Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ODE, WRITTEN DURING THE NEGOTIATIONS WITH BONAPARTE, IN JANUARY, 1814, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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ODE, WRITTEN DURING THE NEGOTIATIONS WITH BONAPARTE, IN JANUARY, 1814, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Who counsels peace at this momentous hour
Last Line: Take vengeance for thyself, and for mankind!
Subject(s): Great Britain - Relations With France; Napoleon I (1769-1821)


WHO counsels peace at this momentous hour,
When God hath given deliverance to the oppress'd,
And to the injured power?
Who counsels peace, when vengeance, like a flood,
Rolls on, no longer now to be repress'd;
When innocent blood
From the four corners of the world cries out
For justice upon one accursed head;
When freedom hath her holy banners spread
Over all nations, now in one just cause
United; when, with one sublime accord,
Europe throws off the yoke abhorr'd,
And loyalty, and faith, and ancient laws
Follow the avenging sword!

Wo, wo to England! wo and endless shame,
If this heroic land,
False to her feelings and unspotted fame,
Hold out the olive to the tyrant's hand!
Wo to the world, if Bonaparte's throne
Be suffer'd still to stand!
For by what name shall right and wrong be known, --
What new and courtly phrases must we feign
For falsehood, murder, and all monstrous crimes,
If that perfidious Corsican maintain
Still his detested reign,
And France, who yearns even now to break her chain,
Beneath his iron rule be left to groan?
No! by the innumerable dead,
Whose blood hath for his lust of power been shed,
Death only can for his foul deeds atone;
That peace which death and judgment can bestow,
That peace be Bonaparte's, -- that alone!

For sooner shall the Ethiop change his skin,
Or from the leopard shall her spots depart,
Than this man change his old, flagitious heart.
Have ye not seen him in the balance weigh'd,
And there found wanting? On the stage of blood
Foremost the resolute adventurer stood;
And when, by many a battle won,
He placed upon his brow the crown,
Curbing delirious France beneath his sway,
Then, like Octavius in old time,
Fair name might he have handed down,
Efacing many a stain of former crime.
Fool! should he cast away that bright renown!
Fool! the redemption proffer'd should he lose!
When Heaven sach grace vouchsafed him that the way
To good and evil lay
Before him, which to choose.

But evil was his good,
For all too long in blood had he been nursed,
And ne'er was earth with verier tyrant cursed.
Bold man and bad,
Remorseless, godless, full of fraud and lies,
And black with murders and with perjuries,
Himself in hell's whole panoply he clad;
No law but his own headstrong will he knew,
No counsellor but his own wicked heart.
From evil thus portentous strength he drew,
And trampled under foot all human ties,
All holy laws, all natural charities.

O France! beneath this fierce barbarian's sway
Disgraced thou art to all succeeding times;
Rapine, and blood, and fire have mark'd thy way,
All loathsome, all unutterable crimes.
A curse is on thee, France! from far and wide
It hath gone up to heaven. All lands have cried
For vengeance upon thy detested head!
All nations curse thee, France! for wheresoe'er,
In peace or war, thy banner hath been spread,
All forms of human woe have follow'd there.
The living and the dead
Cry out alike against thee! They who bear,
Crouching beneath its weight, thine iron yoke,
Join in the bitterness of secret prayer
The voice of that innumerable throng,
Whose slaughter'd spirits day and night invoke
The everlasting Judge of right and wrong,
How long, O Lord! Holy and Just, how long!

A merciless oppressor hast thou been,
Thyself remorselessly oppress'd meantime;
Greedy of war, when all that thou couldst gain
Was but to dye thy soul with deeper crime,
And rivet faster round thyself the chain.
Oh! blind to honour, and to interest blind,
When thus in abject servitude resign'd
To this barbarian upstart, thou couldst brave
God's justice, and the heart of human-kind!
Madly thou thoughtest to enslave the world,
Thyself the while a miserable slave.
Behold, the flag of vengeance is unfurl'd!
The dreadful armies of the North advance;
While England, Portugal, and Spain combined,
Give their triumphant banners to the wind,
And stand victorious in the fields of France.

One man hath been for ten long, wretched years
The cause of all this blood and all these tears;
One man in this most awful point of time
Draws on thy danger, as he caused thy crime.
Wait not too long the event,
For now whole Europe comes against thee bent:
His wiles and their own strength the nations know:
Wise from past wrongs, on future peace intent,
The people and the princes, with one mind,
From all parts move against the general foe;
One act of justice, one atoning blow,
One execrable head laid low,
Even yet, O France! averts thy punishment.
Open thine eyes! -- too long hast thou been blind
Take vengeance for thyself, and for mankind!

France! if thou lovest thine ancient fame,
Revenge thy sufferings and thy shame!
By the bones which bleach on Jaffa's beach;
By the blood which on Domingo's shore
Hath clogg'd the carrion-birds with gore;
By the flesh which gorged the wolves of Spain,
Or stiffen'd on the snowy plain
Of frozen Moscovy;
By the bodies, which lie all open to the sky,
Tracking from Elbe to Rhine the tyrant's flight;
By the widow's and the orphan's cry;
By the childless parent's misery;
By the lives which he hath shed;
By the ruin he hath spread;
By the prayers which rise for curses on his head, --
Redeem, O France! thine ancient fame,
Revenge thy sufferings and thy shame,
Open thine eyes! -- too long hast thou been blind;
Take vengeance for thyself, and for mankind!

By those horrors which the night
Witness'd when the torches' light
To the assembled murderers show'd
Where the blood of Conde flow'd;
By thy murder'd Pichegru's fame;
By murder'd Wright -- an English name;
By murder'd Palm's atrocious doom;
By murder'd Hofer's martyrdom, --
Oh! by the virtuous blood thus vilely spilt,
The villain's own peculiar, private guilt,
Open thine eyes! -- too long hast thou been blind;
Take vengeance for thyself, and for mankind!





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