by Thomas Campbell
Suggested by an apologue in the works of Franklin.
Two spirits reach'd this world of ours:
The lightning's locomotive powers
Were slow to their agility:
In broad day-light they moved incog.,
Enjoying without mist or fog,
The one, a simple cherub lad,
Much interest in our planet had,
Its face was so romantic;
He couldn't persuade himself that man
Was such as heavenly rumours ran,
A being base and frantic.
The elder spirit, wise and cool,
Brought down the youth as to a school;
But strictly on condition,
Whatever they should see or hear,
With mortals not to interfere;
'Twas not in their commission.
They reach'd a sovereign city proud,
Whose emperor pray'd to God aloud,
With all his people kneeling,
And priests perform'd religious rites:
Come, said the younger of the sprites,
This shows a pious feeling.
Ar'n't these a decent godly race?
The dirtiest thieves on Nature's face.
But hark, what cheers they're giving
Their emperor! -- And is he a thief?
Ay, and a cut-throat too; -- in brief,
THE GREATEST SCOUNDREL LIVING.
But say, what were they praying for,
This people and their emperor?
Why, for God's assistance
To help their army, late sent out:
And what that army is about,
You'll see at no great distance.
On wings outspeeding mail or post,
Our sprites o'ertook the imperial host,
In massacres it wallow'd:
A noble nation met its hordes,
But broken fell their cause and swords,
Unfortunate, though hallow'd.
They saw a late bombarded town,
Its streets still warm with blood ran down;
Still smoked each burning rafter;
And hideously, 'midst rape and sack,
The murderer's laughter answer'd back
His prey's convulsive laughter.
They saw the captive eye the dead,
With envy of his gory bed, --
Death's quick reward of bravery:
They heard the clank of chains, and then
Saw thirty thousand bleeding men
Dragg'd manacled to slavery.
Fie! fie! the younger heavenly spark
we must have miss'd our mark,
And enter'd hell's own portals:
Earth can't be stain'd with crimes so black;
Nay, sure, we've got among a pack
Of fiends, and not of mortals?
No, said the elder;
no such thing:
Fiends are not fools enough to wring
The necks of one another: --
They know their interests too well:
Men fight; but every devil in hell
Lives friendly with his brother.
And I could point you out some fellows,
On this ill-fated planet Tellus,
In royal power that revel;
Who, at the opening of the book
Of judgment, may have cause to look
With envy at the devil.
Name but the devil, and he'll appear.
Old Satan in a trice was near,
With smutty face and figure:
But spotless spirits of the skies
Unseen to e'en his saucer eyes,
Could watch the fiendish nigger.
Halloo! he cried,
I smell a trick:
A mortal supersedes Old Nick,
The scourge of earth appointed:
He robs me of my trade, outrants
The blasphemy of hell, and vaunts
Himself the Lord's anointed!
Folks make a fuss about my mischief:
D-----d fools; they tamely suffer this chief
To play his pranks unbounded.
The cherubs flew; but saw from high,
At human inhumanity,
The devil himself astounded.
Source:The Poetical Works Of Thomas Campbell
Little, Brown, And Company, Boston