To Sir Francis Burdett
by Thomas Campbell
On his speech delivered in parliament, August 7, 1832, respecting the foreign policy of Great Britain.
Burdett, enjoy thy justly foremost fame,
Through good and ill report -- through calm and storm --
For forty years the pilot of reform!
But that which shall afresh entwine thy name
With patriot laurels never to be sere,
Is that thou hast come nobly forth to chide
Our slumbering statesmen for their lack of pride --
Their flattery of Oppressors, and their fear --
When Britain's lifted finger, and her frown,
Might call the nations up, and cast their tyrants down!
Invoke the scorn -- Alas! too few inherit
The scorn for despots cherished by our sires,
That baffled Europe's persecuting fires,
And shelter'd helpless states! -- Recall that spirit,
And conjure back Old England's haughty mind --
Convert the men who waver now, and pause
Between their love of self and humankind;
And move, Amphion-like, those hearts of stone --
The hearts that have been deaf to Poland's dying groan!
Tell them, we hold the Rights of Man too dear,
To bless ourselves with lonely freedom blest;
But could we hope, with sole and selfish breast,
To breathe untroubled Freedom's atmosphere? --
Suppose we wish'd it? England could not stand
A lone oasis in the desert ground
Of Europe's slavery; from the waste around
Oppression's fiery blast and whirling sand
Would reach and scathe us? No; it may not be:
Britannia and the world conjointly must be free!
Burdett, demand why Britons send abroad
Soft greetings to th' infanticidal Czar,
The Bear on Poland's babes that wages war.
Once, we are told, a mother's shriek o'erawed
A lion, and he dropt her lifted child;
But Nicholas, whom neither God nor law,
Nor Poland's shrieking mothers, overawe,
Outholds to us his friendship's gory clutch:
Shrink, Britain -- shrink, my king and country, from the touch!
He prays to Heaven for England's king, he says --
And dares he to the God of mercy kneel,
Besmear'd with massacres from head to heel?
No; Moloch is his God -- to him he prays
And if his weird-like prayers had power to bring
An influence, their power would be to curse.
His hate is baleful, but his love is worse --
A serpent's slaver deadlier than its sting!
Oh, feeble statesmen -- ignominious times,1
That lick the tyrant's feet, and smile upon his crimes!
Notes to the poem:
1There is not upon record a more disgusting scene of Russian hypocrisy, and (woe that it must be written!) of British humiliation, than that which passed on board the Talavera, when British sailors accepted money from the Emperor Nicholas, and gave him cheers. It will require the Talavera to fight well with the first Russian ship that she may have to encounter, to make us forget that day.
Source:The Poetical Works Of Thomas Campbell
Little, Brown, And Company, Boston