The Days that Are Gone

Who is it that mourns for the days that are gone,
When a noble could do as he liked with his own?
When his serfs, with their burdens well fill'd on their backs,
Never dared to complain of the weight of a tax?
When his word was a statute, his nod was a law,
And for aught but his ‘order’ he cared not a straw?
When each had his dungeon and rack for the poor,
And a gibbet, to hang a refractory boor?

They were days when a man with a thought in his pate
Was a man that was born for the popular hate;
And if 'twere a thought that was good for his kind,
The man was too vile to be left unconfined;
The days when obedience, in right or in wrong,
Was always the sermon and always the song;
When the people, like cattle, were pounded or driven,
And to scourge them was thought a King's license from heaven.

They were days when the sword settled questions of right,
And Falsehood was first to monopolize Might;
When the fighter of battles was always adored,
And the greater the tyrant, the greater the lord;
When the King, who by myriads could number his slain,
Was consider'd by far the most worthy to reign;
When the fate of the multitude hung on his breath—
A god in his life, and a saint in his death.

They were days when the headsman was always prepared—
The block ever ready—the axe ever bared;
When a corpse on the gibbet aye swung to and fro,
And the fire at the stake never smoulder'd too low;
When famine and age made a woman a witch,
To be roasted alive, or be drown'd in a ditch;
When difference of creed was the vilest of crime,
And martyrs were burn'd half a score at a time.

They were days when the gallows stood black in the way,
The larger the town, the more plentiful they;
When Law never dream'd it was good to relent,
Or thought it less wisdom to kill than prevent;
When Justice herself, taking Law for her guide,
Was never appeased till a victim had died;
And the stealer of sheep, and the slayer of men,
Were strung up together—again and again.

They were days when the crowd had no freedom of speech,
And reading and writing were out of its reach;
When ignorance, stolid and dense, was its doom,
And bigotry swathed it from cradle to tomb;
But the Present, though clouds o'er her countenance roll,
Has a light in her eyes, and a hope in her soul.
And we are too wise, like the bigots to mourn
For the darkness of days that shall never return.
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