BETA

St. Stephen’s.

[In this Poem it is intended to give succinct sketches of our principal Parlia-
mentary Orators, commencing with the origin of parliamentary oratory (in the Civil
Wars), and closing with the late Sir Robert Peel. The Poem will be completed in
Three Parts.]
When frank-eyed War with Love stood hand in hand,1
And cities oped on lonely Faeryland,2
Song was the voice most faithful to the time,3
And England spoke in Chaucer’s lusty rhyme.4
Thus long ere yet the Orator is known,5
Each age demands an utterance all its own ;6
Now thrills in carols wise without a rule,7
Now fires a camp, and now dictates a school.8
But not till warring thoughts mature their strife,9
Till some slow people swell to stormy life,10
And, lost the inert hereditary awe,11
Exact a reason where imposed law,—12
Not till the right to argue truth be won,13
The heart of many fires the lips of one ;14
And the great Art-which sways this age of ours,15
Stands forth as Justice ’ midst conflicting powers,16
And, lest the foe of all, Brute Force, prevail,17
Leans on the-sword, while proffering but the scale.18
What causes first in English halls combined19
To free the voice ? —those which first freed the mind,20
In Eastern tales, a fond enchanter’s care21
Immures in rock a giant child of air ;22
By its own growth the genius wears away23
The yielding stone, and nears its native day ;24
Till through pale fissures rushes in the storm,25
And from the granite whirlwinds lift the form ; —26
So forth soared Reason from the cells of Rome,27
Rapt on the blasts that rent her prison-home ;28
And her own pinions in their angry flight29
Cast shadow down while sailing up to light.30
Then Man, tormented with a glorious grief,31
Scared by the space that spreads round unbelief,32
Sought still to reconcile the earth and sky,33
And to his trouble came Philosophy.34
She came, as came from Jove a Prophet-Dream,35
Mid Night’s last shade and Morning’s earliest beam,36
And in weird parables of coming things37
Showed truth to seers, but boded woe to kings.38
Forms that hem round this social state of Man39
Are so by custom blended into plan,40
That thro’ one chink if some bold footstep steals,41
Each fence is loosed, and all the structure reels.42
Hark, Bacon speaks ! and walls, with which the wise43
Had belted Nature, vanish ; startled eyes44
Explore a bound, and skies expand on skies.45
Faith thus dislodged from ancient schools and creeds,46
Question to question, doubt to doubt succeeds47
Clouds gathering flame for thunders soon to be,48
And glass’d on Shakspeare as upon a sea.49
Each guess of others into worlds unknown50
Shakspeare revolves, but guards concealed his own51
As in the infinite hangs poised his thought,52
Surveying all things, and asserting nought.53
And now, transferr’d from singer and from sage,54
Stands in full day the spirit of the age55
Inquiry ! —She, so coy when first pursued56
In her own ancient arduous solitude,57
Seized by the crowd, and dragged before their bar,58
Changes her shape, and towers transformed to War ;59
Inscribes a banner, flings it to the gales60
Cries, “ I am Truth, and Truth, when arm’d, prevails.”61
Up leaps the zealot—Zeal must clear her way,62
And fell the forests that obscure the day.63
To guard the Bible flashes forth the sword,64
And Cromwell rides, the servant of the Lord.65
Twin-born with Freedom, then with her took breath66
That Art whose dying will be Freedom’s death.67
From Thought’s fierce clash in lightning broke the word ;68
Ungagg’d at last the Isle’s strong Man was heard :69
Still in their sheaths the direful swords repose ;70
Voice may yet warn : The Orator arose !71
Founders of England’s slow-built eloquence72
Truth’s last adornment as her first defence73
Pass—but as shadows !  Nevermore again74
May the land need, yet reel beneath such men !75
Lo, where from haunted floors the phantoms rise,76
Pale through the mists which cleared for us the skies,77
There, but one moment lingering in the hall,78
The earliest, hardiest Orator of all79
Shines—and wanes Eliot on the verge of War,80
As day, in redd’ning, slays its own bright star.81
There flits by Waller of the silvery tongue,82
And faith as ductile as the lyre he strung.83
There, wise to warn, yet impotent to guide,84
And sad with foresight, moves the solemn Hyde.85
Mark, in the front, fit leader of the van,86
Yon large, imperfect, necessary Man ;87
With all the zeal a cause conflicting needs,88
And all the craft by which the cause succeeds ;89
Iron as Ludlow, yet as Villiers trim,90
’Twixt saint and sinner—Atlas-shoulder’d Pym.91
Behind, pure, chill, and lonely as a star,92
Ruthless as angels, when destroying, are,93
Sits Vane, and dreams Utopian isles to be,94
While swells the storm, and sea but spreads on sea ;95
Still in a mirage he discerns a shore,96
And acts with Hampden from belief in More.97
Nor less alone, nor less a dreamer, there98
Wan Falkland looks through space with gloomy stare,99
Pondering that question which no wise man’s voice100
Ever solved yet to guide the brave man’s choice,101
When the dread Present, as on an abyss,102
Splits, in two paths, the frowning precipice103
That, to lost towers which tides already whelm ;104
This, through dark gorges to an unknown realm ;105
Hard to decide ! each fature has its crime ;106
Each past its wreck : here, how control the time ?107
There, how rekindle dust ?  Between the two,108
At least choose quick. Life is the verb “ To do ! ”109
What makes the huge wall crash before the course110
Of the slight ball ?  Accelerated force !111
Ponderest thou still, while murder fills the stage,112
And the ghost becks, O Hamlet of thine age ?113
The scholar’s, soldier’s glass ! ”—glass clearer still,114
Of worth made useless by the want of will.115
But lo ! what shadow fills the phantom hall,116
Awful and large, awhile obscuring all ;117
On angry aspects bending brows of woe,118
Still as a glacier over storms below ?119
That front, proud Strafford, needs no bauble crown120
To make it kinglier than the Stuart’s frown.121
How the dire genius, skill’d, alert, intent,122
Speaks from each swart Italian lineament !123
Some close Visconti there your search defies,124
In the cold gloom of unrevealing eyes ;125
And the hard daring of Castrucci dwells126
In scheming lips comprest as Machiavel’s.127
But hark ! what voice, deep-toned, and musical128
With Raleigh’s noble English, thrills the hall ?129
Still of that voice which awed its age, one tone130
Comes, sad as flutes funereal, to our own ;131
When, at the last, the grand offender pleads,132
Tears drown our justice and efface his deeds ;133
And when poor Stuart, with his feeble “ Nay,”134
Signs the great life which shields his own away,135
Freedom, that needs the victim, rights his shade,136
And turns her axe towards him who has betrayed ;137
While loyal Knighthood, half a rebel grown,138
Veils its shamed eyes from Treason on a Throne.139
But see, where rising last on lull’d debate,140
With brief discourse, in which each word has weight,141
With brain to plan, tongue to persuade, and hand142
To do all mischief,”—which can free his land,143
Great Happen fills the eye ! ——144
Oh, wise as Strafford, and as Vane sincere,145
Warm without frenzy, wary without fear,146
Freedom’s calm champion, while in peace her trust,147
Freedom’s first martyr while her war was just.148
Hadst thou but lived thine own designs to crown ! —149
No ! at its brightest let thy sun go down !150
If Heaven in thee had viewed the later guide,151
From Heaven’s elected death had turn’d aside.152
Thrice happy one ! thy white name is not seen153
In the red list of Bradshaw’s jurymen ;154
Thy manhood smote not the grey crownless head155
Thy faith forsook not the good cause it led156
Thy cheek flush’d not at the usurper’s scoff,157
When pikemen bore a people’s bauble off ;158
Hid from thy sight the loved Republic’s doom,159
In courtiers crowding Cromwell’s anteroom,160
And Gideon-Saints, the men of Marston Moor,161
Drill’d into sentries at the Brewer’s door.162
So pass, O pure Ideal of the free,163
True star to, steer by, wheresoe’er the sea,164
Linking the cause that gives the world its breath165
With Cromwell’s triumph ? No ; with Hampden’s death.166
Slow out of sight the conclave fades away,167
And the last shape which doth the gaze delay,168
Resting on orb and mace the large right hand,169
Is yon rude sloven with the blood-stained band.170
Wide is the void they leave as they depart ;171
Long Freedom sleeps,—with Freedom sleeps her art.172
The grand Republic—for the million won173
Shrinks into space just large eno’ for one !174
Safe from wild talk, reign, lonely Cromwell, reign !175
Hath not the Lord delivered thee from Vane ?176
What ! would a Sanhedrim of Vanes appal177
Less than one stranger-shadow on thy wall ?178
Why gag the time ? —To guard with Mutes thy life ?179
Safer the loud tongue than the noiseless knife : —180
To still the flood that floated The Good Cause ?181
Or save from critics Cromwell’s fame and laws ? —182
Vain dupe,—the stream thy genius might have led,183
Stopt by thy fear, runs back t0 its old bed184
And The Good Cause ? —is Charles on his white horse !185
And Cromwell ? —lo ! at Tyburn hangs a corse !186
Yes, silenced long, outbreaks the Nation’s voice187
King Charles—King Charles—let all the land rejoice ! ’188
Sick of grim saints, short commons, and long graces,189
Welcome wild sinners, laughter, and gay faces.190
France saves our monarch from that vulgar curse,191
A mean dependence on his people’s purse192
Charles from King Louis takes his annual fees,193
Snubs rude St. Stephen, and misrules at ease.194
Shut up the House—can Freedom need its votes195
To doom a Sydney ? —or to saint an Oates !196
But from the flats of that ignoble hour,197
What genius lifts its lightning-shattered tower ?198
Wild as the shapes invoked by magic spell,199
Dire and grotesque, behold Achitophel !200
Dark convict, seared by History’s branding curse,201
And hung in chains from Dryden’s lofty verse.202
Yet who has pierced the labyrinth of that brain ? —203
Who plomb’d that genius, both so vast and vain ? —204
What moved its depths ? —Ambition ? —Passion ? —Whim ?205
This day a Strafford—and the next a Pym ?206
Is it, in truth, as Dryden hath implied,207
Was his “ great wit to madness near allied ? ”208
Accept that guess, and it explains the Man ;209
Reject—and solve the riddle if you can !210
But “ halting there in a wide sea of wax,”211
Trusting no star, trims boasting Halifax ; 212
And who so fit that fickle age to lead213
An age of doubt, a man without a creed ?214
Complete as Gorgias in the sophist’s art215
Orator not—for orators need heart.216
Note him, “ of piercing wit and pregnant thought,217
Endowed by Nature, and by Learning taught :218
To move assemblies ; ”—yes, to reconcile219
Patriots to place ! That ‘ wit’ had won no smile220
From Marvell’s lip ; that ‘pregnant thought’ supplied221
No light to Hampden ; nor dispelled in Hyde222
One noble doubt,—in Vane one noble dream !223
When what they are not men desire to seem,224
Their praises follow him who can suggest,225
Smooth public pleas for private interest,226
Dwarf down rude virtues with a cynic sneer,227
Yet simulate their substance in veneer,228
Unite extremes in this sole golden mean,—229
Tis good for both my good should come between ;230
And who with zeal sincere can raise the cry,231
My country thrives’—unless he add, ‘and I.’ 232
Out on the mask ! —we turn a man to find,233
The naked face—the honest human mind234
And hail fair Somers ! If some names more near235
Our work-day world shine more distinctly clear,236
Yet who shall tell, in glory’s luminous host,237
Which are the orbs that influence earth the most ?238
And every life of use so purely bright,239
Beams evermore a part of the world’s light ;240
The air we breathe, its noiseless rays suffuse,241
Blent in the rainbow, nourishing the dews.242
What voice now swells from Anne’s Augustan days ?243
What form of beauty glows upon the gaze ?244
Bright as the Greek to whom all toil was ease,245
Flash’d forth the English Alcibiades.246
He for whom Swift had not one cynic sneer,247
Whom hardiest Walpole honoured with his fear,248
Whose lost harangues a Pitt could more deplore249
Than all the gaps in Greek and Roman lore,250
Appalling, charming, haunting Sr. John shone,251
And stirr’d that age as Byron thrill’d our own ;252
Sighing for ease, yet ever keen for strife,253
Zeno’s his creed, yet Aretin’s his life ;254
With Protean grace through every change he sports,255
Now awing senates, now perplexing courts ;256
A soul of flame, though both a brand and torch,257
Firing the camp or dazzling from the porch.258
Behold him now, not in his autumn day,259
But the full flowering of his dainty May ;260
Not Pope’s sad friend, and soul-deceiving guide,261
But the State’s darling and the Church’s pride.262
How the fair aspect, ere a sound is heard,263
Prepares the path for the melodious word ;264
Mark in each gesture force with ease allied,265
And manly passion with patrician pride ;266
And oh, that style ! so stately, sweet, and strong,267
Which, tamely read, has all the charm of song,268
What must its power o’er beating hearts have been,269
The genius speaking while the man was seen !270
Judge it by this—behold a later time,271
His party shattered, and its cause a crime ;272
His white name blotted, his young vigour spent,273
A lone grey man comes back from banishment.274
Fear seized the Council ; England seemed too weak275
Against that tongue, if once allowed to speak ;276
Law ransacks all the expedients at its choice,277
Restores the peer, and then proscribes his voice.278
So the grand orator, his field denied,279
Shrunk to a small philosopher, and died.280
Dear to all classic taste that age of Anne ;281
We love its poets, though their verse will scan ;282
Its prose still greets us like a pleasant friend,283
Though not so wise but what we comprehend284
A well-drest elegant Horatian age.285
Suspend the curtain, glance along the stage ;286
Who’s that with timorous yet with pompous air,287
Blandly reserved, and stiffly debonnair ?288
Harley, “ got up” for splendour and parade ;289
And ne’er less Harley than when in brocade.290
Note, through the levée with a careless stride,291
Parting the throng as some tough keel the tide,292
With soldier bearing, yet in priestly guise,293
With black brows knitted over azure eyes,294
With lips that kindle from the gravest there,295
The boisterous laughter which they scorn to share,296
The stern, sad man who made the world so gay,297
Seift comes—half-Rousseau and half-Rabelais.298
Half-Rousseau ? —yes ; for while we gaze on both,299
Hating we pity, and admiring loathe ;300
With varying fever-fits now glow, now freeze,301
And shuddering ask, “ Which genius, which disease ? ”302
Half-Rabelais ? —yes ; on crozier and on crown303
Hanging wild fool-bells, jingling reverence down ;304
Profaning, levelling, yet illuming earth,305
Vile and sublime, the demagogue of mirth :306
Power, wisdom, beauty trampled, smeared, and spurned ;307
What rests to admire ? —the strength that overturned !308
Genius permits no mortal to debase309
By his own height the stature of his race ;310
The crowds beneath if he with scorn surveys,311
He dwarfs them not ; he does but lift their gaze.312
But Swift, not now the envenoned malcontent ;313
His mind has space—its gloomy fires a vent ;314
The smile, if wintry, yet plays round the sneer ;315
The bright stern eye sees some cathedral near ;316
And the fierce hand that warms in Harley’s clasp,317
Feels at the touch a mitre in its grasp.318
Break up the levée ! that no place for friends,319
Harley’s gilt coach the equal pair attends320
Poet and premier take the air together,321
Discussing Church and gossip, State and weather.322
See, as they pass, what quaint familiar groups,323
What lively Muses in what formal hoops !324
See Pope’s light Sappho, arm’d With pen and fan,325
This points her billetdoux, that slays her man ;326
While her pale poet scorn’d yet courted sighs,327
And one brief folly dims those lustrous eyes.328
Lo, Marlborough’s duchess ! welcome to her grace329
Her with the fury heart and fairy face !330
Whose aim a despot’s, and whose sense a doll’s331
Whose pride Roxana’s, and whose language Poll’s.332
With English humour and wild Irish heart,333
See Steele rehearse what Goldsmith made a part,334
Ranging at whim from fever-heat to zero,335
Now the frank rake, and now “ the Christian Hero.”336
Play as he will, the deuce is in the cards ;337
Student at Isis, trooper in the Guards338
A brisk comedian now before the lamps,339
And now—a grave Commissioner of Stamps ;340
Now a church union with the Scotch his wish,341
Next day, “ a project for preserving fish ; ”342
Inventing Tatlers, scribbling a Gazette343
Ever at work, and never out of debt.344
Ah ! wits, like fools, oft make their proper rods345
Where Prudence comes not, never come the gods.346
But there, with step more modest and more slow,347
Comes the supreme “ Sectator” of the show ;348
Exquisite Genius, to whose chisell’d line349
The ivory’s polish lends the ivory’s shine.350
With strength so sweet, in its subdued repose,351
Virgil of humorists, and Pope of prose ;352
In this what dignity, in that what ease !353
In both what charm ! —the rarest charm, to please !354
Quick glide the rest. See Cibber has his lord ;355
Were there more Cibbers, lords would be less bored !356
See Berkeley, lingering on his heavenward way,357
Smooth his large front to the child-laugh of Gay ;358
See peers, see princes vying for the praise359
Of high-bred Congreve, heartless as his plays.360
But wheresoe’er the eye delighted rove,361
The Muse still stands beside some earthly Jove ;362
Fused in one air the universal Powers363
That light the ages, or but gild the hours.364
Rank then was pleased when Wit its birthright claimed ;365
If either cringed—not Swift, be Harley blamed.366
In court, in senate, hall, and mart, and street,367
Frank Genius came its fellow-chiefs to meet368
Pleasure itself seemed dull and void of ease,369
Till some bright spirit taught her how to please ;370
And no Sir Plume was half so proud as when371
The sylph politely shaped him to a pen.372
But all too long a truant from my theme,373
I mark the sparkles, not pursue the stream.374
Now comes the Man who has for verse no ear,375
For lore no reverence, and for wit no fear ;376
Burly and bluff, in St. John’s vacant place,377
The land’s new leader lifts his jovial face.378
Alas ! poor Nine—a dreary time for you !379
King George the First, Sir Robert Walpole too !380
Sir Robert waits ; —those shrewd coarse features scan,381
How strong the sense, how English is the man ! —382
English, if left to all plain sense bestows,383
And stripp’d of all that man to genius owes.384
He sets no flowers, but each dry stubble gleans385
Statesman in ends, but huxter in the means386
Boldly he nears his hacks, extends the chaff,387
And flings the halter with an ostler’s laugh.388
Corruptly frank, he buys or bullies all,389
And is what placemen style “ the practical.”390
Is this man eloquent ? The man creates391
New ground, now ours—the level of debates.392
Eloquent ? —Yes, in parliamentary sense,393
The skilful scorn of what seems eloquence ;394
Adroit, familiar, fluent, easy, free,395
And each quick point as quick to seize as see ;396
Shielding the friend, but covering from the foe,397
And ne’er above his audience nor below :398
Arm’d in finance, blow up with facts the speech,399
And rows of figures bristle in the breach.400
Soft in his tones, seductive in his signs,401
When doom’d to take “ a vote upon supplies ; ”402
At times a proser, at no time a prater,403
And six feet high—in short, a great debater.404
And is that all ? —Nay, trath must grant much more ;405
The bluff old Whig was Briton to the core.406
With this strong purpose, whatsoe’er he plann’d,407
To save from Pope and Papist kings the land.408
His heart was mild ; it slew not, nor proscribed ;409
His tenets loose ; in clemency he bribed.410
A town conspires in secret : —he sends down411
Cannon—tut ! candidates to buy the town.412
Sly Jesuits have a senator misled,413
He hints a pension, and he saves a head.414
While since adventure outlets must obtain,415
In closing war he frees the roads to gain ;416
Shows teeming marts, and says to Hope, “ Behold,417
’Tis Peace that guards the avenues to gold.”418
So blent with good and evil all the springs419
Which move in states the wheels of human things,420
That, though the truth must be with pain confest,421
Men not too good may suit mankind the best ;422
So leave Sir Robert “ buttoned to the chin,423
Broadcloth without, and a warm heart within,”424
To tax, to bribe, to coax the public weal425
From foreign standards and fraternal steel.426
Far livelier wit, which malice more refines,427
Words better minted, and from wealthier mines,428
More warmth with dignity, more force with grace,429
Rank Pulteney loftier—toftier till in place.430
His art attack, success his genius ends ;431
Yield him the fort—he’s lost when he defends.432
Yet none so boldly rushed upon the wall,433
And none so stoutly sapp’d it to its fall ;434
And none e’er wielded with so keen a fence435
The poniard sarcasm lends to eloquence.436
See him with Walpole singly hand to hand,437
How the slight dagger foils the heavy brand ;438
Sharpening to epigram each word of hate,439
He shines and stabs, the Martial of debate.*440
With wit as piercing, but in words more chaste,441
That steal their blow, and never wound the taste.442
His Thyrsus sword, in classic wreaths conceal’d,443
Charms and persuades Hortensian Chesterfield.444
Too slight to jostle with the Burghers’ crowd,445
With tones too well bred, when the roar is loud,446

* “ How many Martials were in Pulteney lost ! ”—Pope.
Form’d for the air patrician calm affords,447
He rivals Cicero when he speaks to Lords ;448
Makes commerce courtier-like, and Cocker clear,449
And speaks of freedom like a free-born peer.450
High above each in genius, lore, and fire,451
With mind of muscles which no toil could tire,452
With lips that seem’d like Homer’s gods to quaff453
From nectar-urns the unextinguished laugh,454
Frank with the mirth of souls divinely strong,455
Carteret’s large presence floats from out the throng.456
What earlier school this grand comedian rear’d ?457
His first essays no crowds less courtly cheer’d.458
From learned closets came a sauntering sage,459
Yawn’d, smil’d, and spoke, and took by storm the age :460
Who that can hear him, and on business, speak,461
Would dream he lunch’d with Bentley upon Greek,462
And will to-night with Hutcheson regale on463
The feast of Reason in the tough To Kalon,464
With what rich spoils the full life overflows ;465
His genius gilds, because his nature glows ;466
Call it not versatile, but, like the sun,467
Fix’d and the same whate’er it beams upon ;468
Fix’d and the same not less because it calls469
Colour from things on which, as light, it falls.470
Pass by the lesser, not inglorious host ;471
Awed, they shrink back ; arise, majestic ghost !472
Lo, the great Arts’ unrivalled master one,473
The mightier Father of the mighty Son !474
Like hero myths before the Homeric time,475
Looms the vast form—if vague, the more sublime ;476
That pomp of speech but such memorial leaves,477
As the gone storm with which the wave still heaves ;478
Or as, on hills remote, the cloudy wreath,479
Flush’d with the giant sun that sank beneath.480
Yet it is not by words that critics praise,481
Nor yet by deeds which after-judgment weighs482
With ounce and scruple in impartial scales,483
That a great soul, like a great truth, prevails.484
Apart from what is said, and what is done,485
There is a force by which the world is won,486
Born in men’s destined ruler ! —Reason halts487
To gauge the merits or assess the faults,488
While forth unguess’d magnetic influence flows,489
Attracts the followers, or unnerves the foes.490
Our fathers tell us what their fathers told,491
How from those lips the glorious cataract roll’d ;492
And while its scorn all barrier swept away,493
Each wave the roughest still flash’d back the day.494
The effect sublime ; the cause why fritter down ?495
Did stage-craft teach the mode to wear the crown ?496
Learn’d he from Roscius in what folds to bring497
The imperial purple ? —was he less the king ?498
Actor” you call him ; yes, with inborn ease499
What labour made divine Demosthenes ;500
Tones with the might of music at their choice,501
The front august, the eye itself a voice,502
These Nature gave ; did care the rest impart,503
Nature herself were chaos without art.504
Was it a fault if cowering Senates shook,505
Thrill’d by a whisper, spellbound by a look ?506
Or could the gesture dazzle and control,507
Save as it lannch’d some lightning of the soul ?508
Others take force from judgment, fancy, thought,509
Chatham from passion ; for its voice he sought510
Sounds rolling large as waves of stormy song,511
By pride made stately, but by anger strong ;512
To colder lips he left the words that teach ;513
He awed and crush’d—the Æschylus of speech.514
Hush ! let that form the long perspective close,—515
In marble calm the Olympian kings repose ;516
Place on his throne the thunder-lord of all,517
To end the vista and complete the hall ;518
And as ye turn with reverent steps to tread519
Galleries that niche the less majestic dead,520
Retain that noble image in the heart,521
And, your own selves made nobler, so depart.522
Thus when the Greek, enshrined in Elis, saw523
The Zeus that Phidias shaped for human awe,524
The Power but bent above him from its throne525
A front that lifted to the stars his own ;526
Back from the shrine to active life he brought527
The sacred influence in the statelier thought,528
More nerved to high design and dauntless deed,529
To front the Agora or repel the Mede.530