His heart confiding upon God for aid,
He as a guest, invites his welcome fate,
Fearless, intrepid, gallant, and sedate.

What shall we say?—If both of them were bad,—
The one was coward, and the other mad;
If one was wrong,—the other in the right;
The which—'tis plain to ev'ry party wight.
If each obey'd the dictates of his breast,
And of true worth sincerity be test,
Then to KILMARNOCK'S penitence give quarter,
And BALMERINO call, "a valiant martyr."





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