Percy Bysshe Shelley: The Mask of Anarchy
The Mask of Anarchy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Like Eldon, an ermined gown;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.
And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
On his brow this mark I saw—
'I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!'
Over English land he passed,
Trampling to a mire of blood
The adoring multitude.
With their trampling shook the ground,
Waving each a bloody sword,
For the service of their Lord.
Rode through England proud and gay,
Drunk as with intoxication
Of the wine of desolation.
Passed the Pageant swift and free,
Tearing up, and trampling down;
Till they came to London town.
Felt his heart with terror sicken
Hearing the tempestuous cry
Of the triumph of Anarchy.
Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
The hired murderers, who did sing
'Thou art God, and Law, and King.
For thy coming, Mighty One!
Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
Give us glory, and blood, and gold.'
To the earth their pale brows bowed;
Like a bad prayer not over loud,
Whispering—'Thou art Law and God.'—
'Thou art King, and God, and Lord;
Anarchy, to thee we bow,
Be thy name made holy now!'
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.
Of our Kings were rightly his;
His the sceptre, crown, and globe,
And the gold-inwoven robe.
To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
And was proceeding with intent
To meet his pensioned Parliament
And her name was Hope, she said:
But she looked more like Despair,
And she cried out in the air:
With waiting for a better day;
See how idiot-like he stands,
Fumbling with his palsied hands!
And the dust of death is piled
Over every one but me—
Misery, oh, Misery!'
Right before the horses' feet,
Expecting, with a patient eye,
Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.
A mist, a light, an image rose,
Small at first, and weak, and frail
Like the vapour of a vale:
Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
And glare with lightnings as they fly,
And speak in thunder to the sky,
Brighter than the viper's scale,
And upborne on wings whose grain
Was as the light of sunny rain.
A planet, like the Morning's, lay;
And those plumes its light rained through
Like a shower of crimson dew.
O'er the heads of men—so fast
That they knew the presence there,
And looked,—but all was empty air.
As stars from Night's loose hair are shaken,
As waves arise when loud winds call,
Thoughts sprung where'er that step did fall.
Looked—and ankle-deep in blood,
Hope, that maiden most serene,
Was walking with a quiet mien:
Lay dead earth upon the earth;
The Horse of Death tameless as wind
Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
To dust the murderers thronged behind.
A sense awakening and yet tender
Was heard and felt—and at its close
These words of joy and fear arose
Which gave the sons of England birth
Had felt their blood upon her brow,
And shuddering with a mother's throe
By which her face had been bedewed
To an accent unwithstood,—
As if her heart had cried aloud:
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another;
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.
That which slavery is, too well—
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.
As just keeps life from day to day
In your limbs, as in a cell
For the tyrants' use to dwell,
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent
To their defence and nourishment.
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak,—
They are dying whilst I speak.
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye;
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More than e'er its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.
Of the title-deeds, which ye
Hold to something of the worth
Of the inheritance of Earth.
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.
With a murmur weak and vain
'Tis to see the Tyrant's crew
Ride over your wives and you
Blood is on the grass like dew.
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood—and wrong for wrong—
Do not thus when ye are strong.
When weary of their winged quest;
Beasts find fare, in woody lair
When storm and snow are in the air.
When from daily toil they come;
Household dogs, when the wind roars,
Find a home within warm doors.
And with fitting food are fed;
All things have a home but one—
Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none!
Or wild beasts within a den
Would endure not as ye do—
But such ills they never knew.
Answer from their living graves
This demand—tyrants would flee
Like a dream's dim imagery:
A shadow soon to pass away,
A superstition, and a name
Echoing from the cave of Fame.
And a comely table spread
From his daily labour come
In a neat and happy home.
For the trampled multitude—
No—in countries that are free
Such starvation cannot be
As in England now we see.
When his foot is on the neck
Of his victim, thou dost make
That he treads upon a snake.
May thy righteous laws be sold
As laws are in England—thou
Shield'st alike the high and low.
Dream that God will damn for ever
All who think those things untrue
Of which Priests make such ado.
Would blood and treasure wasted be
As tyrants wasted them, when all
Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.
Was poured forth, even as a flood?
It availed, Oh, Liberty,
To dim, but not extinguish thee.
Thy feet, and like him following Christ,
Give their substance to the free
And through the rough world follow thee,
War for thy beloved sake
On wealth, and war, and fraud—whence they
Drew the power which is their prey.
Are thy lamps; they make the lot
Of the dwellers in a cot
So serene, they curse it not.
All that can adorn and bless
Art thou—let deeds, not words, express
Thine exceeding loveliness.
Of the fearless and the free
On some spot of English ground
Where the plains stretch wide around.
The green earth on which ye tread,
All that must eternal be
Witness the solemnity.
Of the bounds of English coast;
From every hut, village, and town
Where those who live and suffer moan
For others' misery or their own,
Where pale as corpses newly risen,
Women, children, young and old
Groan for pain, and weep for cold—
Like the dead from putrid graves,
Troops of starvelings gliding come,
Living Tenants of a tomb.)
Where is waged the daily strife
With common wants and common cares
Which sows the human heart with tares—
Where the murmur of distress
Echoes, like the distant sound
Of a wind alive around
Where some few feel such compassion
For those who groan, and toil, and wail
As must make their brethren pale—
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold—
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free—
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.
With a quick and startling sound,
Like the loosening of a sea,
Troops of armed emblazonry.
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses' heels.
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,
The career of armed steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.
Good or ill, between ye stand
Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
Arbiters of the dispute,
Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
Children of a wiser day;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo—Liberty!
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue,
And it will not rest on you.
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew,—
What they like, that let them do.
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.
Shall steam up like inspiration,
A volcano heard afar.
Like Oppression's thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.'
"Like Eldon" [Hunt manuscript]; "Like Lord Eldon" [Wise manuscript].
"ermined" [Hunt manuscript, Wise manuscript edition 1832]; "ermine" [editions 1839].
"shadows" â "shadow" [editions 1839 only].
"or" â "and" [Wise manuscript only].
"And in his grasp" [Hunt manuscript, edition 1882]; "In his hand" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript]; cancelled, edition 1839.
"On his" â "And on his" [edition 1832 only].
"the" [Hunt manuscript, edition 1832]; "that" [Wise manuscript].
"tempestuous" â "tremendous" [editions 1839 only].
"For with pomp" â "For from..." [Hunt manuscript, Wise manuscript].
"God" â "Law" [editions 1839 only].
"rightly" [Wise manuscript]; "nightly" [Hunt manuscript, editions 1832, 1839].
"Fumbling" â "Trembling" [editions 1839 only].
"a vale" [Hunt manuscript, Wise manuscript]; "the vale" [editions 1832, 1839].
"as" â "like" [editions 1839 only].
"its" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript]; "it" [editions 1832, 1839].
"but" [Wise MS]; "and" [Hunt manuscript, editions 1832, 1839].
"May's footstep" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript]; "the footstep" [edition 1832]; "May's footsteps" [editions 1839].
"The Horse ... behind." omit Wise manuscript.
"had cried" [Hunt manuscript, editions 1832, 1839]; "cried out" [Wise manuscript].
"Ye are ... few." omit edition 1832 only.
"of" â "from" [Wise manuscript only].
"wills" [Hunt manuscript, editions 1832, 1839]; "will" [Wise manuscript].
"their" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript, editions 1839]; "the" [edition 1832].
Stanza is found in the Wise manuscript and in editions 1839, but is wanting in the Hunt manuscript and in edition 1832:-
"cave" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript, editions 1839]; "caves" [edition 1832], Hunt manuscript cancelled.
"In" [Wise manuscript, editions 1832, 1839]; "To" [Hunt manuscript].
"the" [Hunt manuscript, editions 1832, 1839]; "both" [Wise manuscript].
"Freemen" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript, editions 1839]; "Freedom" [edition 1832].
"Dream" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript, editions 1839]; "Dreams" [edition 1832]. "damn" â "doom" [editions 1839 only].
"Give" [Hunt manuscript, edition 1832]; "Given" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript cancelled, editions 1839].
"follow" â "followed" [editions 1839 only].
"Or" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript]; "Oh" [editions 1832, 1839].
"Science, Poetry, Wise" [manuscript, Hunt manuscript]; "Science, and Poetry" [editions 1832, 1839].
"So ..." [Hunt manuscript, edition 1832]; "Such they curse their Maker not" [Wise manuscript, editions 1839].
"and" â "of" [edition 1832 only].
"or" â "and" [edition 1832 only].
stanza is found (cancelled) at this place in the Wise manuscript
"sows" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript]; "sow" [editions 1832, 1839].
"measured" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript, edition 1832]; "ne'er-said" [editions 1839].
"of unvanquished" [Wise manuscript]; "of an unvanquished" [Hunt manuscript, editions 1832, 1839].
"slay" [Wise manuscript; Hunt manuscript, editions 1839]; "stay" edition 1832.
"in wars" [Wise manuscript, Hunt manuscript, edition 1832]; "in the wars" [editions 1839].