Ode to Liberty

by William Collins


Who shall awake the Spartan fife,
And call in solemn sounds to life
The youths, whose locks divinely spreading,
Like vernal hyacinths in sullen hue,
At once the breath of Fear and Virtue shedding,
Applauding Freedom lov'd of old to view?
What new Alcæus, fancy-blest,
Shall sing the sword, in myrtles drest,
At Wisdom's shrine a-while its flame concealing,
(What place so fit to seal a deed renown'd?)
Till she her brightest lightnings round revealing,
It leap'd in glory forth, and dealt her prompted wound!
O Goddess, in that feeling hour,
When most its sounds would court thy ears,
Let not my shell's misguided pow'r,
E'er draw thy sad, thy mindful tears.
No, Freedom, no, I will not tell,
How Rome, before thy weeping face,
With heaviest sound, a giant-statue, fell,
Push'd by a wild and artless race,
From off its wide ambitious base,
When Time his northern sons of spoil awoke,
And all the blended work of strength and grace,
With many a rude repeated stroke,
And many a barb'rous yell, to thousand fragments broke.


Yet ev'n, where'er the least appear'd,
Th' admiring world thy hand rever'd;
Still 'midst the scatter'd states around,
Some remnants of her strength were found;
They saw by what escap'd the storm,
How wond'rous rose her perfect form;
How in the great the labour'd whole,
Each mighty master pour'd his soul!
For sunny Florence, seat of Art,
Beneath her vines preserv'd a part,
Till they, whom Science lov'd to name,
(O who could fear it?) quench'd her flame.
And lo, an humbler relic laid
In jealous Pisa's olive shade!
See small Marino joins the theme,
Tho' least, not last in thy esteem:
Strike, louder strike th' ennobling strings
To those whose merchant sons were kings;
To him, who deck'd with pearly pride,
In Adria weds his green-hair'd bride;
Hail Port of Glory, Wealth, and Pleasure,
Ne'er let me change this Lydian measure:
Nor e'er her former pride relate,
To sad Liguria's bleeding state.
Ah no! more pleas'd thy haunts I seek,
On wild Helvetia's mountains bleak:
(Where, when the favor'd of thy choice,
The daring archer heard thy voice;
Forth from his eyrie rous'd in dread,
The rav'ning eagle northward fled.)
Or dwell in willow'd meads more near,
With those to whom thy stork is dear:
Those whom the rod of Alva bruis'd,
Whose crown a British queen refus'd!
The magic works, thou feel'st the strains,
One holier name alone remains;
The perfect spell shall then avail,
Hail Nymph, ador'd by Britain, hail!


Beyond the measure vast of thought,
The works, the wizard Time has wrought!
The Gaul, 'tis held of antique story,
Saw Britain link'd to his now adverse strand,
No sea between, nor cliff sublime and hoary,
He pass'd with unwet feet thro' all our land.
To the blown Baltic then, they say,
The wild waves found another way,
Where Orcas howls, his wolfish mountains rounding,
Till all the banded West at once 'gan rise,
A wide wild storm ev'n Nature's self confounding,
With'ring her giant sons with strange uncouth surprise.
This pillar'd Earth so firm and wide,
By winds and inward labours torn,
In thunders dread was push'd aside,
And down the should'ring billows borne.
And see, like gems, her laughing train,
The little isles on ev'ry side,
Mona, once hid from those who search the main,
Where thousand elfin shapes abide,
And Wight who checks the west'ring tide,
For thee consenting Heav'n has each bestow'd,
A fair attendant on her sov'reign pride:
To thee this blest divorce she ow'd,
For thou hast made her vales thy lov'd, thy last abode!


Then too, 'tis said, an hoary pile,
'Midst the green navel of our Isle,
Thy shrine in some religious wood,
O soul-enforcing Goddess, stood!
There oft the painted native's feet,
Were wont thy form celestial meet:
Tho' now with hopeless toil we trace
Time's backward rolls, to find its place;
Whether the fiery-tressed Dane,
Or Roman's self o'erturn'd the fane,
Or in what Heav'n-left age it fell,
'Twere hard for modern song to tell.
Yet still, if truth those beams infuse,
Which guide at once, and charm the Muse,
Beyond yon braided clouds that lie,
Paving the light-embroider'd sky:
Amidst the bright pavilion'd plains,
The beauteous model still remains.
There happier than in islands blest,
Or bow'rs by Spring or Hebe drest,
The chiefs who fill our Albion's story,
In warlike weeds, retir'd in glory,
Hear their consorted Druids sing
Their triumphs to th' immortal string.
How may the poet now unfold
What never tongue or numbers told?
How learn delighted, and amaz'd,
What hands unknown that fabric rais'd?
Ev'n now before his favour'd eyes,
In Gothic pride it seems to rise!
Yet Græcia's graceful orders join,
Majestic thro' the mix'd design;
The secret builder knew to choose,
Each sphere-found gem of richest hues:
Whate'er Heav'n's purer mould contains,
When nearer suns emblaze its veins;
There on the walls the patriot's sight,
May ever hang with fresh delight,
And, grav'd with some prophetic rage,
Read Albion's fame thro' ev'ry age.
Ye forms divine, ye laureate band,
That near her inmost altar stand!
Now soothe her, to her blissful train
Blithe Concord's social form to gain:
Concord, whose myrtle wand can steep
Ev'n Anger's blood-shot eyes in sleep:
Before whose breathing bosom's balm,
Rage drops his steel, and storms grow clam;
Her let our sires and matrons hoar
Welcome to Britain's ravag'd shore,
Our youths, enamour'd of the fair,
Play with the tangles of her hair,
Till in one loud applauding sound,
The Nations shout to her around,
O how supremely art thou blest,
Thou, Lady, thou shalt rule the West!

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