BETA

The Vision of Famine.

Part I.

A grievous vision is declared unto me ; the treacherous dealer
dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth.”
Isaiah.
Within a gorgeous palace a young and blooming Queen 1
Had sunk to rest. Music and artful flattery had ceased 2
To charm her ear ; unbroken silence reigned around, 3
Save when the gaudy sentinel, with measured tread, 4
Proclaim’d the watchword of the night. Upon her downy 5
Couch the Island Queen lay dreaming ’mid the rich 6
Embroidery of state, of pomp, and power, and universal 7
Homage from the grateful millions, for whose happiness 8
And peace she sway’d the sceptre of her native land. 9
When hark! the shriek of mingled voices rent the air, 10
As if ten million tongues had join’d the cry— “ Queen of
the
11
Famine-tax, arise ! and give thy starving people bread.”12
With quick convulsive start the sovereign woke, and threw13
A hurried glance around. No sound was heard, nor14
Living thing was there ; and, as she wiped the perspira-
tion
15
From her brow, she smiled at the strange fancy whose16
Rude power had broken the silken fetters of her slumber.17
That cry of human agony re-echoed in her ear, and thoughts18
Of sadness and of woe came crowding fast, and filled19
Her with a melancholy dread she ne’ever had known before,20
Clear distinct the recollection grew of the wild tumult21
Of her dream, and baffled every effort to efface its deep22
Impression from her memory. Queen of the Famine-tax !23
Of her own sweet voice, which, though unconsciously, had
lent
24
Free utterance to her thoughts—ay thoughts ! for even25
A queen must think, if left to commune with her soul,26
That pure and vigilant ambassador from God to27
Vindicate the truth, and point us to the path of28
Virtuous duty. And such the influence of that29
Midnight hour upon her heart, uprising with the30
First bright beams of morn, she breathed a prayer31
Of supplication to her God to aid her in her holy purpose.32
Apparelled as a Queen, in meet fulfilment of her33
Royal dignity, she summoned to her presence him34
Who held the office of her Councillor. With bland35
Obsequious smile he entered, and, as she fixed36
Upon his simpering face her scrutinizing glance,37
She felt a strong suspicion of his faithlessness38

Queen.

What tidings bring ye of the busy world ?39
Hast aught of novelty or import to relive the dull mo-
notony ?
40

Counsellor.

At present, please your Majesty, there’s41
Not a whisper to disturb the calm serenity around thee :42
All is tranquil as a summer lake, o’er which the gentlest43
Winds of heaven are breathing44

Queen.

How bless’d indeed should be the Queen of45
Such a happy land !  But list ! I am not superstitious ;46
No ! nor am I bold enough to question or decide what47
May nor may not be the hidden agency by which Omni-
potence
48
And wisdom infinited finds full accomplishment.49
At darkest midnight, as I slept, methought a fearful50
Multitude encompassed me, whose horrid yell, like sound51
Of rushing waters, rose proclaiming, “ Queen of the Fa-
mine-tax, arise !
52
And give thy starving people bread.” Affrighted, I
awoke,
53
Nor farther rest could find, for still the vision haunted54
Me, whose spell-like power hath held my waking thoughts55
In painful thraldom.56

Counsellor.

’Tis cause of deepest sorrow that your57
Majesty hath been disquieted. Thy former solicitude and58
Ancious care for all pertaining to they people’s good, have59
Press’d too heavily upon thee, creating fears and phantasies60
Whose sole existence springs from they hearts excess of
warm
61
Benevolence.62

Queen.

As heaven can judge, there’s nought could yield63
Delight, as would the glas assurance of my people’s love ;64
Their free and spontaneous gush of pure affection I would
prize
65
As earth’s recompense. Know, then, our fix’d re-
solve
66
By which that dream of anarchy shall melt unheeded67
Into dim oblivion, else find dread confirmation starting68
Into life, in all its vivid and appalling horrors,69
Throughout the land’s circumference, by instant pro-
clamation,
70
Make it known that, at our anniversary, free audience to
our
71
Loyal subjects shall be given, so we may learn if smiling72
Plenty, love, and peace, or poverty and cankering dis-
content
73
Do most prevail.74

Counsellor.

By virtue of that high distinguished privilege75
Wherewith your Majesty hath honoured me, permit me,
with
76
Profoundest reverence, to remonstrate. Your Majesty
must
77
Beware that such decree is most unprecedented ;78
Nay, ’tis fraught with danger thus to condescend so great indulgence79
To a motely throng, unworthy of your Royal presence ;80
Such special favour to the thoughtless crowd (at best 81
Rude and illiterate) would but engender grossest inso-
lence—
82
Lessening that broad distinction which should mark 83
The intercourse between a mightly sovereign and her people84

Queen.

In sooth ye do surprise me. What ! make 85
My people insolent by kindrest treatment ?  I love not86
Your philosophy of human feeling. Kind sympathy will
soften.
87
And subdue the rudest heart, and fill the eye with tears 88
Of heartfelt gratitute : the unlettered peasant and the sage89
Alike must yield them to its influence ; nor do I fear 90
Its exercise upon the honest millions, Have we not sworn 91
Before high heaven, to see impartial justice dealt to all—92
To seek with jealous care the fullest measure of the93
People’s good ?  Was’t not to guard their freedom and 94
the palace and the crown were made ? And what 95
Both, without their generous aid, affection, and esteem ? 96
A useless mockery! a whited sepuichre !  What fear 97
Ye shew !  If in the poor man’s home prosperity hath 98
Shed her gladdening light, ’twill be best proof of 99
Thy just ministration, and thy claim to future confidence. 100
Away !  I’ll hear no more !  I have resolved on’t, and by 101
My plighted an it shalt be so.102
Defeated and perplexed, the parasite withdrew. The
recollection of a thousand villainies was rankling in his
soul, as if exulting in anticipation of his fate—the just
reward of heartless treachery.