Wednesday, September 27, 2006

(Anti-)Political Poetry

Through Daniel Larison I have discovered an excellent old poem of medium length. Selected Excerpts:

Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil

Impels the native to repeated toil,

Industrious habits in each bosom reign,

And industry begets a love of gain.

Hence all the good from opulence that springs,

With all those ills superfluous treasure brings,

Are here displayed. Their much loved wealth imparts

Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts !

But view them closer, craft and fraud appear,

Even liberty itself is bartered here.

At gold's superior charms all freedom flies,

The needy sell it, and the rich man buys;

A land of tyrants and a den of slaves,

Here wretches seek dishonorable graves,

And, calmly bent, to servitude conform,

Dull as their lakes that slumber in the storm.


As nature's ties decay,

As duty, love, and honor, fail to sway,

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, stript of all her charms,

The land of scholrs, and the nurse of arms,

Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame,

Where kings have toiled, and poets wrote for fame,

One sink of level avarice shall lie,

And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonored die.


In every government, though terrors reign,

Though tyrant kings or tyrant laws restrain,

How small, of all that human hearts endure,

That part which laws or kings can cause or cure !

-Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller

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