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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/233

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195
ODE ON VENICE.

II.

There is no hope for nations!—Search the page
Of many thousand years—the daily scene,
The flow and ebb of each recurring age,
The everlasting to be which hath been,
Hath taught us nought or little: still we lean60
On things that rot beneath our weight, and wear
Our strength away in wrestling with the air;
For 't is our nature strikes us down: the beasts
Slaughtered in hourly hecatombs for feasts
Are of as high an order—they must go
Even where their driver goads them, though to slaughter.
Ye men, who pour your blood for kings as water,
What have they given your children in return?
A heritage of servitude and woes,
A blindfold bondage, where your hire is blows.70
What! do not yet the red-hot ploughshares burn,[1]
O'er which you stumble in a false ordeal,
And deem this proof of loyalty the real;
Kissing the hand that guides you to your scars,
And glorying as you tread the glowing bars?
All that your Sires have left you, all that Time
Bequeaths of free, and History of sublime,
Spring from a different theme!—Ye see and read,
Admire and sigh, and then succumb and bleed!
Save the few spirits who, despite of all,80
And worse than all, the sudden crimes engendered
By the down-thundering of the prison-wall,
And thirst to swallow the sweet waters tendered,
Gushing from Freedom's fountains—when the crowd,[2]

Maddened with centuries of drought, are loud,
  1. [In contrasting Sheridan with Brougham, Byron speaks of "the red-hot ploughshares of public life."—Diary, March 10, 1814, Letters, 1898, ii. 397.]
  2. [Compare—

    "At last it [the mob] takes to weapons such as men
    Snatch when despair makes human hearts less pliant.
    Then comes 'the tug of war;'—'t will come again,
    I rather doubt; and I would fain say 'fie on 't,'
    If I had not perceived that Revolution
    Alone can save the earth from Hell's pollution."

    Don Juan, Canto VIII. stanza li. lines 3-8.]