BETA

Alexander Restores to Athens the Spoils Carried off by Xerxes.

A Poem which obtained the Vice-Chancellor’s premium in. Trinity College,
Dublin, in February
1819.

Raise, Athens, raise thy loftiest tone !1
Eastward the tempest cloud hath blown,2
Vengeance hung darkly on its wing,3
It burst in ruin—Athens ring4
Thy loudest peal of triumphing ;5
Persia is fallen ; in mouldering heaps6
Her grand, her stately city sleeps,7
Above her towers exulting high,8
Susa has heard the victors’ cry,9
And Ecbatana, nurse of pride,10
Weeps where her best, her bravest died.11
Persia is sad, her virgins’ sighs12
Through all her thousand states arise ;13
Along Arbela’s purpled plain14
Shrieks the wild wail above the slain :15
Long shall her widows curse the day,16
When, at the voice of despot sway,17
Her millions passed o’er Helle’s wave,18
To chain, vain boast, the free, the brave.19
Raise, Athens, raise the triumph-song,20
Yet, louder yet, the peal prolong ;21
Avenged at length our slaughtered sires,22
Avenged the waste of Persian fires !23
And these dear relics of the brave24
Torn from their shrines by Satrap slave,25
The spoils of Persia’s haughty king26
Again are thine—ring, Athens, ring !”27
O Liberty! delightful name,28
The land that once has felt thy flame,29
That loved thy light, but wept its clouding,30
Oh ! who can tell her joys’ dark shrouding ;31
But if, to cheer the night of sorrow,32
Memory a ray of thine should borrow,33
That on her tears and on her woes34
Sheds one soft beam of sweet repose,35
O, who can tell her bright revealing,36
Her deep, her holy thrills of feeling ?37
So Athens felt, as fixed her gaze38
On her proud wealth of better days.39
’Twas not the tripod’s costly frame,40
Nor vase that told it’s artist’s fame,41
Nor veils high-wrought with skill divine42
That graced of old Minerva’s shrine,43
Nor marble bust; where vigour breathed,44
And beauty’s living ringlets wreathed ;45
Not these could wake that joyous tone,46
Those transports long unfelt, unknown ;47
’Twas memory’s vision, robed in light,48
That rushed upon her raptured sight,49
Warm from the fields where freedom strove50
Fresh from the wreaths that freedom wove51
This blessed her then, if that could be,52
If aught is blest that is not free.53
But did no voice exulting raise,54
To that high chief, the song of praise ?55
And did no strain exulting ring56
For Macedonia’s conquering King ?57
Who wide o’er Persia’s prostrate might,58
On victory’s pinion winged his flight59
Who from the foe those spoils had won,60
Was there no shout for Philip’s son ?61
No warrior ! what’s thy vaunted name ?62
What is thine high career of fame,63
From its first field of boyhood pride,64
Where valour failed and freedom died,65
Onward by wild ambition fired,66
Till Greece beneath its march expired ?67
Let the vile herd, to whom thy gold68
Is dearer than the rights they sold,69
In secret to their lord and king70
That foul unholy incense fling ;71
But let no slave exalt his voice72
Where hearts in, glory’s trance rejoice ;73
O breathe not now her tyrant’s name74
O wake not yet Athenæ’s shame !75
Would that the hour when Xerxes’ ire76
Had wrapt her ancient walls in fire,77
All, all had perished in the blaze,78
And that had been her last of days,79
Gone down in that bright shroud of glory,80
The loveliest wreck in after story.81
Or when in exile forced to roam,82
Freedom their star, the waves their home,83
Near Salamis’ immortal isle,84
Her sons had slept in victory’s smile ;85
Or Cheronæa’s fatal day,86
While fronting slavery’s dark array,87
Had seen them bravely, nobly, die,88
Bosom on weltering bosom lie,89
Piling fair freedom’s breast-work high,90
Ere one Athenian should remain91
To languish life in captive chain,92
Or vassals wield a freeman’s sword93
Beneath a Macedonian lord.94
Such then was Greece; though conquered,
chained,
95
Some pride, some virtue yet remained ;96
And as the sun, when down he glides97
Behind the western mountains’ sides,98
Leaves in the cloud that robes the hill99
His own bright image burning still,100
Thus freedom’s lingering flushes shone101
O’er Greece, tho’ freedom’s self was gone.102
Such then was Greece, so fallen, so low, 103
Yet great even then—what is she now ?104
Who can her many woes deplore ?105
Who shall her freedom spoiled restore ?106
Darkly above her slavery’s night107
The crescent sheds her lurid light ;108
Upon her breaks no cheering ray,109
No beam of freedom’s lovely day ;110
But there—deep shrouded in her gloom,111
Their urn is Greece—a living tomb :112
Look at her sons and seek in vain113
The haughty brow, the high disdain,114
With which the proud soul drags her chain.115
The living spark of latent fire,116
That smoulders on but can’t expire,117
That, bright beneath the lowering lashes,118
Will burst at times in angry flashes.119
Like Ætna, fitful slumbers taking,120
To be but mightier in its waking.121
Spirits of those, whose ashes sleep122
For freedom’s cause in glory’s bed,123
O ! do ye sometimes come and weep,124
That that is lost for which ye bled !125
That e’er Barbarian flag should float126
O’er your own land in victory’s pride !127
That e’er should ring Barbarian shout,128
Where wisdom taught, and valour died.129
O, for that Minstrel’s soul of fire130
That breathed, and Sparta’s arm was strong ;131
O, for some master of the lyre132
To wake again that kindling song.133
And if, sweet land, aught lives of thee,134
What Helles was, what Greece could be,135
Freedom—like her to Orpheus given,136
Might visit yet her home—her heaven.137