Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
 
Regeneration
By Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)
 
WE 1 are what suns and winds and waters make us;
The mountains are our sponsors, and the rills
Fashion and win their nursling with their smiles.
But where the land is dim from tyranny,
There tiny pleasures occupy the place        5
Of glories and of duties; as the feet
Of fabled fairies when the sun goes down
Trip o’er the grass where wrestlers strove by day.
Then Justice, call’d the Eternal One above,
Is more inconstant than the buoyant form        10
That burst into existence from the froth
Of ever-varying ocean: what is best
Then becomes worst; what loveliest, most deformed.
The heart is hardest in the softest climes,
The passions flourish, the affections die.        15
O thou vast tablet of these awful truths,
That fillest all the space between the seas,
Spreading from Venice’s deserted courts
To the Tarentine and Hydruntine mole,
What lifts thee up? what shakes thee? ’tis the breath        20
Of God. Awake, ye nations! spring to life!
Let the last work of his right hand appear
Fresh with his image, Man. Thou recreant slave
That sittest afar off and helpest not,
O thou degenerate Albion! with what shame        25
Do I survey thee, pushing forth the sponge
At thy spear’s length, in mockery at the thirst
Of holy Freedom in his agony,
And prompt and keen to pierce the wounded side!
Must Italy then wholly rot away        30
Amid her slime, before she germinate
Into fresh vigour, into form again?
What thunder bursts upon mine ear! some isle
Hath surely risen from the gulfs profound,
Eager to suck the sunshine from the breast        35
Of beauteous Nature, and to catch the gale
From golden Hermus and Melena’s brow.
A greater thing than isle, than continent,
Than earth itself, than ocean circling earth,
Hath risen there; regenerate Man hath risen.        40
Generous old bard of Chios! not that Jove
Deprived thee in thy latter days of sight
Would I complain, but that no higher theme
Than a disdainful youth, a lawless king,
A pestilence, a pyre, awoke thy song,        45
When on the Chian coast, one javelin’s throw
From where thy tombstone, where thy cradle, stood,
Twice twenty self-devoted Greeks assail’d
The naval host of Asia, at one blow 2
Scattered it into air … and Greece was free …        50
And ere these glories beam’d, thy day had closed.
Let all that Elis ever saw, give way,
All that Olympian Jove e’er smiled upon:
The Marathonian columns never told
A tale more glorious, never Salamis,        55
Nor, faithful in the centre of the false,
Platea, nor Anthela, from whose mount
Benignant Ceres wards the blessed Laws,
And sees the Amphictyon dip his weary foot
In the warm streamlet of the strait below.        60
Goddess! altho’ thy brow was never rear’d
Among the powers that guarded or assail’d
Perfidious Ilion, parricidal Thebes,
Or other walls whose war-belt e’er inclosed
Man’s congregated crimes and vengeful pain,        65
Yet hast thou touched the extremes of grief and joy;
Grief upon Enna’s mead and Hell’s ascent,
A solitary mother; joy beyond,
Far beyond, that thy woe, in this thy fane;
The tears were human, but the bliss divine.        70
I, in the land of strangers, and depressed
With sad and certain presage for my own,
Exult at hope’s fresh dayspring, tho’ afar,
There where my youth was not unexercised
By chiefs in willing war and faithful song:        75
Shades as they were, they were not empty shades,
Whose bodies haunt our world and blear our sun,
Obstruction worse than swamp and shapeless sands.
Peace, praise, eternal gladness, to the souls
That, rising from the seas into the heavens,        80
Have ransom’d first their country with their blood!
O thou immortal Spartan! at whose name
The marble table sounds beneath my palms,
Leonidas! even thou wilt not disdain
To mingle names august as these with thine;        85
Nor thou, twin-star of glory, thou whose rays
Stream’d over Corinth on the double sea,
Achaian and Saronic; whom the sons
Of Syracuse, when Death removed thy light,
Wept more than slavery ever made them weep,        90
But shed (if gratitude is sweet) sweet tears.
The hand that then pour’d ashes o’er their heads
Was loosen’d from its desperate chain by thee.
What now can press mankind into one mass,
For Tyranny to tread the more secure?        95
From gold alone is drawn the guilty wire
That Adulation trills: she mocks the tone
Of Duty, Courage, Virtue, Piety,
And under her sits Hope. O how unlike
That graceful form in azure vest array’d,        100
With brow serene, and eyes on heaven alone
In patience fixed, in fondness unobscured!
What monsters coil beneath the spreading tree
Of Despotism! what wastes extend around!
What poison floats upon the distant breeze!        105
But who are those that cull and deal its fruit?
Creatures that shun the light and fear the shade,
Bloated and fierce, Sleep’s mien and Famine’s cry.
Rise up again, rise in thy dignity,
Dejected Man! and scare this brood away.        110
 
Note 1. Inspired by the struggles of the Greeks for independence. [back]
Note 2. The naval host of Asia, at one blow: allusion to the victory of Canaris over the Turkish fleet. Cf. Hugo’s Les Orientales. [back]
 
 
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