Vignette XXI. Lines

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LINES.
Written for a Young Gentleman to speak at the Audit at St. Saviour’s School, Southwark, after the Battle of Trafalgar.

While others, from the Greek and Roman page,
Declare the prudent councils of the sage;
Or, in recital of achievements bold,
Retrace the motives and the deeds of old,
I, in the accents of my native clime,
And, at the moment, shaking hands with Time,
I, whom our recent loss forbids to roam,
Shall plant my mourning standard nearer home!
At the sad shrine where gallant Nelson sleeps,
Where Britain bends her lofty head and weeps,
Deeply lamenting that she cannot prove,
The fond excess of dearly purchas’d love.

Is there a callous mind, that does not feel
An anxious interest in the public weal!
Is there a heart that pities not the brave!
To whom luxuriant laurels hide the grave!
A grief unwing’d, yet unconsol’d by pride!
A tongue that said not, when our hero died,
While bitter tears that glorious loss deplore,
The man who lov’d his country is no more?
No! in each eye the glowing trophies fade;
Each sign of triumph seems a vain parade!
The aching sigh to conquering shouts succeeds,
And Victory assumes a widow’s weeds.

Some wily chieftain, building up a name,
May fight for immortality and fame;
Time may embalm his valour, or his art,
And History shew the coldness of a heart,
Which, emulous of grandeur and a throne,
Acts for itself, “its own low self” alone;
And, in the inner chambers of the mind,
Broods over plans to subjugate mankind:
There fondly bends each nation to his sway,
That he may rule, and all beside obey.
Haply the mighty fabric may arise,
Vast in its bulk, and aiming at the skies,
Till Wisdom, viewing the enormous pile,
Admires the madness of a man the while,
Who labours with incessant toil and skill;
To feed Ambition, discontented still;
And for that serpent in his bosom curl’d,
Erects a temple fit to hold the world!

Though such a chief a deathless wreath may crown,
Though he may win a sterile, hard renown,
His name shall ne’er a sudden glow impart,
Nor make the tear of admiration start;
Ne’er in his plaudits shall warm blessings join!
None cry, “The triumph of that man is mine!”
But, when his greatness crumbles in the dust,
Coldly exclaim, “Lo! Providence is just!”
Far different is the patriot warrior’s lot!
He may in Time’s long journey be forgot;
Though many generations shall decay,
Ere England’s love to Nelson wears away!
But if at length successive years should cast
The mist of distance upon ages past,
And fathers what themselves have witness’d tell,
Of those who yet shall serve their country well—
Memory and Knowledge shall dispel the gloom,
And shed strong light on every honour’d tomb—
To lift the spirit when our courage fail,
When worth departed, future ages hail!

And ye, compeers, who in the classic page,
Do homage to the hero and the sage,
Whose hearts at base and cruel actions bleed,
But rise triumphant at a noble deed—
Forbear from Duty’s anxious side to stray,
But follow bravely when she leads the way;
Follow with head and heart, as Nelson fought;
Be vigilant like him in act and thought;
Then, as the lark mounts upwards in the skies,
Early in life’s fair morning will you rise,
Expand bold pinions nearest to the sun,
And claim the meed of glory fairly won.

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