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Alas! it may not be: for earthly fame
Is Fortune's frail dependant; yet there lives
A Judge who, as man claims by merit, gives;
To whose all-pondering mind a noble aim,
Faithfully kept, is as a noble deed;
In whose pure sight all virtue doth succeed. Ferdinand von Schill, a distinguished Prussian officer, born 1773, entered the army 1789, was seriously wounded in the battle of Jena, but took the field again at the head of a free corps. Indignant at the subjection of his country to Bonaparte, he resolved to make a great effort for the liberation of Germany, collected a small body of troops, and commenced operations on the Elbe; but after a few successes was overpowered and slain at Stralsund, in May 1809.—ED.
Comp. 1809. Pub. 1815.
CALL not the royal Swede unfortunate,
Who never did to Fortune bend the knee;
Who slighted fear; rejected steadfastly
Temptation; and whose kingly name and state
Have perished by his choice, and not his fate!
Hence lives He, to his inner self endeared ;
And hence, wherever virtue is revered,
He sits a more exalted Potentate,
Throned in the hearts of men. Should Heaven ordain
That this great Servant of a righteous cause
Must still have sad or vexing thoughts to endure,
Yet may a sympathizing spirit pause,
Admonished by these truths, and quench all pain
In thankful joy and gratulation pure.
The royal Swede, “who never did to fortune bend the knee,” was
Gustavus IV. He abdicated in 1809, and came to London at the close
of the year 1810. See note to another sonnet on the same King of
The Voice of song from distant lands shall call.
(Vol. II. p. 294.)
In the edition of 1836, Wordsworth added the following note:—“In this, and a succeeding sonnet on the same subject, let me be understood as a Poet availing himself of the situation which the King of Sweden occupied, and of the principles avowed in his manifestos ; as laying hold of these advantages for the purpose of embodying moral truths. This remark might, perhaps, as well have been suppressed; for to those who may be in sympathy with the course of these Poems, it will be superfluous ; and will, I fear, be thrown away upon that other class, whose besotted admiration of the intoxicated despot, hereafter placed in contrast with him, is the most melancholy evidence of degradation in British feeling and intellect which the times have furnished.”—ED.
Comp. 1809. Pub. 1815.
Look now on that Adventurer who hath paid
His vows to Fortune; who, in cruel slight
Of virtuous hope, of liberty, and right,
Hath followed wheresoe'er a way was made
By the blind Goddess,—ruthless, undismayed ;
And so hath gained at length a prosperous height,
Round which the elements of worldly might
Beneath his haughty feet, like clouds, are laid.
O joyless power that stands by lawless force !
Curses are his dire portion, scorn, and hate,
Internal darkness and unquiet breath;
And, if old judgments keep their sacred course,
Him from that height shall Heaven precipitate
By violent and ignominious death.
The“ Adventurer” who "paid his vows to Fortune,” in contrast to the
royal Swede“ who never did to Fortune bend the knee,” was of course
Comp. 1809. Pub. 1815.
Is there a power that can sustain and cheer
The captive chieftain, by a tyrant's doom,
Forced to descend into his destined tomb—1
A dungeon dark! where he must waste the year,
And lie cut off from all his heart holds dear;
What time his injured country is a stage
Whereon deliberate Valour and the rage
Of righteous Vengeance side by side appear,
Filling from morn to night the heroic scene
With deeds of hope and everlasting praise :
Say can he think of this with mind serene
And silent fetters? Yes, if visions bright
Shine on his soul, reflected from the days
When he himself was tried in open light.
This may refer to Palafox, alluded to in a preceding sonnet (p. 221), and in the one next in order; although, from the latter sonnet, it would seem that Wordsworth did not know that Palafox was, in 1810, a prisoner at Vincennes.-ED.
As already indicated, the poems belonging to the year 1810, like those of 1809, were mainly Sonnets, suggested by the events occurring on the Continent of Europe, and the patriotic efforts of the Spaniards to resist Napoleon. I have assigned the two sonnets referring to Flaminius, entitled “On a Celebrated Event in Ancient History,” to the same year. They were first published in 1815, and seem to have been due to the same impulse which led Wordsworth to write the “Sonnets dedicated to Liberty and Order.”—ED.
AH! where is Palafox ? Nor tongue nor pen
Reports of him, his dwelling or his grave !
Does yet the unheard-of vessel ride the wave?
Or is she swallowed up, remote from ken
Forced to descend alive into his tomb.
Of pitying human nature ?
Once again Methinks that we shall hail thee, Champion brave, Redeemed to baffle that imperial Slave, And through all Europe cheer desponding men With new-born hope. Unbounded is the might Of martyrdom, and fortitude, and right. Hark, how thy Country triumphs !Smilingly The Eternal looks upon her sword that gleams, Like his own lightning, over mountains high,
On rampart, and the banks of all her streams. See note to sonnets (pp. 221-222).- ED.
In due observance of an ancient rite,
The rude Biscayans, when their children lie
Dead in the sinless time of infancy,
Attire the peaceful corse in vestments white;
And, in like sign of cloudless triumph bright,
They bind the unoffending creature's brows
With happy garlands of the pure white rose :
Then do a festal company unite 1
In choral song; and, while the uplifted cross
Of Jesus goes before, the child is borne
Uncovered to his grave: 'tis closed,—her loss
The Mother then mourns, as she needs must mourn;
But soon, through Christian faith, is grief subdued ;?
And joy returns, to brighten fortitude.3
This done, a festal company unite
Uncovered to his grave :-Her piteous logs
The lonesome Mother cannot choose but mourn;
Yet soon by Christian faith is grief subdued, 3 C. and 1843.
And joy attends upon her fortitude.
Or joy returns to brighten fortitude.
228 A ROMAN MASTER STANDS ON GRECIAN GROUND.
FEELINGS OF A NOBLE BISCAYAN AT ONE OF
YET, yet, Biscayans ! we must meet our Foes
With firmer soul, yet labour to regain
Our ancient freedom; else 'twere worse than vain
To gather round the bier these festal shows.
A garland fashioned of the pure white rose
Becomes not one whose father is a slave :
Oh, bear the infant covered to his grave !
These venerable mountains now enclose
A people sunk in apathy and fear,
If this endure, farewell, for us, all good!
The awful light of heavenly innocence
Will fail to illuminate the infant's bier ;
And guilt and shame, from which is no defence,
Descend on all that issues from our blood.
ON A CELEBRATED EVENT IN ANCIENT
A ROMAN Master stands on Grecian ground,
And to the people at the Isthmian Games
Assembled, He, by a herald's voice, proclaims
THE LIBERTY OF GREECE :the words rebound
Until all voices in one voice are drowned ;
Glad acclamation by which air was rent!
And birds, high flying in the element,
And to the Concourse of the Isthmian Games
He, by his Herald's voice, aloud proclaims