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SONNETS TO LIBERTY
Wordsworth, like many other Englishmen, at first hailed the French Revolution with delight. As a young man he had come back to England in 1792 with a stone from the Bastille in his pocket, an ardent supporter of the revolutionaries.
'Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
But to be young was very heaven!-Oh! times,
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights,
A prime Enchantress-to assist the work
Which then was going forward in her name!'
But under the régime of the guillotine, and later when the Republic entered on a career of conquest, his attitude towards France changed.
This poem refers to the subjugation of Switzerland by Napoleon in 1803.
Two Voices are there; one is of the sea,
One of the mountains; each a mighty Voice:
Thou fought'st against him; but hast vainly striven:
And Ocean bellow from his rocky shore,
The next four sonnets were composed in 1802, soon after the Peace of Amiens, when France was allowed by England and the Powers to keep nearly all she had gained by conquest.
O FRIEND! I know not which way I must look
To think that now our life is only drest
MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
GREAT men have been among us; hands that penned
Young Vane, and others who called Milton friend.
In splendour: what strength was, that would not bend
But in magnanimous meekness. France, 'tis strange,
3. The later Sidney. Algernon Sidney, who fought in the Civil War on the side of Parliament. In Charles II's reign he became the leader of the Whigs, and in 1683 he was unjustly executed for complicity in the Rye House Plot.
Marvel. (1621-78.) The poet and politician who assisted Milton in his secretaryship, and wrote the 'Horatian Ode' on Cromwell (p. 15).
Harrington. A political philosopher (d. 1677).
4. Vane. Sir Harry Vane, the leader of the Independents against the Presbyterians.
IT is not to be thought of that the Flood
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold Which Milton held. In every thing we are sprung Of Earth's first blood, have titles manifold.
4. with pomp, &c. From S. Daniel (1562-1619), Civil War, II. vii.
Composed in 1806, after the battle of Jena.
By the crushing defeat of the Prussians at Jena so soon after Austerlitz, Napoleon was master of nearly the whole of Europe, and the Fourth Coalition was destroyed; next year Russia came to terms with Napoleon at Tilsit, and England stood alone.
ANOTHER year!-another deadly blow!
HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM THE SEA
NOBLY, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the NorthWest died away;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest North-East distance, dawned Gibraltar grand and gray;
'Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?'-say,
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise
While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
1. Cape St. Vincent. In 1797 Admiral Jervis's fleet attacked the Spaniards off Cape St. Vincent, and through the skill and gallantry of Nelson won a decisive victory.
2. Cadiz Bay. Cadiz was the headquarters of the French and Spanish fleets under Villeneuve during the naval operations of 1805 which ended in the Battle of Trafalgar. The allusion may be to Essex's attack on Cadiz in 1596.
4. Gibraltar. Besieged by the French, but, after a stubborn resistance, relieved in 1782 by Admiral Howe.