Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Law Is Loving Liberty

Freedom and Fate
by Alfred Austin


`You ask me why I envy not
The Monarch on his throne.
It is that I myself have got
A Kingdom of my own:
Kingdom by Free Will divine
Made inalienably mine,
Where over motions blind and brute
I live and reign supreme, a Sovereign absolute.

`Ebbing and flowing as the seas,
And surging but to drown,
Think you that I will pass to these
My Sceptre and my Crown?
Unto rebel passions give
Empire and prerogative?
They are attendants in my train,
To come when I command, and crouch as I ordain.

`If Will by long succession be
Not arbiter of Fate,
Assail its majesty, and see
If it doth abdicate.
Chains that do the body bind
Cannot manacle the mind.
What fetters may the heart control,
Nor doth the Tyrant live that can enslave the soul.

`In Spring, when linnets lift their voice
To praise the Lord and bless,
They are thus punctual of free choice,
Detesting waywardness.
Throughout earth, and sky, and sea,
Law is loving liberty,
That could, but will not, go astray,
And, free though to rebel, delighteth to obey.

`And Spirit, though encased in clay,
To sense's grovelling mood
Accepteth not, befall what may,
Ignoble servitude.
In the faggot thrust the torch,
Till the flame-tongues search and scorch.
Calmly the martyr mounts the pyre,
And smiles amid the smoke, and prays above the fire.

`Nor is it Fate directs the waves,
Or dominates the wind:
They are God's servants, not His slaves,
And they surmise His mind.
If the planets walk aright
Though the dim and trackless night,
Nor their true pathway ever miss,
Know ye it is because their Will is one with His!'

`What is it rules thy singing season?
`What is it rules thy singing season?
Instinct, that diviner Reason,
To which the wish to know seemeth a sort of treason.'

`Why dost thou ever cease to sing?
Singing is such sweet comfort, who,
If he could sing the whole year through,
Would barter it for anything?'

I've mentioned Austin before; a very underrated poet. Poetry is a cruel field; there is no other area of life, I suspect, in which people are so likely to despise real competence simply for not being obvious genius. Austin is one of the sufferers of this; from the beginning he has been constantly criticized for not being Tennyson, who was his predecessor as Poet Laureate. This is an absurd criticism, but such is the way of things.

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