The Third Of February, 1852

A poem by Alfred Tennyson

My Lords, we heard you speak: you told us all
That England’s honest censure went too far,
That our free press should cease to brawl,
Not sting the fiery Frenchman into war.
It was our ancient privilege, my Lords,
To fling whate’er we felt, not fearing, into words.

We love not this French God, the child of hell,
Wild War, who breaks the converse of the wise;
But though we love kind Peace so well,
We dare not even by silence sanction lies.
It might be safe our censures to withdraw,
And yet, my Lords, not well; there is a higher law.

As long as we remain, we must speak free,
Tho’ all the storm of Eurpoe on us break.
No little German state are we,
But the one voice in Europe; we must speak,
That if to-night our greatness were struck dead,
There might be left some record of the things we said.

If you be fearful, then must we be bold.
Our Britain cannot salve a tyrant o’er.
Better the waste Atlantic roll’d
On her and us and ours for evermore.
What? have we fought for Freedom from our prime,
At last to dodge and palter with a public crime?

Shall we fear him? our own we never fear’d.
From our first Charles by force we wrung our claims.
Prick’d by the Papal spur, we rear’d,
We flung the burthen of the second James.
I say, we never fear’d! and as for these,
We broke them on the land, we drove them on the seas.

And you, my Lords, you make the people muse
In doubt if you be of our Barons’ breed–
Were those your sires who fought at Lewes?
Is this the manly strain of Runnymede?
O fallen nobility that, overawed,
Would lisp in honey’d whispers of this monstrous fraud!

We feel, at least, that silence here were sin,
Not ours the fault if we have feeble hosts–
If easy patrons of their kin
Have left the last free race with naked coasts!
They knew the precious things they had to guard;
For us, we will not spare the tyrant one hard word.

Tho’ niggard throats of Manchester may bawl,
What England was, shall her true sons forget?
We are not cotton-spinners all,
But some love England and her honor yet.
And these in our Thermopylæ shall stand,
And hold against the world this honor of the land.

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