Archive for October 17th, 2020

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Coercion: A Poem for the Times by John Reuben Thompson

Who talks of coercion? Who dares to deny
A resolute people the right to be free?
Let him blot out forever one star from the sky
Or curb with his fetter one wave of the sea.

Who prates of coercion? Can love be restored
To bosoms where only resentment may dwell—
Can peace upon earth be proclaimed by the sword,
Or good will among men be established by shell?

Shame! shame that the statesman and trickster forsooth
Should have for a crisis no other recourse,
Beneath the fair day-spring of Light and of Truth,
Than the old brutem fulmen1 of Tyranny—Force.

From the holes where Fraud, Falsehood and Hate slink away:
From the crypt in which Error lies buried in chains—
This foul apparition stalks forth to the day,
And would ravage the land which his presence profanes.

Could you conquer us, Men of the North, could you bring
Desolation and death on our homes as a flood—
Can you hope the pure lily, Affection, will spring
From ashes all reeking and sodden with blood?

Could you brand us as villains, and serfs, know ye not
What fierce, sullen hatred lurks under the scar?
How loyal to Hapsburg is Venice, I wot.
How dearly the Pole loves his Father, the Czar!

But ’twere well to remember this land of the sun
Is a nutrix leonum and suckles a race
Strong-armed, lion-hearted and banded as one
Who brook not oppression and know not disgrace.

And well may the schemers in office beware
The swift retribution that waits upon crime,
When the lion, Resistance, shall leap from his lair
With a fury that renders his vengeance sublime.

Once, Men of the North, we were brothers, and still,
Though brothers no more, we would gladly be friends;
Nor join in a conflict accurst that must fill
With ruin the country on which it descends.

But if smitten with blindness and mad with the rage
The gods gave to all whom they wished to destroy.
You would not act a new Ilad to darken the age
With horrors beyond what is told us of Troy—

If, deaf as the adder itself to the cries,
When Wisdom, Humanity, Justice implore.
You would have our proud eagle to feed on the eyes
Of those who have taught him so grandly to soar—

If there be to your malice no limit imposed,
And you purpose hereafter to rule with the rod
The men upon whom you have already closed
Our goodly domain and the temples of God—

To the breeze then your banner dishonoured unfold,
And at once let the tocsin be sounded afar;
We greet you, as greeted the Swiss Charles the Bold,
With a farewell to peace and a welcome to war!

For the courage that clings to our soil, ever bright,
Shall catch inspirations from turf and from tide;
Our sons unappalled shall go forth to the fight
With the smile of the fair, the pure kiss of the bride;

And the bugles its echoes shall send through the past.
In the trenches of Yorktown to waken the slain;
While the sods of King’s Mountain shall heave at the blast.
And give up its heroes to glory again.

1. brutem fulmen – “empty thunder”, ie a bluff with no substance, an empty threat.
2. nutrix leonum – nurse/breastfeed lion cubs.

From: Thompson, John Reuben and Patton, John S. (ed.), Poems of John R. Thompson, 1920, Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, pp. 36-38.

Date: 1861

By: John Reuben Thompson (1823-1873)