[Page 230]


1 LIKE gleam of sunshine on the mountain's side,
2 Fair, bright and beautiful, while all beside,
3 Slope, cliff and pinnacle in shadow lie
4 Beneath the awning of a wintry sky,
5 Through loop-hole in its cloudy texture beaming
6 A cataract of light, so softly streaming,
7 Shines one blest deed of ruth when war's grim form
8 O'er a scourged nation guides his passing storm.
9 Like verdant islet-spots, that softly peer
10 Through the dull mist, as morning breezes clear
11 The brooding vapour from the wide-stretched vale,
12 So in a land where Mammon's cares prevail,
13 Do frequent deeds of gentle charity
14 Refresh the moral gazer's mental eye.
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15 Britain, thou art in arms and commerce graced
16 With many generous acts, that, fairly traced
17 On thy long annals, give a lustre far
18 Exceeding those of wealth or trophied war;
19 And may we not say truthfully of thee,
20 Thou art a land of mercy? May it be!
21 What forms are those with lean galled sides? In vain
22 Their laxed and ropy sinews sorely strain
23 Heaped loads to draw with lash and goad urged on.
24 They were in other days, but lately gone,
25 The useful servants, dearly prized, of those
26 Who to their failing age give no repose,
27 Of thankless, heartless owners. Then full oft
28 Their arched graceful necks so sleek and soft
29 Beneath a master's stroking hand would rear
30 Right proudly, as they neighed his well-known voice to hear.
31 But now how changed! And what marred things are these,
32 Starved, hooted, scarred, denied or food or ease;
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33 Whose humbled looks their bitter thraldom shew,
34 Familiar with the kick, the pinch, the blow?
35 Alas! in this sad fellowship are found
36 The playful kitten and the faithful hound,
37 The gallant cock that hailed the morning light,
38 All now hard-fated mates in woeful plight.
39 Ah no! a land of mercy is a name
40 Which thou in all thy glory mayest not claim!
41 But yet there dwell in thee the good, the bold,
42 Who in thy streets, courts, senates bravely hold
43 Contention with thy wayward cruelty,
44 And shall subdue it ere this age glide by.
45 Meantime as they their manly power exert,
46 "God speed ye well!" bursts from each kindly heart.
47 And they will speed; for this foul blot of shame
48 Must be washed out from Britain's honoured name,
49 And she among enlightened nations stand,
50 A brave, a merciful and generous land.


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Title (in Source Edition): VERSES WRITTEN IN FEBRUARY, 1827.
Genres: occasional poem

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Baillie, Joanna, 1762-1851. Fugitive Verses. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Dramas on the Passions,“ etc. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXL., 1840, pp. 230-232.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Joanna Baillie