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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.


Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)

WE are what suns and winds and waters make us;

The mountains are our sponsors, and the rills

Fashion and win their nursling with their smiles.

But where the land is dim from tyranny,

There tiny pleasures occupy the place

Of glories and of duties; as the feet

Of fabled fairies when the sun goes down

Trip o’er the grass where wrestlers strove by day.

Then Justice, call’d the Eternal One above,

Is more inconstant than the buoyant form

That burst into existence from the froth

Of ever-varying ocean: what is best

Then becomes worst; what loveliest, most deformed.

The heart is hardest in the softest climes,

The passions flourish, the affections die.

O thou vast tablet of these awful truths,

That fillest all the space between the seas,

Spreading from Venice’s deserted courts

To the Tarentine and Hydruntine mole,

What lifts thee up? what shakes thee? ’tis the breath

Of God. Awake, ye nations! spring to life!

Let the last work of his right hand appear

Fresh with his image, Man. Thou recreant slave

That sittest afar off and helpest not,

O thou degenerate Albion! with what shame

Do I survey thee, pushing forth the sponge

At thy spear’s length, in mockery at the thirst

Of holy Freedom in his agony,

And prompt and keen to pierce the wounded side!

Must Italy then wholly rot away

Amid her slime, before she germinate

Into fresh vigour, into form again?

What thunder bursts upon mine ear! some isle

Hath surely risen from the gulfs profound,

Eager to suck the sunshine from the breast

Of beauteous Nature, and to catch the gale

From golden Hermus and Melena’s brow.

A greater thing than isle, than continent,

Than earth itself, than ocean circling earth,

Hath risen there; regenerate Man hath risen.

Generous old bard of Chios! not that Jove

Deprived thee in thy latter days of sight

Would I complain, but that no higher theme

Than a disdainful youth, a lawless king,

A pestilence, a pyre, awoke thy song,

When on the Chian coast, one javelin’s throw

From where thy tombstone, where thy cradle, stood,

Twice twenty self-devoted Greeks assail’d

The naval host of Asia, at one blow

Scattered it into air … and Greece was free …

And ere these glories beam’d, thy day had closed.

Let all that Elis ever saw, give way,

All that Olympian Jove e’er smiled upon:

The Marathonian columns never told

A tale more glorious, never Salamis,

Nor, faithful in the centre of the false,

Platea, nor Anthela, from whose mount

Benignant Ceres wards the blessed Laws,

And sees the Amphictyon dip his weary foot

In the warm streamlet of the strait below.

Goddess! altho’ thy brow was never rear’d

Among the powers that guarded or assail’d

Perfidious Ilion, parricidal Thebes,

Or other walls whose war-belt e’er inclosed

Man’s congregated crimes and vengeful pain,

Yet hast thou touched the extremes of grief and joy;

Grief upon Enna’s mead and Hell’s ascent,

A solitary mother; joy beyond,

Far beyond, that thy woe, in this thy fane;

The tears were human, but the bliss divine.

I, in the land of strangers, and depressed

With sad and certain presage for my own,

Exult at hope’s fresh dayspring, tho’ afar,

There where my youth was not unexercised

By chiefs in willing war and faithful song:

Shades as they were, they were not empty shades,

Whose bodies haunt our world and blear our sun,

Obstruction worse than swamp and shapeless sands.

Peace, praise, eternal gladness, to the souls

That, rising from the seas into the heavens,

Have ransom’d first their country with their blood!

O thou immortal Spartan! at whose name

The marble table sounds beneath my palms,

Leonidas! even thou wilt not disdain

To mingle names august as these with thine;

Nor thou, twin-star of glory, thou whose rays

Stream’d over Corinth on the double sea,

Achaian and Saronic; whom the sons

Of Syracuse, when Death removed thy light,

Wept more than slavery ever made them weep,

But shed (if gratitude is sweet) sweet tears.

The hand that then pour’d ashes o’er their heads

Was loosen’d from its desperate chain by thee.

What now can press mankind into one mass,

For Tyranny to tread the more secure?

From gold alone is drawn the guilty wire

That Adulation trills: she mocks the tone

Of Duty, Courage, Virtue, Piety,

And under her sits Hope. O how unlike

That graceful form in azure vest array’d,

With brow serene, and eyes on heaven alone

In patience fixed, in fondness unobscured!

What monsters coil beneath the spreading tree

Of Despotism! what wastes extend around!

What poison floats upon the distant breeze!

But who are those that cull and deal its fruit?

Creatures that shun the light and fear the shade,

Bloated and fierce, Sleep’s mien and Famine’s cry.

Rise up again, rise in thy dignity,

Dejected Man! and scare this brood away.