Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

I stood, 'mid those concussions, unconcerned,
Tranquil almost, and careless as a flower
Glassed in a green-house, or a parlour shrub
That spreads its leaves in unmolested peace,
While every bush and tree, the country through,
Is shaking to the roots: indifference this 91
Which may seem strange: but I was unpre-
pared

With needful knowledge, had abruptly passed
Into a theatre, whose stage was filled
And busy with an action far advanced.

95

Like others, I had skimmed, and sometimes

read

100

With care, the master pamphlets of the day;
Nor wanted such half-insight as grew wild
Upon that meagre soil, helped out by talk
And public news; but having never seen
A chronicle that might suffice to show
Whence the main organs of the public power
Had sprung, their transmigrations, when and
how

105

[ocr errors]

Accomplished, giving thus unto events
A form and body; all things were to me
Loose and disjointed, and the affections left
Without a vital interest. At that time,
Moreover, the first storm was overblown,
And the strong hand of outward violence
Locked up in quiet. For myself, I fear
Now in connection with so great a theme
To speak (as I must be compelled to do)
Of one so unimportant; night by night
Did I frequent the formal haunts of men,
Whom, in the city, privilege of birth
Sequestered from the rest, societies
Polished in arts, and in punctilio versed;
Whence, and from deeper causes, all discourse
Of good and evil of the time was shunned

115

With scrupulous care; but these restrictions

soon

Proved tedious, and I gradually withdrew
Into a noisier world, and thus ere long
Became a patriot; and my heart was all
Given to the people, and my love was theirs.

120

125

A band of military Officers, Then stationed in the city, were the chief Of my associates: some of these wore swords That had been seasoned in the wars, and all Were men well-born; the chivalry of France. In age and temper differing, they had yet 130 One spirit ruling in each heart; alike (Save only one, hereafter to be named) Were bent upon undoing what was done: This was their rest and only hope; therewith No fear had they of bad becoming worse, 135 For worst to them was come; nor would have

stirred,

Or deemed it worth a moment's thought to stir, In any thing, save only as the act

Looked thitherward. One, reckoning by years, Was in the prime of manhood, and erewhile 140 He had sate lord in many tender hearts; Though heedless of such honours now, and changed:

145

His temper was quite mastered by the times,
And they had blighted him, had eaten away
The beauty of his person, doing wrong
Alike to body and to mind: his port,
Which once had been erect and open, now
Was stooping and contracted, and a face,
Endowed by Nature with her fairest gifts
Of symmetry and light and bloom, expressed,
As much as any that was ever seen,
A ravage out of season, made by thoughts

151

Unhealthy and vexatious. With the hour,
That from the press of Paris duly brought
Its freight of public news, the fever came, 155
A punctual visitant, to shake this man,

Disarmed his voice and fanned his yellow cheek
Into a thousand colours; while he read,

160

165

Or mused, his sword was haunted by his touch
Continually, like an uneasy place
In his own body. 'Twas in truth an hour
Of universal ferment; mildest men
Were agitated; and commotions, strife
Of passions and opinions, filled the walls
Of peaceful houses with unquiet sounds.
The soil of common life, was, at that time,
Too hot to tread upon. Oft said I then,
And not then only, "What a mockery this
Of history, the past and that to come!
Now do I feel how all men are deceived,
Reading of nations and their works, in faith,
Faith given to vanity and emptiness;
Oh! laughter for the page that would reflect
To future times the face of what now is!
The land all swarmed with passion, like a plain
Devoured by locusts,-Carra, Gorsas,-add 176
A hundred other names, forgotten now,

[ocr errors]

170

Nor to be heard of more; yet, they were powers, Like earthquakes, shocks repeated day by day, And felt through every nook of town and field.

Such was the state of things.

the chief

180

Meanwhile

Of my associates stood prepared for flight
To augment the band of emigrants in arms
Upon the borders of the Rhine, and leagued
With foreign foes mustered for instant war. 185
This was their undisguised intent, and they

Were waiting with the whole of their desires The moment to depart.

An Englishman,

Born in a land whose very name appeared
To license some unruliness of mind;

190

A stranger, with youth's further privilege,
And the indulgence that a half-learnt speech
Wins from the courteous; I, who had been else
Shunned and not tolerated, freely lived
With these defenders of the Crown, and talked,
And heard their notions; nor did they disdain
The wish to bring me over to their cause.

194

But though untaught by thinking or by books To reason well of polity or law,

201

And nice distinctions, then on every tongue,
Of natural rights and civil; and to acts
Of nations and their passing interests,
(If with unworldly ends and aims compared)
Almost indifferent, even the historian's tale
Prizing but little otherwise than I prized 295
Tales of the poets, as it made the heart
Beat high, and filled the fancy with fair forms,
Old heroes and their sufferings and their deeds;
Yet in the regal sceptre, and the pomp
Of orders and degrees, I nothing found
Then, or had ever, even in crudest youth,
That dazzled me, but rather what I mourned
And ill could brook, beholding that the best
Ruled not, and feeling that they ought to rule.

210

216

For, born in a poor district, and which yet Retaineth more of ancient homeliness, Than any other nook of English ground, It was my fortune scarcely to have seen, Through the whole tenor of my school-day time, The face of one, who, whether boy or man, 220

Was vested with attention or respect
Through claims of wealth or blood; nor was it
least

Of many benefits, in later years
Derived from academic institutes

226

And rules, that they held something up to view
Of a Republic, where all stood thus far
Upon equal ground; that we were brothers all
In honour, as in one community,

Scholars and gentlemen; where, furthermore,
Distinction open lay to all that came,

230

And wealth and titles were in less esteem
Than talents, worth, and prosperous industry.
And unto this, subservience from the first
To presences of God's mysterious power
Made manifest in Nature's sovereignty,
And fellowship with venerable books,
To sanction the proud workings of the soul,
And mountain liberty. It could not be

235

But that one tutored thus should look with awe

Upon the faculties of man, receive

Gladly the highest promises, and hail,

240

As best, the government of equal rights
And individual worth. And hence, O Friend!
If at the first great outbreak I rejoiced
Less than might well befit my youth, the cause
In part lay here, that unto me the events 246
Seemed nothing out of nature's certain course,
A gift that was come rather late than soon.
No wonder, then, if advocates like these,
Inflamed by passion, blind with prejudice, 250
And stung with injury, at this riper day,
Were impotent to make my hopes put on
The shape of theirs, my understanding bend
In honour to their honour: zeal, which yet
Had slumbered, now in opposition burst
Forth like a Polar summer: every word

255

« AnteriorContinuar »