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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

HUMAN DEBASEMENT; A FRAGMENT, by                    
First Line: In early days / if kings were made by men
Last Line: All, all these works are thine!
Subject(s): Freedom; Humanity; Men; Religion; Tyranny & Tyrants; Liberty; Theology

IN early days

If kings were made by men, and that they were
The light of Nature clearly shows,
How comes it then that earth is filled with slaves?
How comes it then that man, this reasoning thing,
This being with such faculties endowed,
This being formed to trace the great First Cause
Through many a wond'rous path,—how comes it then
That he, in every clime, should cringe, should crouch,
Should bend th' imploring eye and trembling knee
To mere self-raised oppressors? Heav'ns! to think
That not a tithe of all the sons of men
E'er kissed thy sacred cup, O Liberty!
To find, where'er imagination roves,
Millions on millions prostrate in the dust,
Whilst o'er their necks, with proud contemptuous mien,
Kings, emperors, sultans, sophies, what you will,
With all their pampered minions, sorely press,
Grinding God's creatures to the very bone,
Yet man submits to all! He tamely licks
The foot upraised to trample on his rights:
He shakes his chains, and in their horrid clank
Finds melody; else why not throw 'em off?
Seven hundred millions of the human kind
Are held in base subjection, and by whom?
Why, strange to tell, and what futurity,
As children at the tales of witch or spirit,
Will bless themselves to hear, by a small troop
Of weak capricious despots, fiends accursed,
Who drench the earth with tides of human gore
And call the havoc glory! Britons, yes!
Seven hundred millions of your fellow men,
All formed like you the blessing to enjoy,
Now drag the servile chain. Oh fie upon't!
'Twere better far within the clay-cold cell
To waste away, than be at such a price!
Poor whip-galled slaves! Oh! 'tis debasement all!
'Tis filthy cowardice, and shows that man
Merits too oft, by his degenerate deeds,
The yoke which bends him down. Power's limpid stream
Must have its source within a people's heart:
What flows not thence is turbid tyranny.
Rank are the despots' weeds which now o'er-run
This ample world, and choke each goodly growth;
But that supine loud vaunting thing, called man,
Might soon eradicate so foul a pest,
Would he exert those powers which God has given
To be the means of good; and what more good,
More rational, nay, more approaching heav'n,
Than the strong joys which flow from Freedom's fount?
Yon radiant orb, vast emblem of the Pow'r
Who formed him, beams alike on all mankind;
The air which, like a mantle, girts the world
Is too a common good; and even so,
With amplest bounty, Liberty is given
To man, whate'er his tint, swart, brown, or fair;
Whate'er his clime, hot, cold, or temperate;
Whate'er his mode of faith, whate'er his state,
Or rich, or poor, great Nature cries 'Be free'.
How comes it then that man neglects the call?
Nay, like the callous felon, chuckles loud
Amidst corroding chains? Can that Great Cause
Who made man free, both mind and body free,
And gave him reason as a sentinel
To guard the glorious gift, can he be pleased
To see his rich donation cast away,
Or passed with inattention, as not worth
Th' acceptance of his creatures? No, my friends:
Whate'er God gives he gives to be enjoyed,
But not abused; and the mean wretch, who 'neath
A tyrant's feet this precious jewel throws,
Spurns the vast Power who placed it in his hands.
How comes it then that minds are thus abased?
That man, though Nature loudly calls 'Be free,'
Has closed his ears against her, and become
A mean, a grov'lling wretch! Why thus it is,
O Superstition! thou who point'st to man
And call'st the fragile piece a demi-god;
Yes, thou who wand'rest o'er the world, arrayed
In pure Religion's mantle; thou whose breath
Conveys those potent opiates to the brain
Which bring on reason's sleep; O! dark-browed fiend,
All, all these works are thine!

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