Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Tom Paine


An Englishman was Thomas Paine
Who bled for liberty;
But while his fight was far from vain
He died in poverty:
Though some are of the sober thinking
'Twas due to drinking.

Yet this is what appeals to me:
Cobbet, a friend, loved him so well
He sailed across the surly sea
To raw and rigid New Rochelle:
With none to say: 'Take him not from us!'
He raped the grave of Thomas.

And in his library he set
These bones so woe-begone;
I have no doubt his eyes were wet
To scan that skeleton.
That grinning skull from which in season
Emerged the Age of Reason.

Then Cobbet in his turn lay dead,
And auctioneering tones
Over his chattels rudely said:
'Who wants them bloody bones?'
None did, so they were scattered far
And God knows where they are.

A friend of Franklin and of Pitt
He lived a stormy span;
The flame of liberty he lit
And rang the Rights of Man.
Yet pilgrims from Vermont and Maine
In hero worship seek in vain
The bones of Thomas Paine.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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