Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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ODE

                                 I

            WHO rises on the banks of Seine,
          And binds her temples with the civic wreath?
          What joy to read the promise of her mien!
          How sweet to rest her wide-spread wings beneath
                  But they are ever playing,
                  And twinkling in the light,
                  And, if a breeze be straying,
                  That breeze she will invite;
          And stands on tiptoe, conscious she is fair,
          And calls a look of love into her face,
          And spreads her arms, as if the general air
          Alone could satisfy her wide embrace.
          --Melt, Principalities, before her melt!
          Her love ye hailed--her wrath have felt!
          But She through many a change of form hath gone,
          And stands amidst you now an armed creature,
          Whose panoply is not a thing put on,
          But the live scales of a portentous nature;
          That, having forced its way from birth to birth,
          Stalks round--abhorred by Heaven, a terror to the Earth!

                                 II

            I marked the breathings of her dragon crest;
          My Soul, a sorrowful interpreter,
          In many a midnight vision bowed
          Before the ominous aspect of her spear;
          Whether the mighty beam, in scorn upheld,
          Threatened her foes,--or, pompously at rest,
          Seemed to bisect her orbed shield,
          As stretches a blue bar of solid cloud
          Across the setting sun and all the fiery west.

                                III

            So did she daunt the Earth, and God defy!
          And, wheresoe'er she spread her sovereignty,
          Pollution tainted all that was most pure.
          --Have we not known--and live we not to tell--
          That Justice seemed to hear her final knell?
          Faith buried deeper in her own deep breast
          Her stores, and sighed to find them insecure!
          And Hope was maddened by the drops that fell
          From shades, her chosen place of short-lived rest.
          Shame followed shame, and woe supplanted woe--
          Is this the only change that time can show?
          How long shall vengeance sleep? Ye patient Heavens, how long?
          --Infirm ejaculation! from the tongue
          Of Nations wanting virtue to be strong
          Up to the measure of accorded might,
          And daring not to feel the majesty of right!

                                 IV

            Weak Spirits are there--who would ask,
          Upon the pressure of a painful thing,
          The lion's sinews, or the eagle's wing;
          Or let their wishes loose, in forest-glade,
                  Among the lurking powers
                  Of herbs and lowly flowers,
          Or seek, from saints above, miraculous aid--
          That Man may be accomplished for a task
          Which his own nature hath enjoined;--and why?
          If, when that interference hath relieved him,
                  He must sink down to languish
          In worse than former helplessness--and lie
                  Till the caves roar,--and, imbecility
                  Again engendering anguish,
          The same weak wish returns, that had before deceived him.

                                 V

            But Thou, supreme Disposer! may'st not speed
          The course of things, and change the creed
          Which hath been held aloft before men's sight
          Since the first framing of societies,
          Whether, as bards have told in ancient song, 
          Built up by soft seducing harmonies;
          Or prest together by the appetite,
                  And by the power, of wrong.
                                                              1816.


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