Ode to Moderation
The Cabinet, III (1795), pp. 117-120
To thee, whose cautious step, and specious air,
Deceive the world, who simulating good,
Drop'st from thine oily tongue the pitying pray'r,
T'avert the ills of man, and spare his blood.
'To thee I call, but with no friendly voice,'
I am no dupe to thine insidious art,
The vaunted mercy of thy traitor heart,
Nor in thy promises can I rejoice.
For well I know thee hypocrite!—I know
Thou art the fatal source of human woe,
Thine is the shield that bloodiest tyrants bear,
Foul harbinger of death, black herald of despair.
Why groans you hapless, violated land,
With such continued suff'rance, and long care?
'Tis that, deceiver! there thou giv'st command,
That mod'rate justice, mod'rate truth are there.
The poor not quite destroy'd, tho' doom'd to toil
From day to day unceasing, yet must hide
Their soul's deep anguish from the gaze of pride,
And greet with smiles the plund'rers of the soil.
The sad seditious thoughts that fire the brain
Must be subdued,—'tis treason to complain;
For order, peace, tranquility require,
They suffer all unmoved,—then silently expire.
O rather bear me fury, vengeance wild!
To the red scene of slaughter and dismay,
Where the bold multitude, no more beguil'd,
The deathful banners of their rage display.
Ah! let their gen'rous ardors burn for me;
Their fiercest energies my bosom steel,
Who learn to vindicate, when taught to feel,
And dare th' extreme of all things to be free:
Better by far at once the conflict end,
The gen'ral foe prevail, or genial friend,
Than that faint hope should languish with the throng,
Who love the right but half, but half detest the wrong.
Mark, how the desolating tempest flies,
And rends the groaning forest from its base;
Its bursting thunders wreck the pow'rless skies,
Its lightnings Nature's loveliest scenes deface.
Anon, behold its transient fury sped,
More fresh the flowers their vivid tints disclose,
With richer pride the yellow harvest glows,
More soft the air, more sweet the odours spread.
Thus from the storms of intellectual strife,
The moral system wakes to purer life,
The passions harmonize which late were hurl'd,
And reason's fairer beams illume a happier world.
'Tis true, seductive is thy mild discourse,
With dainty terms of soft benevolence,
And honied phrases fill'd, abjuring force,
Trusting to time, and to progressive sense.
Thus the wild jargons of submissive peace,
Of calm endurance, petrify the heart,
Check the bold tear of manhood ere it start,
And bid the holy animation cease.
By due and slow degrees, by sober zeal,
Profess to rectify the public weal,
Which, by confusing parts, confound the whole,
Disorganize the will, and dislocate the soul.
'Tis thine to boast of long existing laws,
Blast the effect of ill, but not the cause;
'Tis thine to call it mad erroneous rage,
When indignation's spirit nobly glows,
When smarting with the sense of bitt'rest woes;
The mass of man the war of nature wage,
'Tis thine with horror then to paint the scene,
As barb'rous tyranny had never been,
Of ruthless anarchy alone complain,
Then if thy victims pause, prepare th' eternal chain.
Ah! wouldst thou ask me why I thus can hate,
Why thus abhor thee, execrable pow'r?
'Tis, that I deem thy mercy worse than fate,
'Tis, that thou smilest only to devour.
Did the great Pole thy baleful influence share,
When rous'd to fury at his country's call;
Or when he found that country doom'd to fall,
Felt he a moderation of despair?
Meanwhile, thy tranquil Hecate of the North,
Sent her infernal legions mildly forth,
To quell intemp'rate zeal,—the land to save,—
With mod'rate murder sweep whole nations to the grave.
At thy approach, true principle decays,
Cabals succeed, with reas'nings most abstruse,
Of reg'lar governments the placid praise,
Of tender words and savage deeds profuse.
Unhappy France! I see thy laurels die,
I see thy fading glories dimly shine,
The tyrants triumph with their wrath benign,
The mod'rate wrath of boundless cruelty.
The bold terrific energy is past,
And peace and tyranny return at last,
Thy star of vict'ry rose—when at the sight,
Pale moderation shriek'd, and all again was night.
O ye fall'n patriots! ere I drop the pen,
One rending sigh shall to your worth be paid,
Ye greatest, noblest, bravest, best of men!
One grateful tear be offer'd to your shade.
Tho' monarchs execrate, tho' Britons scorn,
Your deathless name, yet still to freedom true,
Be't mine, alas! to pay the homage due,
With Sorrow's cypress wreath your shrine adorn.
Scar'd at the light'ning of your lifted spear,
The traitor crouch'd, the despot learnt to fear,
And tho' thro' seas of blood your ark was driv'n
The deluge still was just, the ark belong'd to heaven.