O thou, th’ oppressor of a struggling world!
Thou by the iron sceptre known
Who oft hast fix’d thine adamantine throne,
And, in thy lawless night, a destined day
O’er prostrate nations held thy sway,
Till by Almighty vengeance hurled
Down from thy guilty height;
Then for a space sweet liberty
Uprises blithe; th’ oppress’d go free;
But soon thy sweeping flight
Returns with gather’d might,
And o’er the subject air thy standard waves unfurl’d
How shall I paint thee, gloomy, grim, and vast,
A form that o’er a thousand realms can cast
The fearful shade of terror’s dismal night;
An arm that nought can scape, a piercing eye
Of pow’r the deed most secret to espy,
An ear that ev’ry whisper hears aright;
A heart no plaints can pierce, no woes can move,
A steady purpose that no change can prove,
Feelings self-center’d, dead to social joy and love.
Thee, Tyranny, the elder ages saw
When the replenish’d earth began,
The deluge o’er, to teem with Man,
The mighty ones, who toil’d for fame,
By building sought a deathless name,
And Babel’s tow’rs they rais’d with one accord,
A mighty hunter then before the Lord.
Nimrod arose the gathering tribes to awe,
And wide o’er Shinar’s plains spread sov’reign rule and law.
Though to presumptuous Man it was not given
To build a tow’r whose top should reach to heav’n,
And speech confound’d sent their tribes to roam
Each through the world to seek a distant home,
Yet Shinar’s plain was still dominion’s seat,
And Tyrants ruled in Babylon the great.
Behold Semiramis, whose mighty sway
Afric and India’s distant realms obey —
See from the still-famed heroine springs
A long tyrannic line
Of now forgotten “Kings of Kings”
Once honor’d as divine.
But chief o’er Egypt’s fam’d mysterious land
With baleful superstition hand in hand,
Most meet companion, she of all thy way
For ages, faded now in hist’ry’s page,
Whose might relics wonder yet engage
Thou heldst dread pow’r, an undisputed sway.
How did thy minions human joys despoil!
To build, in time-defying strength, a tomb,
The bones of some now unknown king t’inhume,
What countless myriads died of never ceasing toil.
Yet not alone in barb’rous climes,
Or where the many, slaves by birth,
Without a murmur at their crimes,
Obey’d the few, the mighty of the earth,
Tyrannic pow’r was known in antient times:
E’en in fair Greece and mighty Rome,
Where ev’ry social virtue flourish’d,
Where liberty had fix’d her home,
And arms and arts alike were blest,
With freedom, wealth and fame while some were blest,
Oppression’s grinding chain enthrall’d the rest.
See in each fam’d republic state
Where all were free and all were great
(As now the modern patriot raves)
A num’rous host of suffering slaves.
See the poor helots doomed to toil
Mid grief and scorn on Sparta’s soil
See Rome her conquer’d states oppress
With cold rapacious haughtiness.
And then behold, the scene to close,
The mighty fabric which arose.
From democratic ages strife,
Propose of human woe and life
With an imperial race of tyrants crown’d
And Rome’s dread master rule the world around.
Mother of Empire! Italy’s fair queen
What wond’rous changes hast thou known
Since ’mid thy sev’nfold hills was fix’d a throne!
Thro’ all the revolutions of thy state
The nurse of tyrants mark’d by fate,
Kings, consuls, emperors, by turns thou’st seen;
Goths and barbaric chiefs;
And sov’reign pontiffs from St Peter’s chair
Their will as Heav’n’s own high behest declare:
And now, to crown thy griefs,
Thy beauteous relics spoil’d by plund’rers keen
Thyself to foreign tyranny a vassal mean.
But sure the genius I essay to sing
Ne’er wav’d so high and wide his lordly wing
As clad in purple stole and triply crown’d;
The body erst he could alone control,
But then his gather’d pow’r enslav’d the soul,
And priestcraft ruled the ’nighted world around.
Lo, kings themselves before the papal throne
Submissive bend, and pow’r superior own,
Though by opinion’s force the Pontiff rules alone!
Thus, tyranny, thy mighty race
Was seen through ancient times,
And still thy whelming course we trace,
By misery and crimes.
Thy footsteps ev’ry soil have press’d,
Thy wing swept ev’ry sea;
Britain alone kind Heav’n has blest
With peace and liberty.
But see mid yonder northern snows,
Where battle’s rage more fiercely glows,
Where smould’ring cities sink in fire,
Where various hosts on hosts expire,
Where famine and resistless cold
Subdue the strong, appal the bold,
What glories spring to view!
And is the vision true?
Yes, the rav’ning vulture’s flight
Now has reach’d its utmost height,
And now he flags with broken pinion!
Now, tyranny, thy last dire minion
Schemes of wide rule no more shall plan
O’er all the subject race of Man,
But bend his ev’ry art and force
To stem the rising torrent’s course,
That, bursting o’er each barrier realm,
Threatens his empire to o’erwhelm.
O thou Supreme! that o’er a sinful world
Sendst forth the conq’ror, thy avenging rod
To scourge the nations that forgot their God;
Teach them to own thy pow’r and worship thee,
Then bid them from the tyran’ts yoke be free,
And on his guilty head be ample vengeance hurl’d!