Ode to Sicily


Few mortal hands have struck the heroic string,
Since Milton's lay in death across his breast.
But shall the lyre then rest
With vilest dust upon it? This of late
Hath been its fate.


But thou, O Sicily! art born again.
Far over chariots and Olympic steeds
I see the heads and the stout arms of men,
And will record (God gives me power) their deeds.


Hail to thee first, Palermo! hail to thee
Who callest with loud voice, " Arise! be free ,
Weak is the hand and rusty is the chain."
Thou callest; nor in vain.


Not only from the mountains rushes forth
The knighthood of the North,
In whom my soul elate
Owns now a race cognate,
But even the couch of Sloth, 'mid painted walls,
Swells up, and men start forth from it, where calls
The voice of Honour, long, too long, unheard.


Not that the wretch was fear'd,
Who fear'd the meanest as he fear'd the best,
But that around all kings
For ever springs
A wasting vapour that absorbs the fire
Of all that would rise higher.


Even free nations will not let there be
More nations free.
Witness (O shame!) our own,
Of late years viler none . .


To gratify a brood,
Swamp-fed amid the Suabian wood,
The sons of Lusitania were cajoled,
And bound and sold,
And sent in chains where we unchain the slave
We die with thirst to save.


Ye too, Sicilians, ye too gave we up
To drain the bitter cup,
Which ye dash from ye in the despot's face . .
O glorious race!


Which Hiero, Gelon, Pindar, sat among
And prais'd for weaker deeds in deathless song;
One is yet left to laud ye. Years have marr'd
My voice, my prelude for some better bard,
When such shall rise; and such your deeds create.


In the lone woods, and late,
Murmurs swell loud and louder, till at last
So strong the blast
That the whole forest, earth and sea and sky
To the loud surge reply.


Within the circle of six hundred years,
Show me a Bourbon on whose brow appears
No brand of traitor. Change the tree,
From the same stock for ever will there be
The same foul canker, the same bitter fruit.
Strike, Sicily, uproot
The cursed upas. Never trust
That race again: down with it; dust to dust.
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