'Fairy!' the Spirit said, And on the Queen of Spells Fixed her aethereal eyes, 'I thank thee. Thou hast given A boon which I will not resign, and taught A lesson not to be unlearned. I know The past, and thence I will essay to glean A warning for the future, so that man May profit by his errors, and derive Experience from his folly: For, when the power of imparting joy Is equal to the will, the human soul Requires no other Heaven.'
MAB: 'Turn thee, surpassing Spirit! Much yet remains unscanned. Thou knowest how great is man, Thou knowest his imbecility: Yet learn thou what he is: Yet learn the lofty destiny Which restless time prepares For every living soul.
'Behold a gorgeous palace, that, amid Yon populous city rears its thousand towers And seems itself a city. Gloomy troops Of sentinels, in stern and silent ranks, Encompass it around: the dweller there Cannot be free and happy; hearest thou not The curses of the fatherless, the groans Of those who have no friend? He passes on: The King, the wearer of a gilded chain That binds his soul to abjectness, the fool Whom courtiers nickname monarch, whilst a slave Even to the basest appetites-that man Heeds not the shriek of penury; he smiles At the deep curses which the destitute Mutter in secret, and a sullen joy Pervades his bloodless heart when thousands groan But for those morsels which his wantonness Wastes in unjoyous revelry, to save All that they love from famine: when he hears The tale of horror, to some ready-made face Of hypocritical assent he turns, Smothering the glow of shame, that, spite of him, Flushes his bloated cheek. Now to the meal Of silence, grandeur, and excess, he drags His palled unwilling appetite. If gold, Gleaming around, and numerous viands culled From every clime, could force the loathing sense To overcome satiety,-if wealth The spring it draws from poisons not,-or vice, Unfeeling, stubborn vice, converteth not Its food to deadliest venom; then that king Is happy; and the peasant who fulfils His unforced task, when he returns at even, And by the blazing faggot meets again Her welcome for whom all his toil is sped, Tastes not a sweeter meal. Behold him now Stretched on the gorgeous couch; his fevered brain Reels dizzily awhile: but ah! too soon The slumber of intemperance subsides, And conscience, that undying serpent, calls Her venomous brood to their nocturnal task. Listen! he speaks! oh! mark that frenzied eye- Oh! mark that deadly visage.'
KING: 'No cessation! Oh! must this last for ever? Awful Death, I wish, yet fear to clasp thee!-Not one moment Of dreamless sleep! O dear and blessed peace! Why dost thou shroud thy vestal purity In penury and dungeons? wherefore lurkest With danger, death, and solitude; yet shunn'st The palace I have built thee? Sacred peace! Oh visit me but once, but pitying shed One drop of balm upon my withered soul.'
THE FAIRY: 'Vain man! that palace is the virtuous heart, And Peace defileth not her snowy robes In such a shed as thine. Hark! yet he mutters; His slumbers are but varied agonies, They prey like scorpions on the springs of life. There needeth not the hell that bigots frame To punish those who err: earth in itself Contains at once the evil and the cure; And all-sufficing Nature can chastise Those who transgress her law,-she only knows How justly to proportion to the fault The punishment it merits. Is it strange That this poor wretch should pride him in his woe? Take pleasure in his abjectness, and hug The scorpion that consumes him? Is it strange That, placed on a conspicuous throne of thorns, Grasping an iron sceptre, and immured Within a splendid prison, whose stern bounds Shut him from all that's good or dear on earth, His soul asserts not its humanity? That man's mild nature rises not in war Against a king's employ? No-'tis not strange. He, like the vulgar, thinks, feels, acts and lives Just as his father did; the unconquered powers Of precedent and custom interpose Between a KING and virtue. Stranger yet, To those who know not Nature, nor deduce The future from the present, it may seem, That not one slave, who suffers from the crimes Of this unnatural being; not one wretch, Whose children famish, and whose nuptial bed Is earth's unpitying bosom, rears an arm To dash him from his throne! Those gilded flies That, basking in the sunshine of a court, Fatten on its corruption!-what are they? -The drones of the community; they feed On the mechanic's labour: the starved hind For them compels the stubborn glebe to yield Its unshared harvests; and yon squalid form, Leaner than fleshless misery, that wastes A sunless life in the unwholesome mine, Drags out in labour a protracted death, To glut their grandeur; many faint with toil, That few may know the cares and woe of sloth.
'Whence, think'st thou, kings and parasites arose? Whence that unnatural line of drones, who heap Toil and unvanquishable penury On those who build their palaces, and bring Their daily bread?-From vice, black loathsome vice; From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong; From all that 'genders misery, and makes Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust, Revenge, and murder...And when Reason's voice, Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked The nations; and mankind perceive that vice Is discord, war, and misery; that virtue Is peace, and happiness and harmony; When man's maturer nature shall disdain The playthings of its childhood;-kingly glare Will lose its power to dazzle; its authority Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall, Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood's trade Shall be as hateful and unprofitable As that of truth is now. Where is the fame Which the vainglorious mighty of the earth Seek to eternize? Oh! the faintest sound From Time's light footfall, the minutest wave That swells the flood of ages, whelms in nothing The unsubstantial bubble. Ay! today Stern is the tyrant's mandate, red the gaze That flashes desolation, strong the arm That scatters multitudes. To-morrow comes! That mandate is a thunder-peal that died In ages past; that gaze, a transient flash On which the midnight closed, and on that arm The worm has made his meal. The virtuous man, Who, great in his humility, as kings Are little in their grandeur; he who leads Invincibly a life of resolute good, And stands amid the silent dungeon depths More free and fearless than the trembling judge, Who, clothed in venal power, vainly strove To bind the impassive spirit;-when he falls, His mild eye beams benevolence no more: Withered the hand outstretched but to relieve; Sunk Reason's simple eloquence, that rolled But to appal the guilty. Yes! the grave Hath quenched that eye, and Death's relentless frost Withered that arm: but the unfading fame Which Virtue hangs upon its votary's tomb; The deathless memory of that man, whom kings Call to their mind and tremble; the remembrance With which the happy spirit contemplates Its well-spent pilgrimage on earth, Shall never pass away.
'Nature rejects the monarch, not the man; The subject, not the citizen: for kings And subjects, mutual foes, forever play A losing game into each other's hands, Whose stakes are vice and misery. The man Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys. Power, like a desolating pestilence, Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience, Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, Makes slaves of men, and, of the human frame, A mechanized automaton. When Nero, High over flaming Rome, with savage joy Lowered like a fiend, drank with enraptured ear The shrieks of agonizing death, beheld The frightful desolation spread, and felt A new-created sense within his soul Thrill to the sight, and vibrate to the sound; Think'st thou his grandeur had not overcome The force of human kindness? and, when Rome, With one stern blow, hurled not the tyrant down, Crushed not the arm red with her dearest blood Had not submissive abjectness destroyed Nature's suggestions? Look on yonder earth: The golden harvests spring; the unfailing sun Sheds light and life; the fruits, the flowers, the trees, Arise in due succession; all things speak Peace, harmony, and love. The universe, In Nature's silent eloquence, declares That all fulfil the works of love and joy,- All but the outcast, Man. He fabricates The sword which stabs his peace; he cherisheth The snakes that gnaw his heart; he raiseth up The tyrant, whose delight is in his woe, Whose sport is in his agony. Yon sun, Lights it the great alone? Yon silver beams, Sleep they less sweetly on the cottage thatch Than on the dome of kings? Is mother Earth A step-dame to her numerous sons, who earn Her unshared gifts with unremitting toil; A mother only to those puling babes Who, nursed in ease and luxury, make men The playthings of their babyhood, and mar, In self-important childishness, that peace Which men alone appreciate?
'Spirit of Nature! no. The pure diffusion of thy essence throbs Alike in every human heart. Thou, aye, erectest there Thy throne of power unappealable: Thou art the judge beneath whose nod Man's brief and frail authority Is powerless as the wind That passeth idly by. Thine the tribunal which surpasseth The show of human justice, As God surpasses man.
'Spirit of Nature! thou Life of interminable multitudes; Soul of those mighty spheres Whose changeless paths through Heaven's deep silence lie; Soul of that smallest being, The dwelling of whose life Is one faint April sun-gleam;- Man, like these passive things, Thy will unconsciously fulfilleth: Like theirs, his age of endless peace, Which time is fast maturing, Will swiftly, surely come; And the unbounded frame, which thou pervadest, Will be without a flaw Marring its perfect symmetry.