BETA

The Masquerade of Freedom.

I.

When Freedom first appeared beneath,1
Right simple was the garb she wore,2
Her brows were circled with a wreath :3
Such as the Grecian victors bore :4
Her vesture all of spotless white,5
Her aspect stately and serene ;6
And so she moved in all men’s sight7
As lovely as a Maiden Queen.8

II.

And queenlike, long she ruled the throng,9
As ancient records truly tell ;10
Their strength she took not from the strong,11
But taught them how to use it well.12
Her presence graced the peasant’s floor13
As freely as the noble’s hall ;14
And the humbler was the door,15
he still more welcome was her call.16

III.

But simple manners rarely range17
Beyond the simpler ages’ ken,18
And e’en the Virtues sometimes change19
Their vesture and their looks, like men.20
Pride, noble once, grows close and vain,21
And Honour stoops to vulgar things,22
And old Obedience slacks the rein,23
And murmurs at the rule of kings.24

IV.

So Freedom, like her sisters too,25
Has felt the impulse of the time,26
Has changed her garments’ blameless hue,27
And donn’d the colours dear to crime.28
First in a Phrygian cap she stalked,29
And bore within her grasp the sphere ;30
And ever, when abroad she walk’d,31
Men knew Revenge was following near.32

V.

She moves again—The death-drums roll,33
The frantic mobs their chorus raise,34
The thunder of the Carmagnole35
The war-chant of the Marseillaise !36
Red run the streets with blameless blood37
The guillotine comes clanking down38
And Freedom, in her drunken mood,39
Can witness all without a frown.40

VI.

Times change again ; and Freedom now,41
Though scarcely yet less wild and frantic,42
Appears, before men’s eyes below,43
In guises more intensely antic.44
No single kind of garb she wears,45
As o’er the earth she goes crusading ;46
But shifts her habit and her airs47
Like Joe Grimaldi masquerading.48

VII.

Through Paris you may see her tread,49
The cynosure of all beholders ;50
A bonnet rouge upon her head,51
A ragged blouse upon her shoulders,52
More decent now than once she was,53
Though equally opposed to riches,54
She still upholds the good old cause,55
Yet condescends to wear the breeches.56

VIII.

The Huns behold her as of yore,57
With grisly beard and monstrous swagger,58
The swart Italian bows before59
The Goddess with the mask and dagger.60
The German, as his patriot thirst61
With beer Bavarian he assuages,62
Surveys her image, as at first63
’Twas pictured in the Middle Ages.64

IX.

Her glorious form appears to him65
In all its pristine pomp and glitter,66
Equipped complete from head to heel,67
In semblance of a stalwart Ritter.68
With doublet slash, and fierce moustache,69
And wrinkled boots of russet leather,70
And hose and belt, with hat of felt,71
Surmounted by a capon’s feather.72

X.

Mysterious as Egyptian Sphinx,73
A perfect riddle—who can solve her ?74
One while she comes with blazing links,75
The next, she’s armed with a revolver.76
Across the main, whene’er the shoe77
Upon her radiant instep pinches,78
To-day, she’ll tar and feather you ;79
To-morrow, and she merely Lynches.80

XI.

While thus abroad, in varied guise,81
We see the fair enchantress flitting,82
She deigns to greet in other wise83
Her latest satellites in Britain.84
Sometimes in black dissenting cloth,85
She figures like an undertaker,86
And sometimes plunges, nothing loath,87
Into the garments of a Quaker.88

XII.

You’ll find her recommending pikes89
At many a crowded chartist meeting,90
Where gentlemen, like William Sykes,91
To exiled patriots vote their greeting.92
You’ll find her also with her friends,93
Engaged upon a bloody errand,94
When, stead of arguments, she sends95
Her bludgeoneers to silence Ferrand.96

XIII.

You’ll find her too, at different dates,97
With men of peace on platforms many,98
Denouncing loans to foreign states.99
Whereof they could not raise a penny.100
In short, to end the catalogue,101
There’s hardly any son of Edom102
Who, in his character of rogue,103
Wont tell you that he worships Freedom.104

XIV.

Yet hold—one sample more—the last,105
Ere of this theme we make a clearance ;106
One little month is barely past107
Since London saw her grand appearance,108
In one of those enormous hats,109
Short leggings and peculiar jerkins,110
Which men assume who tend the vats111
Of Barelay and his partner Perkins.112

XV.

To that great factory of beer,113
Uneonseious wholly of his danger,114
Nor dreaming that a foe was near,115
There came, one day, an aged stranger.116
He was a soldier, and had fought117
In other lands ’gainst revolution ;118
And done his utmost—so he thought119
To save his country’s constitution.120

XVI.

But saving states, like other things121
Is not in highest vogue at present ;122
And those who stand by laws and kings123
Must look for recompense unpleasant.124
Fair Freedom brooding o’er the drink125
That makes the Briton strong and hearty,126
Began to sneeze upon the brink :127
As though she scented Bonaparte.128

XVII.

Ah, ha !” she cried, and cried again129
At every word her voice grew louder130
I smell an Austrian or a Dane,131
I smell a minion of gunpowder !132
Some servant of a kingly race133
My independent nostril vexes !134
Say—shall he dare to show his face,135
Within this hall of triple X’s ?136

XVIII.

’Tis true—he is unarmed, alone,137
A stranger, weak, and old, and hoary138
Yet—on, my children! heave the stone !139
The legs the risk, the more the glory !”140
She ceased : and round the startled man,141
As round the Indian crowds the cayman,142
From vat, and vault, and desk, and van,143
Thronged brewer, maltster, clerk, and drayman.144

XIX.

A precious lark !” the foremost cried ;145
Come—twig him, Tom ! come—pin him, Roger !”146
“Who is it ?” Then a sage replied147
He’s some infernal foreign sodger !148
He looks as how he’d scored ere now149
Some shoulders black and blue with lashes :150
So pitch him here into the beer151
And, lads—we’ll pull off his moustaches !”152

XX.

They did—what brutal natures scorn,153
What savages would shrink to do154
What none but basest cowards born,155
And the most abject and most few,156
Would offer to an old man’s head !157
O shame—O shame to Englishmen !158
If the old spirit be not dead,159
’Tis time it showed itself again !160

XXI.

What ! in this land which shelter gave161
To all, whatever their degree,162
Or were they faint, or were they brave,163
Or were they slaves, or were they free164
In this Asylum of the Earth165
The ngblest name it ever won166
Shall deeds like these pollute our hearth,167
Shall open shame like this be done ?168

XXII.

O most ignoble end of all169
Our boasted order and renown !170
The robber in the tribune’s hall171
The maltster in the Judge’s gown !172
The hospitable roof profaned ;173
Old age by ruffian force opprest,174
And English hands most vilely stained175
With blood of an unconscious guest !176

XXIII.

O Freedom ! if thou wouldst maintain177
Thy empire on the British shore,178
Wash from thy robes that coward stain,179
Resume thy ancient garb once more,180
In virgin whiteness walk abroad,181
Maintain thy might from sea to sea,182
And, as the dearest gift of God,183
So men shall live and die for thee !184