Algernon Sydney

Aye, beloved, as thou sayest, 'tis not fear nor failing will,
'Tis not for the block and headsman waiting me on yonder hill,
That my firm step is not joyous, nor my fearless forehead gay,
As I once had thought it should be, as I go to death today.
Can my ringing ears be deafened to the shameful cry and sound,
Can my weary eyes be blinded to the scenes that rage around?
How should English heart be merry, how should English step be proud,
While the culverins of Holland speak our country's shame aloud?
While a rout of weakling jesters revel in the Tudor's hall,
While the claims of hounds and harlots sway the council of Whitehall,
While the pride that blazed at Cressy crawls at France's throne for gain.
She who drove the vast Armada bows her craven crest to Spain.
All the nobler strifes have vanished, all the nobler lives have died,
Ancient Cavalier and Roundhead sleep forgotten side by side.
England foremost in the revel, England slowest to the fray,
How should English heart be merry, how should English step be gay?
And is this indeed the ending, this the crown of all our toil,
When we waged that truceless battle with oppression's dragon-coil?
When a duped and chafing tyrant thundered at the Common's door,
When we bound their kings and nobles, vanquished upon Marston Moor,
When the crafty Northern were-wolf to his native wilds was driven,
When we smote the lying Agag in the face of earth and heaven.
All the ancient forms we shattered, all the gallant blood we shed
For the cause that now is fallen, for the hope that now is dead.
When we shaped our stern Millenium of the gospel and the sword,
Where each soul should walk unsullied in the worship of the Lord;
Thus toward that far ideal life and freedom did we lend,
And we toiled, and fought, and sorrowed — and this chaos is the end!
We were foolish, and it may be, following a wandering gleam;
Is the dream's awakening sweeter that we know it was a dream?
Yet the dream was high and noble, may not yet the ages show
Some far-off divine fulfilment of the young hope long ago?
Though our scattered few be mournful, though these drunken mobs be gay;
Better seek and fail as we did, than to seek and find as they:
Better die in rocky pathways, struggling for the peaks on high,
Than lie rotting in the valley where the slaves and cowards lie.
Onward through the awful spaces, on through doubt and death, and hell,
Will we seek the lost ideal in whose cause we fought and fell.
Yonder looms the block and headsman, yonder swell the rabble's cries,
And I go from hence to seek it through the starred eternities.
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