BETA

The Vision of Famine.

Part Second.

In bright effulgence rose the summer sun, upon the1
Natal morn of Albion’s lovely Queen ! as round the2
Palace walls the minstrels thronged, to hail the day’s3
Return with mirth and melody ; and many a flattering4
Lay was warbled forth to greet her ear, by hireling5
Sycophants, whose soft-toned voices were attuned to6
Courtly adulation, and in whose hearts there dwelt7
No sympathy with what the tongues were uttering.8
But soon the scene was changed !  And now we9
Enter by the Royal gate, where all is bustle, as the10
Incongruous mass are pressing to the Hall of Audience.11
There, on her darling throne, in Regal pomp, the
monarch
12
Sat, in robes of rich magnificence. With stedfast gaze13
She eyed the gathering crowd, while on each side, in14
All the gewgaw glitter of their office, ‘stood her
counsellors,
15
In moody silence. Oh, gracious heaven ! it was a sick-
ening
16
Sight, a mark the woe-worn, haggard looks of that un-
seemly
17
Throng !  Onward they came, to prove the perfidy of18
Reckless legislation, which, like a blighting19
Pestilence, had filled. with hungry ruin, wrecthedness,20
And death, their humble dwellings. At length the Queen21
Arose ! whose restless eye, pale cheek, and trembling lip,22
Told that her thoughts were busy with the scene. Her23
Heart was young and guiltless, uncorrupted by the sordid24
Artifice of selfish knavery, which marked the unmoved25
Features of her suite. Each generous feeling of her26
Soul, in spotless purity, proclaimed that though a27
Queen, she felt the ardent virtuous sympathies which28
Warm a woman’s bosom !  She raised her hand, whose29
Gentle motion hushed the assembly into instant silence.30
Each eye was fixed upon her form, in deep intensity,31
When thus the Sovereign spoke : —32

Queen.

Tis well that ye have answered our33
Command with prompt obedience. Now, choose34
Ye one whose duty it shall be to certify if ye35
Have suffered aught of injury or wrong. Let him36
Advance, and fearlessly assert the truth; he shall37
Have a patient hearing, be it to the praise or censure38
Of the government or throne.39
One moment’s consultation, and ’ twas done, full in40
The front of all, with steady step, an aged man41
Appeared ; his form was bent with ill-requited toil,42
But on his brow was writ, in many a furrowed line,43
An honest Artizan. He raised his eyes, sparkling with44
Conscious worth, and thus began:45

Artizan.

I thank your Majesty, that ye have deigned46
To listen to a poor untutored man—unskilled in all, save47
What adversity hath taught; and though her salutary
lesson
48
She imparts with accent rude, ’ tis counsel worthy of49
Remembrance. I lived full three score years upon50
My native soil, ’ mid pain and penury, and spent my51
Manhood’s strength to gain a crust of bread, which lords52
And priests, with devilish ingenuity, have taxed to gorge53
Their carcasses with savoury venison. Yes, they have
taxed,
54
With heaven-defying hand, toil’s hungry stomach, where
the
55
Knowing fiend now whispers the subversion of thy throne.56
While indolence is fed with every luxury, the poor—the
labouring
57
Poor is starved—robbed of the bounty of their God by
titled
58
Traitors, who have squandered and abused my country’s
energies ;
59
Whose dark and fathomless iniquity now threatens, with60
O’erwhelming sweep, to lay my native land in prostrate
ruin.
61
Is not the senate house, the sacred temple of my country’s62
Liberties, converted to a den of thieves, where wealth63
Alone is worshipped on his golden altar, sprinkled with64
The tears and blood of labouring millions, wrung by the
laws,
65
O’er which we’ve no control, yet must obey ?66
Laws made in violation and contempt of truth and
justice ;
67
Laws made by the few, who trample neath their feet the68
Sacred precept of the Son of God, “ That ye do unto
others
69
As ye would they’d do to you.” And when the millions70
Raise their voice tu seek redress, these Christian rulers of71
The land have sent their paid avengers forth to drench72
Their sabres in their blood, and fill the loathsome dungeon73
With the good and brave; too virtuous to be bought—too74
Fearless to be made their silent slaves !75

Councillor.

He lies ! the impious varlet lies76
In presence of your. majesty. If they have felt77
Discomfort, ’ tis but the offspring of their ignorant78
Improvidence. Go work: be sober and contented with79
The wise allotment of o’erruling providence.80

Artizan.

Your majesty, as I shall swear at the throne81
On high, I speak the truth, which yonder tyrant and82
Blasphemer would confound with Heaven’s o’erflowing
mercy.
83
Well may’st thou shrink to own the black unholy
catalogue
84
Of crime which your confederacy have wrought. Bear
witness of its
85
Truth, ye starving millions, in your hovel homes, where86
All ye hold most dear on earth are famishing.87
Bear witness, Bastile bread-tax, Whiggery, with iron
heart,
88
And hide in everlasting shame thy hydra head,89
Have not your famine laws and cruel barbarity o’erspread90
The land, and made the poor man’s home worse than91
The kennel for your hounds ? —Have ye not filled the poor92
With anguish and despair, and goaded them to frenzied
madness ?
93
For ye are mighty in the deadly strife, and court the
onset of
94
The untaught hungry mass, to glut with carnage terrible95
The despot’s ire. Stand not the people on the brink of96
Insurrection ? —war’s dread archangel, with his blood-red
flag of conflagration ;
97
Have not your cities been in flames, lit by the Rebel or98
The Spy ? —have not the sullen crowd stood by with99
Cold indifference, watching the bursting flames leaping100
From house to house, devouring, fierce, and terrible,101
As man’s revenge ?  Is this the trophy of your102
Legislative fame ? —is this fulfilment of your .103
Plighted faith and boasted love of liberty ; and wast104
For scenes like these the people hurled from105
The hateful faction, who through war and blood had106
In hollow mockery of justice, answer thee,107
Have ye not branded them as demagogues, lawless,108
And lost to any principle of good ?  But it is hard for109
Poverty to prove its love of honesty and virtue,110
And hard to bear the slander and the scorn of those111
Whose systematic villainy hath been the fruitful112
Source of all our woe. Well may’st thou blush,113
Thou fawning hypocrite, arch-traitor to your country,114
To your Queen, and to your God.115

Queen.

Oh ! who would fill a throne, round which is thrown116
Oppression’s loathsome coil of ignorance, and squalid
misery ?
117
O, mean and mad ambition ! for ’ twill prove the monster118
Whose fell grasp will strangle their unhallowed power119
With death, ignoble and unpitied. But by my hopes of120
Heaven, such fate shall not be mine. Ere I will121
Reign the Queen of hungry slaves ! I’ll throw aside the122
Irksome load of monarchy, and live and die with123
Title nobler for a woman unadorned in honour—124
Virtue and simplicity.125
An universal burst of acclamation rose, and shook126
The vaulted roof. I grew bewildered with the deafening127
Shout ; the sight forsook mine eyes ; a strange sensation128
Overspread my frame; and when I again looked,129
Lo ! Queen and crowd were gone !  All I had130
Seen and heard was but the day-dream131
Of a poor man’s heart, filled with the melancholy132
Contemplation of his country’s wrongs !133