To Dr. Moore,
IN ANSWER TO A POETICAL EPISTLE WRITTEN TO
ME BY HIM IN WALES, SEPTEMBER 1791.
WHILE in long exile far from you I roam,
To soothe my heart with images of home,
For me, my friend, with rich poetic grace
The landscapes of my native Isle you trace;
Her cultur'd meadows, and her lavish shades,
The rivers winding through her lovely glades;
Far as where, frowning on the flood below,
The rough Welsh mountain lifts its craggy brow.
Meanwhile my steps have stray'd where Autumn yields
A purple harvest on the sunny fields;
Where, bending with their luscious weight, recline
The loaded branches of the clust'ring vine;
There, on the Loire's sweet banks, a joyful band
Cull'd the rich produce of the fruitful land;
The youthful peasant, and the village maid,
And age and childhood lent their feeble aid.
The labours of the morning done, they haste
Where in the field is spread the light repast;
The vintage-baskets serve, revers'd, for chairs,
And the gay meal is crown'd with tuneless airs.
Delightful land! ah, now with gen'ral voice,
Thy village sons and daughters may rejoice;
Thy happy peasant, now no more a slave,
Forbad to taste one good that nature gave,
No longer views with unavailing pain
The lavish harvest, ripe for him in vain.
Oppression's cruel hand shall dare no more
To seize its tribute from his scanty store;
And from his famish'd infants wring the spoils,
Too hard-earn'd produce of his useful toils;
For now on Gallia's plain the peasant knows
Those equal rights impartial heav'n bestows;
He now, by freedom's ray illumin'd, taught
Some self-respect, some energy of thought,
Discerns the blessings that to all belong,
And lives to guard his humble shed from wrong.
Auspicious Liberty! in vain thy foes
Deride thy ardour, and thy force oppose;
In vain refuse to mark thy spreading light,
While, like the mole, they hide their heads in night,
Or hope their eloquence with taper-ray
Can dim the blaze of philosophic day;
Those reas'ners, who pretend that each abuse,
Sanction'd by precedent, has some blest use!
Does then a chemic power to time belong,
Extracting by some process right from wrong?
Must feudal governments for ever last,
Those Gothic piles, the work of ages past?
Nor may obtrusive reason dare to scan,
Far less reform, the rude, mishapen plan?
The winding labyrinths, the hostile towers,
Where danger threatens, and where horror lowers;
The jealous drawbridge, and the mote profound,
The lonely dungeon in the cavern'd ground;
The sullen dome above those central caves,
Where liv'd one despot and a host of slaves?--
Ah, Freedom, on this renovated shore
That fabric frights the moral world no more!
Shook to its basis by thy powerful spell,
Its triple walls in massy fragments fell;
While, rising from the hideous wreck, appears
The temple thy firm arm sublimely rears;
Of fair proportions, and of simple grace,
A mansion worthy of the human race.
For me, the witness of those scenes, whose birth
Forms a new era in the storied earth;
Oft, while with glowing breast those scenes I view,
They lead, ah friend belov'd, my thoughts to you!
Still every fine emotion they impart
With your idea mingles in my heart;
You, whom I oft have heard, with gen'rous zeal,
With all that truth can urge, or pity feel,
Refute the pompous argument, that tried
The common cause of millions to deride;
With reason's force the plausive sophist hit,
Or dart on folly the bright flash of wit;
And warmly share, with philosophic mind,
The great, the glorious triumph of mankind.