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TO THE MEMORY OF CANNING.
EARLY, but not untimely, Heaven recall’d
To perfect bliss, thy pure, enlighten'd mind ;
And tho' the new-born freedom of mankind
Is sick of fear to be again enthrall’d,
Since thou art gone; and this fair island, wall'd
With the impregnable, unmaster'd sea,
Mourns with a widow's grief for loss of thee,-
Should we repine, as if thou wert installid
In Heaven too soon ? Nay, I will shed no tear.
Thy work is done. It was enough for thee
To own the glorious might of Liberty,
And cast away the bondage and the fear
Of rotten custom ; so the hope, which Fate
Snatch'd from thy life, thy Fame shall consummate.
Say, What is Freedom? What the right of souls
Which all who know are bound to keep, or die,
And who knows not, is dead? In vain ye pry
In musty archives, or retentive scrolls,
Charters and statutes, constitutions, rolls,
And remnants of the old world's history :-
These show what has been, not what ought to be,
Or teach at best how wiser Time controuls
Man's futile purposes. As vain the search
Of restless factions, who, in lawless will,
Fix the foundations of a creedless church
A lawless rule—an anarchy of ill:
But what is Freedom ? Rightly understood,
A universal license to be good.
Who is the Poet? Who the man whose lines
Live in the souls of men like household words?
Whose thought, spontaneous as the song of birds,
With eldest truth coeval, still combines
With each day's product, and like morning shines,
Exempt from age? 'Tis he, and only he,
Who knows that Truth is free, and only free ;
That Virtue, acting in the strict confines
Of positive law, instructs the infant spirit
In its best strength, and proves its mere demerit
Rooted in earth, yet tending to the sky:
With patient hope surveys the narrow bound,
Culls every flower that loves the lowly ground,
And fraught with sweetness, wings her way on high.
A THOUSAND thoughts were stirring in my mind,
That strove in vain to fashion utterance meet,
And each the other cross'd-swift as a fleet
Of April clouds, perplex'd by gusts of wind,
That veer, and veer, around, before, behind.
Now History pointed to the custom'd beat,
Now Fancy's clue unravelling, led their feet
Through mazes manifold, and quaintly twined.
So were they straying—so had ever stray'd ;
Had not the wiser poets of the past
The vivid chart of human life display'd,
And taught the laws that regulate the blast,
Wedding wild impulse to calm forms of beauty,
And making peace 'twixt liberty and duty.
The nimble fancy of all-beauteous Greece,
Fabled young Love an everlasting boy,
That held of nature an eternal lease,
Of childhood, beauty, innocence, and joy;
A bow he had, a pretty childish toy,
That would not terrify his mother's sparrows,
And 'twas his favourite play to sport his arrows,
Light as the glances of a wood-nymph coy.
O happy error! Musical conceit,
Of old idolatry, and youthful time!
Fit emanation of a happy clime,
Where but to live, to breathe, to be, was sweet,
And Love, tho' even then a little cheat,
Dream'd not his craft would e'er be call'd a crime.