Friday, September 23, 2011


Who's Free?

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), There is None Free But Jove, in his Messis Vitae: Gleanings of Song from a Happy Life (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886), pp. 64-66:
Οὐδεὶς ἐλεύθερος, πλὴν Διός.—AESCHYLUS.

'There is none free but Jove;' thus speaks
  A weighty old tragedian,
Who sang whilom to tuneful Greeks
  In Doric airs and Lydian;
And wisely sang—for truth and right,
  Once true, are true for ever,
Even as the sun pours forth his light
  With strength that faileth never.

Who's free?—a king?—Who first must please
  Before he rule a people,
And turn him lightly to the breeze,
  Like cock upon the steeple!
A priest—a churchman?—who to fan
  The people's hot devotion,
Must fear to stretch his faith a span,
  Beyond their narrow notion.

Who's free?—a democrat?—no more
  Than any salt sea bubble,
When far-drawn billows rage and roar,
  Is free from yeasty trouble;
No more than Autumn leaves are free
  To choose their place of falling,
When sea-birds shriek from sea to sea,
  And blast to blast is calling.

Who's free?—the lawyer?—not he, bound
  With knots of old traditions,
His reason prisoned round and round
  With clauses and conditions;
Whose thought to mouldy record clings,
  Who loves to walk in fetters,
And chokes the sacred soul of things
  With rolls of old black letters.

Who's free?—the scholar?—no; not he
  The slave of printed paper,
Who where the sun is free to see,
  Lights his own twinkling taper,
And from much nonsense picks some sense
  And makes a mighty clamour,
And strangles living eloquence
  In mummy bands of grammar.

Who's free?—the statesman?—ask the man
  Who fain would do a little,
But shrinks back from the factious clan
  That snaps at every tittle,
And fears his party most of all,
  Who, at his boldness frowning,
May cast him with a weighty fall
  From out the street called Downing!

There is none free but Him above,
  The mighty Lord of all things,
With bond of everlasting love
  Who binds both great and small things.
And who treads Earth with pure intent
  To search into His wonders,
Will live least slaved to sinful bent,
  Most free from evil blunders.

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