1794.13 - "The Farmer and Labourer"

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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1794.13
The Farmer and Labourer[1]
Anon
The Scots Magazine, LVI (August 1794), pp. 473-474

Farmer.

Thomas, awake! the drum and fife I hear;
Unusual sounds! my body quakes with fear!
What distant yells are those? A woman's shriek!
'Tis no recruiting party's drunken freak.
Fly hence, and leave your mid-day's cheering dose—
The sound of war is hostile to repose.
Thomas, arise! yon thatch is now in flames,
And from the pillag'd farm, run swift the dames.
Too late your lev'ling plans you'll now repent;
Behold the curse of slothful discontent.
Away and gain your cot; your babes, your wife,
Implore your rescuing hand, to risk your life;
These hapless victims at your conscience lie—
Rebel thou art, as rebel thou must die.

Labourer.

    Alas! my throbbing heart forbodes some ill;
Through all my veins unusual horrors thrill.
The soldier well I ween'd would prove no foe,
For Liberty I thought was bliss, not woe.

Farmer.

    Exchange no word, your reason comes too late;
Behold the troops advance—submit to fate.
Had you, mistaken man, no murmur spread,
But till'd the soil to earn your daily bread,
Your cant of Liberty and equal Right
Had never challeng'd Heaven's wrathful might;
At eve your cot in guiltless peace would rest;
Your wife, your children, in their fire be blest.
Nor daily pittance ever yet was scant,
When industry supply'd bare simple want,
Fell riot, drunkenness, the alehouse score,
Fill'd your weak brain with wild delusion's roar,
Your thoughts from toil, from daily labour turn'd,
And all the slothful man with foul disorder burn'd.

Labourer.

    Ah! well-a-day! I thought the time would come,
When all the land would rise at sound of drum.
Dick thought the same, and Thomas said as how
'Twas very hard all day to go to plough,
And vow'd that squire Bumkin was no better;
Or parson Fussock fam'd for learned letter,
Than us poor harmless volks whom God design'd
With flesh and blood to be of human kind:
But, zure, I must confess he had his pot,
And seem'd as thos he had himself forgot.

Farmer.

    Peace, umskul, peace! were all as idly prone,
Instead of bread, many must be fed with stone:
All men, 'tis true, are made of flesh and blood;
But brains like thine are not of self-same mud.
God's providence distinction made; for thou
Canst shew no wisdom but in team or plough;
And, couldst thy knavish holiday take place,
The strongest club would give the weakest chace:
Till devastation reign'd through all the land,
And man, supine, be lost to all command.
Is this the golden harvest thou would'st reap?
Nor peasant sows, nor shepherd tends his sheep.
Pluck from the thorn the berry and the crab,
And the rough skin prefer to woollen drab.
Then, lobby, take thy lesson from mad France,
And view the consequence of random chance.
See o'er the champaign land a barren soil,
The cot forsaken, and the farm in spoil;
The peasants murder'd, or by rapine torn,
From peaceful homes, in wand'ring clans forlorn,
To fell banditti turn'd, embru'd in blood,
Their crests with crimson'd motto, 'Public good.'

    See where the stately castle aw'd the plain—
Its lofty walls now boast their strength in vain;
Allegiance sworn, its vassals now rebel,
With demon rage like fiends let loose from hell,
The Chieftain's crime was birth and high descent,
The walls give way, the mansion straightway rent,
On the sharp pike the mangled head is rais'd,
And the damn'd deed is by the nation prais'd.
The sound of liberty, and rights of man,
In blood reverberates from clan to clan;
Where law has sanction'd, and where justice ties,
Confusion whelms all forms, all properties;
And chaos reigns among the sons of men,
Till God's avenging arm restores fair Peace again.


Notes

1. The argument of this poem is similar to that of the well-circulated pamphlet in dialogue from Village Politics by Hannah More.

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Published @ RC

September 2004