Before we sketch the Present--let us cast
A few, short, rapid glances to the Past.
When he, who had defied all Europe's strength,
Beneath his own weak rashness sunk at length;--
When, loosed as if by magic from a chain
That seemed like Fate's the world was free again,
And Europe saw, rejoicing in the sight,
The cause of Kings, for once, the cause of Right;--
Then was, indeed, an hour of joy to those
Who sighed for justice--liberty--repose,
And hoped the fall of one great vulture's nest
Would ring its warning round, and scare the rest.
All then was bright with promise;--Kings began
To own a sympathy with suffering Man,
And man was grateful; Patriots of the South
Caught wisdom from a Cossack Emperor's mouth,
And heard, like accents thawed in Northern air,
Unwonted words of freedom burst forth there!
Who did not hope, in that triumphant time,
When monarchs, after years of spoil and crime,
Met round the shrine of Peace, and Heaven lookt on;--
Who did not hope the lust of spoil was gone;
That that rapacious spirit, which had played
The game of Pilnitz o'er so oft, was laid;
And Europe's Rulers, conscious of the past,
Would blush and deviate into right at last?
But no--the hearts, that nurst a hope so fair,
Had yet to learn what men on thrones can dare;
Had yet to know, of all earth's ravening things,
The only quite untameable are Kings!
Scarce had they met when, to its nature true,
The instinct of their race broke out anew;
Promises, treaties, charters, all were vain,
And "Rapine! rapine!" was the cry again.
How quick they carved their victims, and how well,
Let Saxony, let injured Genoa tell;-
Let all the human stock that, day by day,
Was, at that Royal slave-mart, truckt away,--
The million souls that, in the face of heaven,
Were split to fractions, bartered, sold or given
To swell some despot Power, too huge before,
And weigh down Europe with one Mammoth more.
How safe the faith of Kings let France decide;--
Her charter broken, ere its ink had dried;--
Her Press enthralled--her Reason mockt again
With all the monkery it had spurned in vain;
Her crown disgraced by one, who dared to own
He thankt not France but England for his throne;
Her triumphs cast into the shade by those,
Who had grown old among her bitterest foes,
And now returned, beneath her conqueror's shields,
Unblushing slaves! to claim her heroes' fields;
To tread down every trophy of her fame,
And curse that glory which to them was shame!--
Let these--let all the damning deeds, that then
Were dared thro' Europe, cry aloud to men,
With voice like that of crashing ice that rings
Round Alpine huts, the perfidy of Kings;
And tell the world, when hawks shall harmless bear
The shrinking dove, when wolves shall learn to spare
The helpless victim for whose blood they lusted,
Then and then only monarchs may be trusted.
It could not last--these horrors could not last--
France would herself have risen in might to cast
The insulters off--and oh! that then as now,
Chained to some distant islet's rocky brow,
NAPOLEON ne'er had come to force, to blight,
Ere half matured, a cause so proudly bright;--
To palsy patriot arts with doubt and shame,
And write on Freedom's flag a despot's name;--
To rush into the list, unaskt, alone,
And make the stake of all the game of one!
Then would the world have seen again what power
A people can put forth in Freedom's hour;
Then would the fire of France once more have blazed;--
For every single sword, reluctant raised
In the stale cause of an oppressive throne,
Millions would then have leaped forth in her own;
And never, never had the unholy stain
Of Bourbon feet disgraced her shores again.
But fate decreed not so--the Imperial Bird,
That, in his neighboring cage, unfeared, unstirred,
Had seemed to sleep with head beneath his wing,
Yet watched the moment for a daring spring;--
Well might he watch, when deeds were done, that made
His own transgressions whiten in their shade;
Well might he hope a world thus trampled o'er
By clumsy tyrants would be his once more:--
Forth from his cage the eagle burst; to light,
From steeple on to steeple winged his flight,
With calm and easy grandeur, to that throne
From which a Royal craven just had flown;
And resting there, as in his eyry, furled
Those wings, whose very rustling shook the world!
What was your fury then, ye crowned array,
Whose feast of spoil, whose plundering holiday
Was thus broke up, in all its greedy mirth,
By one bold chieftain's stamp on Gallic earth!
Fierce was the cry, and fulminant the ban,--
"Assassinate, who will--enchain, who can,
"The vile, the faithless, outlawed, lowborn man!"
"Faithless!"--and this from you--from you, forsooth,
Ye pious Kings, pure paragons of truth,
Whose honesty all knew, for all had tried;
Whose true Swiss zeal had served on every side;
Whose fame for breaking faith so long was known,
Well might ye claim the craft as all your own,
And lash your lordly tails and fume to see
Such low-born apes of Royal perfidy!
Yes--yes--to you alone did it belong
To sin for ever, and yet ne'er do wrong,--
The frauds, the lies of Lords legitimate
Are but fine policy, deep strokes of state;
But let some upstart dare to soar so high
In Kingly craft, and "outlaw" is the cry!
What, tho' long years of mutual treachery
Had peopled full your diplomatic shelves
With ghosts of treaties, murdered 'mong yourselves;
Tho' each by turns was knave and dupe--what then?
A holy League would set all straight again;
Like JUNO'S virtue, which a dip or two
In some blest fountain made as good as new!
Most faithful Russia--faithful to whoe'er
Could plunder best and give him amplest share;
Who, even when vanquisht, sure to gain his ends,
For want of foes to rob, made free with friends,
And, deepening still by amiable gradations,
When foes were stript of all, then fleeced relations!
Most mild and saintly Prussia--steeped to the ears
In persecuted Poland's blood and tears,
And now, with all her harpy wings outspread
O'er severed Saxony's devoted head!
Pure Austria too--whose history naught repeats
But broken leagues and subsidized defeats;
Whose faith, as Prince, extinguisht Venice shows,
Whose faith, as man, a widowed daughter knows!
And thou, oh England--who, tho' once as shy
As cloistered maids, of shame or perfidy,
Art now broke in, and, thanks to CASTLEREAGH,
In all that's worst and falsest lead'st the way!
Such was the pure divan, whose pens and wits
The escape from Elba frightened into fits;--
Such were the saints, who doomed NAPOLEON'S life,
In virtuous frenzy, to the assassin's knife.
Disgusting crew!--who would not gladly fly
To open, downright, bold-faced tyranny,
To honest guilt, that dares do all but lie,
From the false, juggling craft of men like these,
Their canting crimes and varnisht villanies;--
These Holy Leaguers, who then loudest boast
Of faith and honor, when they've stained them most;
From whose affection men should shrink as loath
As from their hate, for they'll be fleeced by both;
Who, even while plundering, forge Religion's name
To frank their spoil, and without fear or shame
Call down the Holy Trinity to bless
Partition leagues and deeds of devilishness!
But hold--enough--soon would this swell of rage
O'erflow the boundaries of my scanty page;--
So, here I pause--farewell--another day,
Return we to those Lords of prayer and prey,
Whose loathsome cant, whose frauds by right divine,
Deserve a lash--oh! weightier far than mine!