Martin Farquhar Tupper

(July 17, 1810 - November 1889 / London)

A Dozen Ballads About White Slavery. IV. The British Slave's Reply To A Political Economist


So! you preach me self-reliance,
Emigration,- rights of man?
So! you bid me breathe defiance
As a freeborn Briton can?
Break the fetter, burst the shackle,
Let the despot find me still
Loose from all constraining tackle,
Stout of heart, and strong of will?-

Tell the mouse to bell the mouser,
Bid the harnessed jade kick out,
Be the lion's mean arouser
Till his cage he raves about!
Say to Lethargy, be stirring,
Counsel health to fever's cheek,
Preach cold ethics to the erring,
Teach gymnastics to the weak!

O, good sir! your weighty reason
Falls like feathers on a fool;
Want has no such leisure season
No such chance to go to school:
Bitter circumstance has bound me,
Everyway its serf and slave,
And for these free hands has found me
Fetters even to the grave!

You have wit, and time to whet it,
Feeling, knowledge, station, might,
I - my
bread
it's hard to get it,
All beyond is out of sight,
Out of hope, and out of heeding;
Think you that my stinted soul
Can, like yours, on thoughts be feeding,
Or be kindled like a coal?

What the parson weekly preaches,
Pretty seldom understood,
What the book of Nature teaches,
That's
my
sum of true and good:
Gentlefolks have nobler chances
Prizes all, as things of course;
But the poor man's Circumstances
Bind him down a slave perforce!

Emigrate? - to where I know not,-
Whilst I cannot break my chain;
Rights of man? - my Rights, they show not,-
And my Wrongs are shown in vain!
And, for what you call 'defiance,'
If one act, or word, or look
Even hinted 'Self-reliance,'
-I'm struck off the Bailiff's book!

Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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