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Whatever may be said of us, and sometimes with too much justice, neither the greed of wealth, nor the love of luxury, nor the theories of the ancien régime, nor the extension of territory for the sake of commerce or national pride, are the things most dear to the people of England, or the things which in this great country move and direct her action in the end. That which is victorious at the last in her, that which sits closest to her breast, is the great powers of the soul of which Wordsworth speaks—self-sacrifice, duty to the great principles of justice and mercy; honour — the long descended honour of her free past; love and reverence for the souls of men, not for their outward power and wealth; the ancient principles of national independence and liberty for all nations, which of old isolated her from tyrannies, and bid her stand alone for their sake, relying for a just victory on their immortal power. She has never got any good or done any good to man when she has been betrayed for a time into sitting hand in hand with despotic Powers, with Russia, with a Germany like the present, with an imperial adventurer like Napoleon III., with the Sultan of Turkey. These are not of her family; alliances with them are unnatural to her, and unpractical. They bring disease into her body, they corrupt her society, they injure her commerce as long as it is righteous, they weaken her just power, and they degrade her honourable influence on the world. These views are considered by many persons, and apparently by the present Government, to be mere sentiment, and to be put aside as unpractical and
foolish in domestic and still more in foreign politics. Moral questions, and the consideration of the primary passions of the soul of man for justice, pity and freedom, are to be, they think, subordinated to questions of national expediency and self-interest. On the contrary, moral and spiritual questions relating to the action of nations are the foremost practical questions; those, the just answer to which will rule the whole future of a people and its power over mankind for use and good. The very life of a nation, its strength, the lasting success of its policy, depend on that policy being first regulated by obedience at all points to moral right and by its agreement with the just, freedom-loving, courageous, honourable and self-sacrificing instincts of the human soul. This was Wordsworth's deepest conviction when he wrote these Sonnets, and it is summed up in the last of them : The power of armies is a visible thing.
It is the conviction, I believe, of far more than half of the English people.
Composed by the Sea-side, near Calais, August 180s
FAIR Star of evening, Splendour of the west,
Star of my Country l—on the horizon's brink
Thou hangest, stooping, as might seem, to sink
On England's bosom; yet well pleased to rest,
Meanwhile, and be to her a glorious crest
Conspicuous to the Nations. Thou, I think,
Should'st be my Country's emblem; and should'st
Bright Star ! with laughter on her banners, drest
In thy fresh beauty. There! that dusky spot
Beneath thee, that is England; there she lies.
Blessings be on you both ! one hope, one lot,
One life, one glory !—I, with many a fear
For my dear Country, many heartfelt sighs,
Among men who do not love her, linger here.
Is it a reed that's shaken by the wind,
Or what is it that ye go forth to see ?
Lords, lawyers, statesmen, squires of low degree,
Men known, and men unknown, sick, lame, and blind,
Post forward all, like creatures of one kind,
With first-fruit offerings crowd to bend the knee
In France, before the new-born Majesty.
'Tis ever thus. Ye men of prostrate mind,
A seemly reverence may be paid to power;
But that's a loyal virtue, never sown
In haste, nor springing with a transient shower:
When truth, when sense, when liberty were flown,
What hardship had it been to wait an hour?
Shame on you, feeble Heads, to slavery pronel
Composed near Calais, on the road leading to Ardres,
August 7, 1802
Jones!" as from Calais southward you and I
Went pacing side by side, this public Way
Streamed with the pomp of a too-credulous day,”
When faith was pledged to new-born Liberty:
A homeless sound of joy was in the sky:
From hour to hour the antiquated Earth
Beat like the heart of Man: songs, garlands, mirth,
Banners, and happy faces, far and nigh
And now, sole register that these things were,
Two solitary greetings have I heard,
“Good-morrow, Citizen l’” a hollow word,
As if a dead man spake it ! Yet despair
Touches me not, though pensive as a bird
Whose vernal coverts winter hath laid bare.
I GRIEvED for Buonaparte, with a vain
And an unthinking grief! The tenderest mood
Of that Man's mind—what can it be P what food
Fed his first hopes P what knowledge could he gain 2
'Tis not in battles that from youth we train
The Governor who must be wise and good,
And temper with the sternness of the brain
Thoughts motherly, and meek as womanhood.
Wisdom doth live with children round her knees:
Books, leisure, perfect freedom, and the talk
Man holds with week-day man in the hourly walk
Of the mind's business; these are the degrees
By which true Sway doth mount; this is the stalk
True Power doth grow on; and her rights are these.
FESTIVALs have I seen that were not names:
This is young Buonaparte's natal day,
And his is henceforth an established sway—
Consul for life. With worship France proclaims
Her approbation, and with pomps and games.
Heaven grant that other Cities may be gay!
Calais is not: and I have bent my way
To the sea-coast, noting that each man frames
His business as he likes. Far other show
My youth here witnessed, in a prouder time;
The senselessness of joy was then sublime !
Happy is he, who, caring not for Pope,
Consul, or King, can sound himself to know
The destiny of Man, and live in hope,