1793 24

Previous Poem    -    Next Poem

The Genius of France
The Cambridge Intelligencer (December 14, 1793)

'Twas night[1]—that night by fiercest furies led,
When lawless crowds the blood of thousands shed;
When mad revenge took justice' sacred name,
And men, though patriots call'd, breath'd faction's flame;
Indignant Gallia's awful genius rose,
The wreath of Liberty adorn'd her brows;
Alas! that wreath, new wove, began to fade,
Each flower desponding, bow'd its languid head:
Her faded form, her wounded breast she shew'd,
While tears adown her cheek spontaneous flow'd;
"How long, my sons," she cried, "shall discord reign,
"And you, regardless, wear her fatal chain?
"How long shall naughty tyrants taunting cry,
"Behold the boasted Gallic Liberty!
"How long shall all the wise and good lament,
"To see fair freedom's sons on ruin bent!
"How long shall widows, orphans, sires, their cause,
"Unheeded see, and mourn the trampled laws?
"Impatient long, through many a gloomy year
"Constrain'd the yoke of slavery to bear,
"My country saw, 'neath sad oppression groan,
"And servile bend before the tyrant's throne;
"What heavenly joy my inmost soul suffus'd,
"When the brave band that tyrant's law refus'd;
"When France, with honest indignation warm
"Felt rising freedom nerve each conquering arm;
"Bid every breast the patriot's ardour feel,
"And rear the trophy on the fall'n Bastille.
"My sons are free! I cried—at length are blest!—
"Vain hope if still domestic strifes infest.
"If from my shores unhappy myriads fly,
"And seek a shelter from a foreign sky;
"If commerce fail, if order sink her head,
"And faith and mutual confidence be dead;
"If patriot magistrates oppose in vain,
"And raving anarchy assume the rein;
"If rage command in banish'd reason's place,
"And injur'd justice hide her mournful face.
"If temples be defil'd by shameless bands,
"Nor sepulchres escape their impious hands;
"If wet with gore still smoke the tepid ground,
"And bleeding innocence still shriek around:
"If patriots perish by the forc'd decree,
"And madmen rule—France cannot then be free.
"Oh! cease these horrors—calm domestic ire,
"And bid Alecto[2] to the shades retire:
"Heal every wound which marks my mangled breast,
"And let my troubled soul at length have rest:
"When shouts the demagogue, (for such there are,
"Who, seeming friends, provoke intestine war,)
"Disdain his call, nor let his treacherous tongue
"To slaughter lead the wild misguided throng:
"Unite, be firm, expiring laws restore,
"Let order reign and tumult swell no more.
"If freedom's bands unite, let tyrants league—
"Let exil'd despots with low arts intrigue:
"Let haughty BRUNSWICK[3] threaten to enslave,—
"Their impious arms, their servile hosts we brave:
"Advance, ye robbers, come with all your powers,
"Charge with o'erwhelming crowds, infest our towers;
"Unsheathe your swords, let cannons thundering roar,
"Let carnage rage, let meadows stream with gore,
"Nought shall appal, 'midst foremost ranks you see,
"Avenger bold, the goddess LIBERTY.
"She shakes her lance—the vanquish'd legions fly,
"Nor stand the lightnings of her beaming eye:
"To conquest sure she leads her dauntless train,
"And liberty shall echo through the plain.
"At that blest name new fervour warns my heart—
"Each manly virtue, and each liberal art
"To her belong—to her, my sons, you owe
"Each good that's worth the wise man's wish below:
"Go then, nor waste in civil broils your fire,
"One soul (and that be freedom's) all inspire;
"Let each a bulwark prove, his country save—
"Live free, or rather die that live a slave."



1. [Author's note]: "September 2d, 1792."

2. Alecto, in Greek mythology, is one of the Eumenides, the "furies" who pursue the guilty in this world and after death.

3. In July, 1792, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, issued a manifesto threatening to destroy the French armies.

Previous Poem    -    Next Poem