Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Ode to Liberty / James G. Percival

from "Carmen Seculare"

Into the gulf of past eternity
Another year, in all its pride, has roll'd,
And soon its brightest pageantry shall be
Lost in the long-forgotten days of old;
Oblivion draws around its darkest fold
To hide the pomp, that millions gaz'd upon;
The curfew of departed joys has toll'd,
Another circle in our life is run,
And nearer draws the goal, where all of earth is won.

A year has ended — let the good man pause,
And think, for he can think, of all its crime,
And toil, and suffering. Nature has her laws,
That will not brook infringement; in all time,
All circumstance, all state, in every clime,
She holds aloft the same avenging sword;
And sitting on her boundless throne sublime,
The vials of her wrath, with justice stor'd,
Shall, in her own good hour, on all that's ill be pour'd.

And Kings, who hug themselves in sordid ease
And revel in their vassals' blood and tears,
Who grasp at all can sense or passion please,
And build their strength on others' wants and fears;
For them, the heap'd up vengeance of long years,
Pois'd like a snow-cliff on a mountain's brow,
Wild as the sounding avalanche careers,
Or oceans rushing in their stormy flow,
Shall bury all their power in one wide overthrow.

Revenge may hold her breath awhile, but still
The spirit boils within, and soon will burst,
Like lavas from their vaults — the long-check'd will
Breaks out with deeper fury, fed and nurst
By ever-growing outrage, till the worst,
And reddest, scourge of tyranny unbinds
The rusted links of cent'ries, which long curs'd
But dreaded, now the vassal rends, and finds
At once his gall'd limbs free and chainless as the winds.

Sov'reigns may band in holy leagues, and lock
Their fetters on a continent, which springs
To claim its birth right — they may coldly mock
The strivings of young Liberty, as things,
That are to them but toys to play with — Kings
Have long enough made men their play — the hour
When wrath shall wake, and triumph clap her wings
Over the broken images of power,
Draws nigh, and they, who rear the haught crest, soon will cower.

* * *

There is a twilight dawning on the world,
The herald of a full and perfect day,
When Liberty's wide flag shall be unfurl'd,
And kings shall bow to her superior sway:
Already she is on her august way,
And marching upward to her final goal;
Nations the warning of her voice obey,
Away the clouds of fear and error roll,
The chain is broke, that bound the thrall'd and fetter'd soul.

James G. Percival (1795-1856)
from Clio, 1822

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

James G. Percival biography

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