WHILE other Bards, with learning rare and deep,
Their pigmy ditties sycophantly sing
Of life refined, and conjure up in shapes
Fantastic, images unreal—I sing
Of nature wild, and aspect sternly drear; 5
Of man, to-day with high-fledged hope elate,
The happiest of his kind,—to-morrow sunk
Immeasurably deep in an abyss
Of sorrow and despair,—anon, and soon,
Soaring aloft and laughing at his grief: 10
And thus alternate falling but to rise
Higher and still more high, until, at last,
He finds himself securely fixed above
The reach of poverty, with all its train
Of gnawing woe, both present and to come. 15
A subject this exhaustless, and replete
With interest deep and stirring event
When treated with th’ experienced pen
Of one whose daily duties and his bent
Impel him to commit and battle with 20
The life and scenes which he describes.
Come, then, my Muse,—inspire me with a love
Of truth and human kind, wherever found.
Let not my fancy range beyond the clouds,
And wrestle with imaginary ills, 25
Or revel in ideal joys—be’t mine
"Nought to extenuate, and nought to write
In malice;" for, ’tis good I wish to do,
Nor fame, nor gain—mere phantoms—I pursue.
John Hart in youth from anxious care was free, 30
Nor want, nor woe e’er felt. At twenty, John
Had scarcely heard that poverty and crime
Existed, and, much less, had he e’er tried
Their causes and effects to scan. In toil—
If toil to him, hale and athletic, ’twas— 35
And frolic, John alternate passed the day;
At night no troubled dreams disturbed his rest.
Had John been more, or less, than human, he
Of bliss had seen no end; but feelings warm
Had he, and did not see "where ignorance 40
Is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise"—wise he
Would be, and Anna wed, and taste the fruit
Of the forbidden tree, the knowledge tree.
As erst it was not now in toil, and rest
And recreation sweet, John passed his time; 45
Labour he did, and hard, but then the cup
Of life was mixed with gall. He, for a while,
Battled and kept at bay most manfully
The constantly accumulating cares
Inseparable from marrying in haste, 50
Where competition, in its thousand shapes,
Stalks o’er the land; throwing its virus dire
Through every vein of man’s society;
Making his friends the bitt’rest of his foes;
Hypocrisy a garb of sanctity assume; 55
Giving the olive branch the boa’s will
And might; converting into deadly hate,
Or envy ill-concealed, fraternal love.
Thus Cain of old his brother Abel slew,
And Noah’s sons their father ridiculed; 60
And Joseph’s brethren in their anger threw
Into a pit, then sold to be a slave,
Him who with wisdom and discretion ruled.
Thus Pharaoh did destroy each first-born male
Of those whose sire his forefathers did save 65
From death, and then of brick exact more tale.
Thus did the Jews their taskmasters annoy,
And magic staves, and conj’ring tricks employ.
Thus Moses climbed high Sinai’s Mount alone,
That he his laws might chisel upon stone; 70
And thus his followers the molten calf did make,
And thus in passion he his slabs of stone did break.
Thus David with a stone split big Goliath’s head,
And thus when on the throne wished for poor Uriah dead.
And thus did Solomon, the wisest of his day, 75
Become a fool, his "glory" to display.
Thus Alexander prowled the world o’er,
That we a heartless butcher may adore;
And thus Demosthenes the golden cup did eye,
And thus Diogenes was huddled in his stye. 80
Thus Homer bawled his ballads like a clown,
And Virgil fawned that he might get his own.
Thus Cæsar with his gold secured his partizans,
And Brutus with his steel deranged all Cæsar’s plans.
Thus Saul of Tarsus saw the lightning’s glare, 85
And Peter in a sheet from Heaven got good fare.
Thus Constantinus at the flaming cross did stare,
And thus Mahomet mounted Gabriel’s mare.
Thus Luther Leo’s Bulls refused to preach,
That to a pretty Nun he might Indulgence teach; 90
Thus Calvin got Servetus roasted well,
To save himself from a worse fate in H-ll!
Thus Cranmer granted what the Pope denied,
Securely to enjoy his German bride;
And Cromwell thus a Puritan became, 95
That he a King might be in all but name.
Thus Bonaparte of freedom loudly raves,
And fights to make of half the world slaves.
Thus Owen, the Utopian, insists
That "grievous error in the world exists;" 100
"That all is gross deception and deep ignorance,"
That good whene’er produced is but the "work
JOHN, then, was discontented, but, as yet,
He hardly knew at what. He had, ’tis true,
Been taught to read and write, and now he could 105
With tolerable ease his wages tell
In figures; beyond this point his mind
Was yet untutored: smarting now beneath
The goad of poverty at home, and keen
Reproach and haughtiness abroad, his mind 110
Began at times to feel its dormant power.
He now his former gay companions shunned,
And solitude when not at work he sought;
He felt most keenly, and he would have thought,
Had he material for thought possessed. 115
SNARL saw the state poor JOHN was in, and knew
This was the time a hearing to secure,
So, wily as a serpent, he began
His victim to instruct, or to allure.
"Most truly we have reason to be vexed, 120
First with our parson, who, to-day for text,
Told us how ‘poverty well suits our state
Probationary here—it does create
Humility in the poor child of sin,
And chastens him on earth that he may win 125
A crown of glory and a seat
Where only humble, quiet people meet.’
"And this from one who is so very meek,
That to us worms he’ll hardly design to speak!
All worldly honour he holds in contempt, 130
Advancement and emolument despises;
From vanity and vice he is exempt—
Holier gets as in the Church he rises.
Oh! I remember well when a poor curate,—
He with me then would hold discourse and tell 135
How he compassion felt for the obdurate,
And warn them of their onward road to Hell.
But since J.P. and Vicar he was made,
And also member of a Jockey Club,
He looks upon his business as a trade, 140
And speaks of those things only in ‘the tub’—
Nor to his class does he form an exception,
As I would plainly shew you had I time;
But that aggrandizement and dark deception
Are foremost in their catalogue of crime, 145
Is put beyond a doubt; and well they know it;
In this small book, composed by William Howitt.
Take it, and read it for your information;
And here is Cobbett on the Reformation—
Peruse this, too. And now a kind adieu, 150
And may you fearlessly the truth pursue."
Those only who, like JOHN, have grown to man’s
Estate before their intellectual powers
Have been aroused, can easily conceive
How specious argument to such a mind, 155
Is Gospel truth. JOHN, therefore, drank in all
He heard or read, with an avidity
He ne’er had felt before, nor ever thought
To question or suspect the truth of what
He learned; nor could he bear that others should 160
Presume to think him more enthusiast
Than those whose conduct he denounced with such
A want of charity. He was not now
Unhappy, though his poverty increased;
For he had learned t’ ascribe his sufferings 165
To causes not within his own control,
This soothed his vanity, and raised him
High in his own esteem; he never went,
As heretofore, to Church, believing now
That he more holy was than those who were 170
Appointed to expound the best of books.
SNARL saw with pleasure that his seed
Had fallen on good ground, and let it grow
And fructify, a simple looker on.
But now the reaping time was come—he saw 175
That he must gather in the grain, and break
The ground for other seed, so thus began
To pour a draught into the willing car,
Than predecessor far more sweet:—
"Well, JOHN, my books I hope with care you’ve read, 180
And that you see the truth of what I said.
Isn’t it a mighty blessing to the nation
To have our morals tended by such nurses;
To have our souls insured of salvation,
On simply giving up our keys and purses! 185
This matter now, however, ’tis no use
With you to argue, for, as well as I,
No doubt you see th’ egregious abuse
Of what is wrongly called Church property.
Nor is it meet to nibble at effect, 190
If our condition we would try t’ improve;
For when in anything we see defect,
The cause we ought t’ endeavour to remove.
Though monster in iniquity the Church may be,
And ought to be cut down to due dimensions; 195
Perhaps before abusing it, we ought to see
What gave its wealth, and sanctions its pretensions.
For howe’er first the Church arose, and grew
In wealth and strength, we need not now enquire.
Its ancient state we know the law o’erthrew, 200
And on its ruins raised one still higher.
The Law then gives, and it must take away
Whatever in Society’s not right;
Not only in the Church must it have sway,
But through all ranks must it assert its might. 205
But then to have the laws by all respected,
And have them willingly by all obeyed,
They must framed by those by all elected—
Administered impartially when made.
But ere this happy state of things we see, 210
A mighty revolution must take place;
Men must arouse from stupid lethargy,
And boldly meet th’ oppressor face to face!
"I could you shew how this is to be done,
But you will find it better treated far, 215
In the last number of the Weekly Sun,
The Poor Man’s Guardian and the Northern Star.
Read these, and also read Bronterre’s translation
Of the true hist’ry of Babeuf’s Conspiracy,
Where it is shewn how an ill-used nation 220
Conspires from slavery itself to free.
"I leave you now, hoping you soon to see
A member of our club—I may just mention
That much distinguished soon you there will be,
And sent ere long to th’ National Convention." 225
An unexplored and wide extended field
This speech exposed to John. The argument
Which it contained little did he regard,
For yet he was not skilled in innuendo dark;
Nor did his stock of reading yet extend 230
So far as to enable him to test
The truth of what had been advanced; the books
And papers lent him he did read, and learned
That he was but a slave to men who were
By nature only equal to himself. 235
He could not controvert the premises
From which this inference was drawn, for yet
Mere abstract truth to him was very truth.
He felt himself oppressed in common with
The class to which he did belong, and, fired 240
With what he thought philanthropy, resolved
Himself and fellows to emancipate.
Ere now John’s neighbours looked on him as but
An honest, quiet, and industrious man;
Now he was seen t’ assume a higher stand. 245
At ev’ry popular assembly, he
Was seen a leading star; by earnestness
And evident sincerity, his want
Of gen’ral knowledge was supplied;
And his appeals, and home-spun argument, 250
Were listened to with silence most profound,
And never failed to stamp indellible
Conviction on his auditory.
Amazed, he saw himself, an ignorant,
Obscure, uneducated labourer, 255
A host of followers attracting, and
Wielding at will the minds of those whom he
Had looked upon as equals, and, perhaps,
Superiors, till now. He did not dream
As yet of turning his vast influence 260
To selfish ends, but more confirmed was he
In his belief that truth and justice did
Support his cause; that error and deceit
His opponents did actuate; and that
They were not so profoundly learned as he 265
Had formerly been taught them to suppose.
This notion soothed his pride and self-esteem;
And now all knowledge but political
He utterly despised, and laughed at those
Who spoke of polite learning and the arts; 270
Of natural philosophy he could
Not see the use, and those who spoke of it,
He designated natural idiots.
With Grammar ’twas a little otherwise.
Unable to combat his arguments, 275
And to disprove the stubborn facts which he
Adduced, his opponents would often gibe
Him on his want of acc’racy and ease
In language; thus endeavouring to detract
Their auditors from th’ kernel to the shell. 280
And if but to repel these puffs of air,
He now resolved to study carefully
The principles and rules of his own tongue.
Of quick perception, and reflective power,
Attained by its late exercise, some strength, 285
He quickly mastered Cobbett’s Grammar, which
He made his text and test book:
Instances of error in King’s speeches, Generals’
Despatches, Bishops’ charges, and the like,
Much more congenial were to him than would 290
Have been a slight dissection of his own
Best speech—Advantages far greater now
He did perceive might be derived from this
Accession to his stock of knowledge, than
At first he contemplated, and, resolved, 295
From a mere spouter he would take his stand
Among that honourable and honest crew—
The incorruptible conductors of,
Or correspondents to, the pop’lar press.
Our hero now, delighted, saw a scene 300
Disclose, wherein he was to play a part
Most prominent. In speaking he had touched
The heart, and admiration won of all who felt
Themselves oppressed and despised—so by
The sympathetic warmth and vigour he 305
Displayed in print, throughout the land he soon
The idol of his class became, and SNARL
To th’ letter saw his proph’cy verified.
Success uninterrupted until now
Attended JOHN’s political career. 310
But now his star seemed t’ have attained
Its highest altitude; for just when fame
Her honours seemed inclined to lavish most
Profusely on his head, reverses came,
And dashed the dazzling draught to earth, and him 315
Reduced to woe and want, more gnawing far
Than e’er he felt before. Too honest he,
And too successful and sincere t’ escape
The wiles of hell-born envy and deceit,
His new associates knew well that he 320
Would utter all he felt, and knew, too, well
That they could make him feel what he
Ne’er felt before—an inclination to
Oppose the reg’lar course of law, by means
Illegal, as the following address 325
To his constituents will amply shew:
"Ere now, my friends, have I essayed
To tell how you and I are made
To suffer ev’ry social ill.
With your permission now I will 330
The cause attempt again to shew,
And afterwards instruct you how
The evil to remove, and then
Proceed to tell by whom and when.
The one great source of evil and of woe; 335
Th’ exalter of the great, degrader of the low;
What to the wicked and the tyrant power lends,
Is ignorance—dark ignorance—my friends.
Some other causes there may be,
Which seem to have an agency 340
In our affairs; ambition, hate,
Intemperance, and poverty,
By some are stated to be great
Promoters of our misery.
And so, perhaps, it is—and we 345
The catalogue I clearly see
Might lengthen to infinity.
Our list is short ’tis very true,
But then ’twere folly to pursue
It further—for our present use 350
It is sufficiently diffuse.—
The cause once found we easily
See and apply the remedy.
"Political instruction, then, we need,
Would we be happy, and would we be freed 355
From tyranny and slavery.
By it to cope with knavery
We’re able, and, we better see
Our rights and wrongs, and understand
How those we must obtain, and free 360
Ourselves from these with a ‘high hand.’
Our rights are but what Nature does confer,
And she from Truth and Justice cannot err;
She tells us we are equal in her sight,
And teaches us to spurn th’ oppressor’s might; 365
The galling yoke of tyrants she disowns,
And teaches us to laugh at kings and thrones;
The only inequality that she
Admits, or will allow, is in degree:
This is her law—‘where e’er you merit find, 370
Give honour and respect, if uncombined
With guilt, mere rank, and riches disregard,
And you will feel my full and free reward.’
"At present, my dear friends, ’tis but too clear
That nature’s law is disregarded here. 375
Was it but acted on this our land,
We all the laws would make and understand;
Or (which would be the same) in making choice
Of law makers we all would have a voice;
Or better did we rightly comprehend 380
What best to our own interests would tend,
Intelligence would be the only test
Of fitness in the voter, and the best.
Our representatives would then you see
Be men of wisdom and ability. 385
"Here, then, my creed political you have;
Though short ’tis ample, and destined to save
Our country and the world from thraldom’s chain.
The germs of sacred truth it does contain;
And to oppose its progress it were vain; 390
Ere long all systems else must swell its train.
Its points are five, and short and sweet withal,
And we it do the People’s Charter call;
Because the people’s cause it advocates,
And tyrants and their minions deprecates. 395
The first point universal Suffrage is—
The most repugnant to our enemies,
But then to us decidedly the best,
For had we it, we soon should get the rest.
The second point no property requires 400
To qualify, or fit him who aspires
To sit in Parliament. The third engages
To pay the members reasonable wages.
The fourth the voter puts behind a screen,
Where he at leisure may his cards unseen, 405
Examine, shuffle, throw. The fifth is meant
To give us yearly a new parliament.
Henceforth then may this be the people’s creed—
It is so simple, ‘he that runs may read’;
It is so ample, no one it neglects, 410
But from oppression every one protects.
"Do you my friends, complain of unjust laws,
The charter points you out the real cause,
Any ample remedy does then supply,
If with its sacred dictates we comply. 415
All ranks it levels—privilege divides,—
For rich and poor it equally provides.
Our unjust rulers therefore it denounce;
Conspirators and rebels us pronounce;
And threaten us with legal prosecution, 420
Because we wish to mend the constitution;
Because we dare their deeds presume to scan,
And advocate the ‘natural rights of man.’
"But shall we let base fear of man deter
Us from asserting rights our nature does confer? 425
Forbid it reason, and forbid it you,—
Nature forbids it—I forbid it too.
Let us shake off our slavish lethargy—
With voice of thunder shout, we will be free!
Our prayer is spurned, and laughed at our request, 430
While satisfied with promises we rest.
Nor must we dally—hear this truth sublime—
‘Procrastination is the thief of time.’
This and another truth we all must know—
‘Would we be free ourselves must strike the blow!’ 435
"But soon, my friends, I will be with you, and
Our plans of future proceedure, I then
More fully will expound;—at present I
Shall but observe—the Charter we must have;
Nor longer supplicate like the poor slave. 440
The prayer must be changed to a demand.
Petitioning’s of no avail—we’ll try
Another kind of argument; for when
Persuasion fails, the pedagogue well knows
There is but one course left—to come to blows; 445
Which never fails due order to secure,
Nor will it fail the Charter to procure."
And faithful to his promise JOHN was seen
Heading a glorious pop’lar demonstration,
Intended to instruct, or awe the Queen, 450
And her Advisers teach to rule the Nation.
And Oh! delightful ’twas to hear the speeches,
Which, on that ever-memorable day,
Were spouted forth—most forcibly they teach us
What very silly things great folks can say. 455
If from the moon one had but just descended,
With a "commission" like the Chevalier,
One would be led to think one’s journey ended,
And offer each a "Billet" without fear;
But being creatures of another ball, 460
Where things are judged of by another’s rule,
We never into vulgar error fall,
And look upon an idiot as a fool.
We who are wise think all our fellows so,
And no allowance make for aberration; 465
Thus if we rave, we to a prison go,
So not disturb the quiet of the nation.
Now JOHN, on this occasion, was too warm,
Warm with applause and what he thought oppression,
And said a word or two which gave alarm 470
To the Police, who took instant possession
Of poor JOHN’s corpus—when he looked around
For aid, not one of his applauders could be found.
As from the watchful dog the straying flock will fly,
So JOHN‘s supporters from him now did hie; 475
And left him to a dungeon, or worse fate,
As his reward for railing at the great.
To follow JOHN to durance vile, and trace
The changeful influence of adverse fate;
To show how like a courtier in disgrace, 480
He was neglected in his fallen state;
How he was charged with a grave offence,
And how he made a very lame defence;
That he seditiously excited discontent,
In some of the liege subjects of the Queen, 485
And disaffection towards the government,—
The counsel said was but too clearly seen;
But owned that youth and inexperience
Should be allowed to have due influence
In the amount of punishment to be awarded— 490
Are things which further need not be regarded.
Suffice it for the present just to say,
His head-strong warmth got time to die away.
’Tis true that still for liberty he yearned,
But felt that it too dearly might be earned. 495
He saw that Church and State reforming need,
But saw that home-reform must take the lead,
And then reform abroad might soon succeed.
He saw "man’s days of endless peace, which time
Is fast maturing," might be sublime, 500
But that an error it conveyed, and they,
Before they "came," would make a slight delay.
And losing hope of home, and deeply stung
With the vile conduct of his former friends;
And with a love of freedom nerved, and young, 505
Again at large, he o’er th’ Atlantic wends.
And now awhile with tempered hope, we’ll leave
Our hero safe on board the "Liberty";
Oft peering in th’ horizon to perceive
The distant shores of freedom and the free,— 510
And for a moment step aside to see
His politics fast changing to philosophy.
Here is a scrap which he in prison wrote
On a blank leaf of Pinnock’s Guide to Knowledge;
I may observe, this specimen I quote 515
To show the prison was to him a college:—
"The Guide to Knowledge; aye, indeed, thou art
A guide, faithful and kindly, as the spot,
To which thou guid’st th’ oft wearied traveller
Is pleasant to the eye—potent and famed 520
In all nations and at all times; not as
The guide who leads his hapless charge through woods,
Briars and sloughs—thou leadest him through lawns
And verdant fields, and ever and anon
Benignly shew’st the rich, and living scenes 525
To thy astonished charge, until, at last
He stands transfixed with wonder in the plains
Of Knowledge, where reign joy and peace for aye!"
We next shall see how his affection proved
Invulnerable in his sad condition; 530
How his bereaved child unalt’rably he loved,
When he himself seemed going to perdition:
"Fare thee well my little dearie!
Fare thee well my purest joy!
We must part, but me each dreary 535
Hour thy image shall employ.
"’Tis not distance, ’tis not absence,
’Tis not fate’s sternest decree,
’Tis not time—nothing can weaken
That which binds my heart to thee. 540
"Thou direct’st my every motion,
Though a thousand leagues apart;
Thou divid’st each pure emotion—
Agitates and warms my heart.
"Happy thou art yet unconscious 545
Of thy father’s anxious care;
All thy little joys and sorrows
Live and die as empty air.
"But a time will come when thou too
Would’st the separation feel; 550
Up, then, haste me nor be slow to
Mind my little Jamie’s weal!"
Arrived on the banks of Newfoundland,
Th’ exciting portion of the voyage through,
His time began t’ hang heavy on his hand, 555
And to amuse himself he took a view
Of his condition, and began t’ indite
Whatever most his fancy did excite:—
"Those whom business, fate, or folly
Leads to cross th’ Atlantic wide, 560
And would shun grim melancholy,
On the ‘Liberty’ must ride.
"The ‘Liberty,’ the ‘Liberty,’ skips lightly o’er the wave,
Swiftly bearing us along,
Harmless joke and gleesome song, 565
Drowning care, we all must share,
Be us e’er so wise and brave.
"If fond of song of comic kind,
Of endless fun and jollity,
Sweet smells, loud yells—these you will find 570
In Steerage of the ‘Liberty.’
The ‘Liberty,’ &c.
"But if for wisdom and the wise
You have a greater fancy;
For gambling, drinking, midnight noise— 575
Take Cabin on the ‘Liberty.’
The ‘Liberty,’ &c.
"If Cockneys, blackguards, belles and beaux,
In all their glee you’d wish to see,
Pace to and fro, at evening’s close, 580
Or sit on Deck the ‘Liberty.’
The ‘Liberty,’ &c.
"If broil or fight should you delight,
Then you may in the Galley see
Joe, Mike and Mate quarrel and fight 585
Each day upon the ‘Liberty.’
The ‘Liberty,’ &c."
Th’ inditing of this ditty at an end,
Like other Poets ours longed for applause,
And offering its perusal to a friend, 590
It was of course adjudged to be sans flaws.
Most unaccountable ’tis there’s no doubt,
That man such an anomaly should be;
No sooner has he penance done, and out
Of danger is of earthly purgatory, 595
Than he forgets, as ’twere, not only that he fell,
But what the cause of his declension was can’t tell.
So JOHN forgot that love of approbation
Had lured him on too far in by-gone days;
That happy he’d have been in his own station, 600
Had he not listened to the wily voice of praise.
And now at the deceitful sounds of flattery,
Again did thrilling pleasure fill his breast;
And whether right or wrong, no matter, he
Believed what said, and could not rest, 605
Until his hand he tried at his new craft—
He left his friend—his friend left him and laughed.
"Hail ye happy shores of freedom!
Hail thou highly favored soil!
We escape deep degradation, 610
Woe, and ill-requited toil!
Throbbing with anticipation,
Soon the hopeful land to see;
All our hearts in exultation
Bound, impatient to be free! 615
"Young art thou in Independence,
Yet how dreaded is thy power;
Tyrants tremble in thy presence,
Fearing the approaching hour,—
When humanity united, 620
Shall equality proclaim,
To the high and to the slighted—
All shall know ‘naught’s in a name.’
"But the enemy we’ll conquer,
And his power ever lay, 625
Only when love universal,
All man’s interests shall sway.
And the day perhaps is distant,
When this happy state shall be,—
But we live for one another, 630
And our children will be free!"
His task now ended, like the foolish father,
JOHN wished to show his offspring to the crowd;
And see the passengers around him gather,
While he with pleasure reads to them aloud. 635
’Tis needless to observe that the expected
Quantum of praise was meted out by all;
Or that the loud encore was not neglected,
But with alacrity he answered the call.
So just premising—friends, if it will suit ye, 640
I’ll sing the song to th’ tune of "Isle of Beauty."
Began again like a street-ballad singer,
Or parson at a Missionary Meeting;—
The former bawls that you may "tip the finger;"
The latter bawls that he may get good eating;— 645
So JOHN now found that part of his existence
Depended on what others had to give,
And he of course could offer no resistance,
To labour lustily that he might live;
Nor did he dream of leaving off his work, 650
Until he heard the shout "here is New York!"
When instantly poor JOHN was left alone,
To tune his pipes and modulate his tone.
Thou, kind reader, art perchance a preacher?
Then in the exercise of thy vocation, 655
Oft hast thou proved, poor man, a fallen creature,
And sunk by sin, the lowest in creation;
And feeling sympathy for his condition,
Exhorted fervently him to repentance,
And thus escape a journey to perdition, 660
And gain, at last, a favourable sentence;—
And overcome with feeling for his state,
Hast shouted lustily, and thumped, and wept,
For very fear that he should be too late—
Then found that half thy congregation slept. 665
Or mayhap a proud pedagogue art thou,
And often sigh’st that men should be such dolts,
As not to see thy merit, and allow
A little more for thy defects and faults;
And hurt much at the treatment of the father, 670
The roguish urchin now begin’st t’assail
With birchen argument, or wouldest rather,
But to the desk art pinned by thy coat tail.
Or may be thou’rt in practice at the bar,
And fond of flourishing thy cap and gown, 675
Expecting soon to be a leading star,
But art outwitted by a country clown.
Or likely thou in love hast been, as oft
I’ve known those be who are a little soft;
And, innocent and unsuspicious, wast 680
Lulled easily into a false security,
But foundest in the end much to thy cost,
Thy paragon a little lacked of purity.—
Then, reader, thou canst form a slight conception
Of the sad plight our hero now was in; 685
For he to nature’s law was no exception,
But must atone for falling into sin.
I’ve heard though it is fashionable for poets
To feel more keenly than most other men,
And had not JOHN had something else to do, it’s 690
Likely he’d have sworn he ne’er would rhyme again,
And either drown himself, like Tannahill,
Or get well drunk, like Nicholson and Burns,
Or take to cards, or anything to kill
Time and reflection—troublesome by turns;— 695
As ’twas, he hardly felt this other blow,
Before all hands were summoned from below
To pass the Doctor, and their luggage shew
To Custom officers; who understand
If you are sound and honest folks or no, 700
And fit for strangers are in a "strange land!"
This business at an end JOHN left the ship,
Oblivious of his late reverse, to try
To turn his dreams into reality, and sip
The purging cup of dire experience dry. 705
And having got our hero safe on land,
We soon will take him to his journey’s end;
For I presume you all well understand
How he his time and talents here must spend.
His disappointment knew no bounds of course, 710
When stern reality succeeded empty dreams;
For he, like most philosophers, the source
Of human ill somewhat o’erlooked, it seems.
He like some others, sought the cause
Of social happiness in sounding laws; 715
Nor saw where men are left alone to seek
Their wealth and power as to them seems right,
The strong and wicked must oppress the weak,
And liberty and love give way to might.
Hence of the joys of freedom JOHN soon tired, 720
And in disgust with petty trick and fraud,
Integrity and firmness now admired,
And ’gan Britannia’s greatness to applaud,—
As most who, like our hero, spurn her sway,
Soon yearn to feel again her fostering might, 725
And feel inclined with holy men to say—
"Thy yoke is easy and thy burthen light."
So JOHN to CANADA now wends his way,
And, while he swiftly sails across the lake,
A visit to his scrap-book let us pay, 730
And a selection from it let us take:—
"Weary and faint I am, come let us rest,
For ever-bounteous Nature here has raised
A mossy bank, whereon we may, at ease,
Recline, and, sheltered from the piercing rays 735
Of yon great fiery orb, dispatch our meal.
Alas! that we should be ingrate to that
Almighty Being, which o’er-rules the world!
See that stupendous oak, and hear the song
Enchanting of the feathered tribes.—But, hush! 740
I heard a sound, a grating, rattling sound
Come from among yon shrubs and dwarfish trees.
Oh! dreadful sight! a hideous monster rears
His rav’nous jaws distended, and his fangs
Waiting to deal out death—the monster coils:— 745
But hark! I heard a human voice, and see
A woman to her partner clings—and, ah!
The monster leaps, the woman falls, and shrieks!
"And now the man as from a troubled dream
Awaking, wildly looks around; the truth, 750
The dreadful truth, rushes upon his mind;
And, stealing from his victim, he perceives
The fell destroyer, as if satisfied
T’ inject into the human vein sure death,
Nor seek to feast upon a conquered foe. 755
With madness raging, now he reckless leaps,
And with his ‘heel bruises the serpent’s head’;
Now gives the woman aid, and off the ground
Her lifts, conveys her to th’ adjoining brook,
And bathes, with anxious care, the livid spot 760
Upon her hand; now prays; but ah! she dies!"
Our hero says he witnessed the scene
Which here he has endeavoured to pourtray:
The sun was hot, the sky clear and serene—
It was, in short, what we call a fine day,— 765
When he strolled forth with Nature to commune;
Forget his cares in meditative mood;
And try his jarring thoughts to put in tune.
Diverging, then, a little from the road,
He says what he describes came full in view: 770
With sweetest sound, and ever-changing hue,
A rattle-snake into its trammels drew
A son of Mother Eve, and, although he knew
Destruction waited him if he should stay,
He could not leave the spot until his wife 775
Dispelled the charm—the price she had to pay
For her kind office was, it seems, her life.
In CANADA, JOHN HART then is set down,
And snugly and contentedly he lives;
A well-stocked farm has he now of his own, 780
And Independence near him he perceives.
At first he taught a school awhile, and found—
"When house, and land, and all is spent,
"Learning is most excellent."
But to possess and cultivate the ground 785
Were his great object and desire, and so
He purchased a farm with his first means,
As I’d advise all emigrants to do.
In politics, I think, that he now leans
To Toryism, which is a little strange 790
In one who was a Chartist of such fame.
But often we our politics do change
When we a little stake get in the game.
But he pretends it is philosophy,
That has produced his present sober vein; 795
Says a "little learning" made him high,
And "drinking deep" has sobered him again;
That he at first saw truth he must allow,
But argues that the truth he did not see;
And to the truth alone we all must bow, 800
For Nature knows but this equality.
The truth is always in the present tense,
And also in the mode Indicative;
IT IS—"whatever is, is right"—and hence
Its essence is to be executive. 805
’Tis changeful as all nature is, and so
Progress towards perfection is its aim;
To-day we know, to-morrow cannot know—
The truth two seconds cannot be the same.
But TRUTH is future, and must ever be 810
Potential and conditional ’tis plain;
Hid is the womb of dark futurity,
And all attempts to grasp it must be vain;—
Unless, indeed, the Universe her Laws
Should abrogate, and all return to naught. 815
Then strange things there might be, God knows—
But with strange things e’en now the world is fraught.
With things, then, as they are, he is content,
Although he oft recurs to former scenes;
And is t’ improve his generation bent, 820
But wishes so to do by Nature’s means;
Which seem to travel at a slowish rate,
And to condemn all violent commotion;
Attempts to Nature force can but create
Disorder and delay in their promotion. 825
He seldom goes to Church still it is true,
And yet he never could be a Dissenter;
Believing that one Church is quite enow,
When through its portals all may Heaven enter;
As by his neighbours he is much respected, 830
So he is called to manage their affairs;
A Member of the Council he’s elected,
And hopes, ere long, to feel the joys and care
Of Member of the Provincial Assembly;
And as his thoughts he cannot well dissemble, 835
May then expect to see things managed better—
At least he tells me so in his last letter.