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Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law,
Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe.
Hence all obedience bows to these alone,
And talent sinks, and merit weeps unknown;
Till time may come when, stripp'd of all her charms,
The land of scholars, and the nurse of arms—
Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame,
Where kings have toil'd, and poets wrote for fame— 358
One sink of level avarice shall lie,
And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonor'd die.
Yet think not, thus when freedom's ills I state,
I mean to flatter kings, or court the great.
Ye powers of truth, that bid my soul aspire,
Far from my bosom drive the low desire! .
And thou, fair freedom, taught alike to feel
The rabble's rage, and tyrant's angry steel—
Thou transitory flower, alike undone
By proud contempt or favor's fostering sun —
Still may thy blooms the changeful clime endure
I only would repress them to secure;
For just experience tells, in every soil,
That those who think must govern those that toil—
And all that freedom's highest aims can reach
Is but to lay proportion'd loads on each.
Hence, should one order disproportion'd grow,
Its double weight must ruin all below.
Oh, then, how blind to all that truth requires,
Who think it freedom when a part aspires
Calm is my soul, nor apt to rise in arms,
Except when fast approaching danger warms; 380
But, when contending chiefs blockade the throne,
Contracting regal power to stretch their own—
When I behold a factious band agree
To call it freedom when themselves are free—
Each wanton judge new penal statutes draw,
Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law —
The wealth of climes, where savage nations roam,
Pillag'd from slaves to purchase slaves at home —
Fear, pity, justice, indignation start,
Tear off reserve, and bare my swelling heart:
Till half a patriot, half a coward grown,
I fly from petty tyrants to the throne.
Yes, brother curse with me that baleful hour
When first ambition struck at regal power;
And thus, polluting honor in its source,
Gave wealth to sway the mind with double force.
Have we not seen, round Britain's peopled shore,
Her useful sons exchang'd for useless ore ?
Seen all her triumphs but destruction haste,
Like flaring tapers brightening as they waste 1
Seen opulence, her grandeur to maintain,
Lead stern depopulation in her train— 402
And over fields where scatter'd hamlets rose,
In barren, solitary pomp repose?
Beheld the duteous son, the sire decay’d,
The modest matron, and the blushing maid,
Forc'd from their homes, a melancholy train,
To traverse climes beyond the western main—
Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
And Niagara stuns with thundering sound !
Even now, perhaps, as there some pilgrim strays
Through tangled forests, and through dangerous ways,
Where beasts with man divided empire claim,
And the brown Indian marks with murderous aim —
There, while above the giddy tempest flies,
And all around distressful yells arise—
The pensive exile, bending with his woe,
To stop too fearful, and too faint to go,
Casts a long look where England's glories shine,
And bids his bosom sympathize with mine.
Vain, very vain, my weary search to find
That bliss which only centers in the mind.
Why have I stray'd from pleasure and repose,
To seek a good each government bestows 7
In every government, though terrors reign,
Though tyrant-kings or tyrant-laws restrain, 428