Home  »  Poetry of Byron  »  The Landed Interest

Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

IV. Satiric

The Landed Interest

(Age of Bronze, Stanza 14.)

ALAS, the country! how shall tongue or pen

Bewail her now uncountry gentlemen?

The last to bid the cry of warfare cease,

The first to make a malady of peace.

For what were all these country patriots born?

To hunt, and vote, and raise the price of corn?

But corn, like every mortal thing, must fall;

Kings, conquerors—and markets most of all.

And must ye fall with every ear of grain?

Why would you trouble Buonaparte’s reign?

He was your great Triptolemus; his vices

Destroy’d but realms, and still maintain’d your prices;

He amplified to every lord’s content

The grand agrarian alchymy, hight rent.

Why did the tyrant stumble on the Tartars,

And lower wheat to such desponding quarters?

Why did you chain him on yon isle so lone?

The man was worth much more upon his throne.

True, blood and treasure boundlessly were spilt,

But what of that? the Gaul may bear the guilt;

But bread was high, the farmer paid his way,

And acres told upon the appointed day.

But where is now the goodly audit ale?

The purse-proud tenant, never known to fail?

The farm which never yet was left on hand?

The marsh reclaim’d to most improving land?

The impatient hope of the expiring lease?

The doubling rental?—What an evil’s peace!

In vain the prize excites the ploughman’s skill,

In vain the Commons pass their patriot bill;

The landed interest—(you may understand

The phrase much better leaving out the land)—

The land self-interest groans from shore to shore,

For fear that plenty should attain the poor.

Up, up again, ye rents! exalt your notes,

Or else the ministry will lose their votes,

And patriotism, so delicately nice,

Her loaves will lower to the market price;

For ah! “the loaves and fishes,” once so high,

Are gone—their oven closed, their ocean dry,

And nought remains of all the millions spent,

Excepting to grow moderate and content.

They who are not so, had their turn—and turn

About still flows from Fortune’s equal urn;

Now let their virtue be its own reward,

And share the blessings which themselves prepared.

See these inglorious Cincinnati swarm,

Farmers of war, dictators of the farm;

Their ploughshare was the sword in hireling hands,

Their fields manured by gore of other lands;

Safe in their barns, these Sabine tillers sent

Their brethren out to battle—why? for rent!

Year after year they voted cent per cent,

Blood, sweat, and tear-wrung millions—why? for rent!

They roar’d, they dined, they drank, they swore they meant

To die for England—why then live?—for rent!

The peace has made one general malcontent

Of these high-market patriots; war was rent!

Their love of country, millions all mis-spent,

How reconcile? by reconciling rent!

And will they not repay the treasures lent?

No: down with every thing, and up with rent!

Their good, ill, health, wealth, joy, or discontent,

Being, end, aim, religion—rent, rent, rent!