EPISTLE FROM LORD WILLIAM RUSSEL TO WILLIAM LORD CAVENDISHt
t This epistle is supposed to have been written by Lord RUSSEL, on friday night, July 20, 1683, in Newgate; that prison having been the place of his confinement for some days immediately preceding his execution..
1 LOST to the world, to-morrow doom'd to die,
2 Still for my country's weal my heart beats high.
3 Tho' rattling chains ring peals of horror round,
4 While night's black shades augment the savage sound,
5 'Midst bolts and bars the active soul is free,
6 And flies, unfetter'd, CAVENDISH, to thee.
7 Thou dear companion of my better days,
8 When hand in hand we trod the paths of Praise;
9 When, leagu'd with patriots, we maintain'd the cause
10 Of true religion, liberty, and laws,
11 Disdaining down the golden stream to glide,
12 But bravely stemm'd Corruption's rapid tide;
13 Think not I come to bid thy tears to flow,
14 Or melt thy generous soul with tales of woe;[Page 148]
15 No: view me firm, unshaken, undismay'd,
16 As when the welcome mandate I obey'd —
17 Heavens! with what pride that moment I recall!
18 Who would not wish, so honour'd, thus to fall!
19 When England's Genius, hovering o'er, inspir'd
20 Her chosen sons, with love of Freedom fir'd,
21 Spite of an abject, servile, pension'd train,
22 Minions of Power, and worshippers of Gain,
23 To save from Bigotry its destin'd prey,
24 And shield three nations from tyrannick sway.
25 'Twas then my CA'NDISH caught the glorious flame,
26 The happy omen of his future fame;
27 Adorn'd by Nature, perfected by Art,
28 The clearest head, and warmest, noblest heart,
29 His words, deep sinking in each captiv'd ear,
30 Had power to make even Liberty more dear.
31 While I, unskill'd in Oratory's lore,
32 Whose tongue ne'er speaks but when the heart runs o'er,
33 In plain blunt phrase my honest thoughts express'd
34 Warm from the heart, and to the heart address'd.
35 Justice prevail'd; yes Justice, let me say,
36 Well pois'd her scales on that auspicious day.
37 The watchful shepherd spies the wolf afar,
38 Nor trusts his flock to try the unequal war;
39 What tho' the savage crouch in humble guise,
40 And check the fire that flashes from his eyes,
41 Should once his barbarous fangs the fold invade,
42 Vain were their cries, too late the shepherd's aid,[Page 149]
43 Thirsting for blood, he knows not how to spare,
44 His jaws distend, his fiery eyeballs glare,
45 While ghastly Desolation, stalking round,
46 With mangled limbs bestrews the purple ground.
47 Now, Memory, fail! nor let my mind revolve,
48 How England's Peers annull'd the just resolve,
49 Against her bosom aim'd a deadly blow,
50 And laid at once her great Palladium low!
51 Degenerate nobles! Yes, by Heaven I swear,
52 Had BEDFORD's self appear'd delinquent there,
53 And join'd, forgetful of his country's claims,
54 To thwart the exclusion of apostate JAMES,
55 All filial ties had then been left at large,
56 And I myself the first to urge the charge.
57 Such the fix'd sentiments that rule my soul,
58 Time cannot change, nor Tyranny controul;
59 While free, they hung upon my pensive brow,
60 Then my chief care, my pride and glory now;
61 Foil'd I submit, nor think the measure hard,
62 For conscious Virtue is its own reward.
63 Vain then is force, and vain each subtile art,
64 To wring retraction from my tortured heart;
65 There lie, in marks indelible engrav'd,
66 The means whereby my country must be sav'd;
67 Are to thine eyes those characters unknown?
68 To read my inmost heart, consult thine own;
69 There wilt thou find this sacred truth reveal'd,
70 Which shall to morrow with my blood be seal'd,[Page 150]
71 Seek not infirm expedients to explore,
72 But banish JAMES, or England is no more.
73 Friendship her tender offices may spare,
74 Nor strive to move the unforgiving pair,
75 Hopeless the tyrant's mercy-seat to climb —
76 Zeal for my country's freedom is my crime!
77 Ere that meets pardon, lambs with wolves shall range,
78 CHARLES be a saint, and JAMES his nature change.
79 Press'd by my friends, and RACHEL's fond desires,
80 (Who can deny what weeping love requires!)
81 Frailty prevail'd, and for a moment quell'd
82 Th' indignant pride that in my bosom swell'd;
83 I sued — the weak attempt I blush to own —
84 I sued for mercy, prostrate at the throne.
85 O! blot the foible out, my noble friend,
86 With human firmness human feelings blend!
87 When Love's endearments softest moments seize,
88 And Love's dear pledges hang upon the knees,
89 When Nature's strongest ties the soul enthrall,
90 (Thou canst conceive, for thou hast felt them all!)
91 Let him resist their prevalence, who can;
92 He must, indeed, be more or less than man.
93 Yet let me yield my RACHEL honour due,
94 The tenderest wife, the noblest heroine too!
95 Anxious to save her husband's honest name,
96 Dear was his life, but dearer still his fame!
97 When suppliant prayers no pardon could obtain,
98 And, wonderous strange! ev'n BEDFORD's gold prov'd vain,[Page 151]
99 The informer's part her generous soul abhorr'd,
100 Though life preserv'd had been the sure reward;
101 Let impious ESCRICK act such treacherous scenes,
102 And shrink from death by such opprobrious means.
103 O! my lov'd RACHEL! all-accomplish'd fair!
104 Source of my joy, and soother of my care!
105 Whose heavenly virtues, and unfading charms,
106 Have bless'd through happy years my peaceful arms!
107 Parting with thee into my cup was thrown,
108 Its harshest dregs else had not forc'd a groan! —
109 But all is o'er — these eyes have gaz'd their last —
110 And now the bitterness of death is past.
111 BURNET and TILLOTSON, with pious care,
112 My fleeting soul for heavenly bliss prepare,
113 Wide to my view the glorious realms display,
114 Pregnant with joy, and bright with endless day.
115 Charm'd, as of old when Israel's prophet sung,
116 Whose words distill'd like manna from his tongue,
117 While the great bard sublimest truths explor'd,
118 Each ravish'd hearer wonder'd and ador'd;
119 So rapt, so charm'd, my soul begins to rise,
120 Spurns the base earth, and seems to reach the skies.
121 But when, descending from the sacred theme,
122 Of boundless power, and excellence supreme,
123 They would for man, and his precarious throne,
124 Exact obedience, due to Heaven alone,
125 Forbid resistance to his worst commands,
126 And place God's thunderbolts in mortal hands;[Page 152]
127 The vision sinks to life's contracted span,
128 And rising passion speaks me still a man.
129 What! shall a tyrant trample on the laws,
130 And stop the source whence all his power he draws?
131 His country's rights to foreign foes betray,
132 Lavish her wealth, yet stipulate for pay?
133 To shameful falshoods venal slaves suborn,
134 And dare to laugh the virtuous man to scorn?
135 Deride Religion, Justice, Honour, Fame,
136 And hardly know of Honesty the name?
137 In Luxury's lap lie screen'd from cares and pains,
138 And only toil to forge his subjects chains?
139 And shall he hope the publick voice to drown,
140 The voice which gave, and can resume his crown!
141 When Conscience bares her horrors, and the dread
142 Of sudden vengeance, bursting o'er his head,
143 Wrings his black soul; when injured nations groan,
144 And cries of millions shake his tottering throne;
145 Shall flattering churchmen soothe his guilty ears,
146 With tortured texts, to calm his growing fears;
147 Exalt his power above the Aetherial climes,
148 And call down Heaven to sanctify his crimes!
149 O! impious doctrine! — Servile priests away!
150 Your Prince you poison, and your God betray.
151 Hapless the monach! who, in evil hour,
152 Drinks from your cup the draught of lawless power!
153 The magic potion boils within his veins,
154 And locks each sense in adamantine chains;[Page 153]
155 Reason revolts, insatiate thirst ensues,
156 The wild delirium each fresh draught renews;
157 In vain his people urge him to refrain,
158 His faithful servants supplicate in vain;
159 He quaffs at length, impatient of controul,
160 The bitter dregs that lurk within the bowl.
161 Zeal your pretence, but wealth and power your aims,
162 You ev'n could make a SOLOMON of JAMES.
163 Behold the pedant, thron'd in aukward state,
164 Absorb'd in pride, ridiculously great;
165 His courtiers seem to tremble at his nod,
166 His prelates call his voice the voice of God;
167 Weakness and vanity with them combine,
168 And JAMES believes his majesty divine.
169 Presumptuous wretch! almighty power to scan,
170 While every action proves him less than man.
171 By your delusions to the scaffold led,
172 Martyr'd by you, a royal CHARLES has bled.
173 Teach then, ye sycophants! O! teach his son,
174 The gloomy paths of tyranny to shun;
175 Teach him to prize Religion's sacred claim,
176 Teach him how Virtue leads to honest fame,
177 How Freedom's wreath a monarch's brows adorns,
178 Nor, basely sawning, plant his couch with thorns.
179 Point to his view his people's love alone,
180 The solid basis of his stedfast throne;
181 Chosen by them their dearest rights to guard,
182 The bad to punish, and the good reward,[Page 154]
183 Clement and just let him the sceptre sway,
184 And willing subjects shall with pride obey,
185 Shall vie to execute his high commands,
186 His throne their hearts, his sword and shield their hands.
187 Happy the Prince! thrice firmly fix'd his crown!
188 Who builds on publick good his chaste renown;
189 Studious to bless, who knows no second aim,
190 His people's interest, and his own the same;
191 The ease of millions rests upon his cares,
192 And thus Heaven's high prerogative he shares.
193 Wide from the throne the blest contagion spreads,
194 O'er all the land its gladdening influence sheds,
195 Faction's discordant sounds are heard no more,
196 And soul Corruption flies the indignant shore.
197 His ministers with joy their courses run,
198 And borrow lustre from the royal sun.
199 But should some upstart, train'd in Slavery's school,
200 Learn'd in the maxims of despotick rule,
201 Full fraught with forms, and grave pedantick pride,
202 (Mysterious cloak! the mind's defects to hide!)
203 Sordid in small things, prodigal in great,
204 Saving for minions, squandering for the state —
205 Should such a miscreant, born for England's bane,
206 Obscure the glories of a prosperous reign;
207 Gain, by the semblance of each praiseful art,
208 A pious prince's unsuspecting heart;
209 Envious of worth, and talents not his own,
210 Chase all experienc'd merit from the throne;[Page 155]
211 To guide the helm a motley crew compose,
212 Servile to him, the king's and country's foes;
213 Meanly descend each paltry place to sill,
214 With tools of power, and plandars to his will;
215 Brandishing high the scorpion scourage o'er all,
216 Except such slaves as bow the knee to Baal —
217 Should Albion's fate decree the baneful hour —
218 Short be the date of his detested power!
219 Soon may his sovereign break his iron rods,
220 And hear his people; for their voice is God's!
221 Cease then your wiles, ye fawning courtiers! cease,
222 Suffer your rulers to repose in peace;
223 By Reason led, give proper names to things,
224 God made them men, the people made them kings;
225 To all their acts but legal powers belong,
226 Thus England's Monarch never can do wrong;
227 Of right divine let soolish FILMER dream,
228 The publick welfare is the law supreme.
229 Lives there a wretch, whose base, degenerate soul
230 Can crouch beneath a tyrant's stern controul?
231 Cringe to his nod, ignobly kiss the hand
232 In galling chains that binds his native land?
233 Purchas'd by gold, or aw'd by slavish sear,
234 Abandon all his ancestors held dear?
235 Tamely behold that fruit of glorious toil,
236 England's Great Charter made a russian's spoil;
237 Hear, unconcern'd, his injured country groan,
238 Nor stretch an arm to hurl him from the throne? [Page 156]
239 Let such to freedom forfeit all their claims,
240 And CHARLES's minious be the slaves of JAMES,
241 But soft awhile — Now, CAVENDISH, attend
242 The warm effusions of thy dying friend;
243 Fearless who dares his inmost thoughts reveal,
244 When thus to Heaven he makes his last appeal.
245 All-gracious God! whose goodness knows no bounds!
246 Whose power the ample universe surrounds!
247 In whose great balance, infinitely just,
248 Kings are but men, and men are only dust;
249 At thy tribunal low thy suppliant falls,
250 And here condemn'd, on thee for mercy calls!
251 Thou hear'st not, Lord! an hypocrite complain,
252 And sure with thee hypocrisy were vain;
253 To thy all-piercing eye the heart lies bare,
254 Thou know'st my sins, and, knowing, still canst spare!
255 Though partial power its ministers may awe,
256 And murder here by specious forms of law;
257 The axe, which executes the harsh decree,
258 But wounds the flesh, to set the spirit free!
259 Well may the man a tyrant's frown despise,
260 Who, spurning earth, to Heaven for refuge flies;
261 And on thy mercy, when his foes prevail,
262 Builds his firm trust; that rock can never fail!
263 Hear then, Jehovah! hear thy servant's prayer!
264 Be England's welfare thy peculiar care!
265 Defend her laws, her worship chaste, and pure,
266 And guard her rights while Heaven and Earth endure! [Page 157]
267 O let not ever fell Tyrannick Sway
268 His blood-stain'd standard on her shores display!
269 Nor fiery Zeal usurp thy holy name,
270 Blinded with blood, and wrapt in rolls of flame!
271 In vain let Slavery shake her threatening chain,
272 And Persecution wave her torch in vain!
273 Arise, O Lord! and hear thy people's call!
274 Nor for one man let three great kingdoms fall!
275 O! that my blood may glut the barbarous rage
276 Of Freedom's foes, and England's ills asswage! —
277 Grant but that prayer, I ask for no repeal,
278 A willing victim for my country's weal!
279 With rapturous joy the crimson stream shall flow,
280 And my heart leap to meet the friendly blow!
281 But should the fiend, tho' drench'd with human gore,
282 Dire Bigotry, insatiate, thirst for more,
283 And, arm'd from Rome, seek this devoted land,
284 Death in her eye, and bondage in her hand —
285 Blast her fell purpose! blast her foul desires!
286 Break short her sword, and quench her horrid fires!
287 Raise up some champion, zealous to maintain
288 The sacred compact, by which monarchs reign!
289 Wise to foresee all danger from afar,
290 And brave to meet the thunders of the war!
291 Let pure religion, not to forms confin'd,
292 And love of freedom fill his generous mind!
293 Warm let his breast with sparks coelestial glow,
294 Benign to man, the tyrant's deadly foe! [Page 158]
295 While sinking nations rest upon his arm,
296 Do thou the great Deliverer shield from harm!
297 Inspire his councils! aid his righteous sword!
298 Till Albion rings with Liberty restor'd!
299 Thence let her years in bright succession run!
300 And Freedom reign coaeval with the sun.
301 'Tis done, my CA'NDISH, Heaven has heard my prayer;
302 So speaks my heart, for all is rapture there.
303 To Belgia's coast advert thy ravish'd eyes,
304 That happy coast, whence all our hopes arise!
305 Behold the Prince, perhaps thy future king!
306 From whose green years maturest blessings spring;
307 Whose youthful arm, when all-o'erwhelming Power
308 Ruthless march'd forth, his country to devour,
309 With firm brac'd nerve repell'd the brutal force,
310 And stopp'd th' unwieldy giant in his course.
311 Great William hail! who sceptres could despise,
312 And spurn a crown with unretorted eyes!
313 O! when will princes learn to copy thee,
314 And leave mankind, as Heaven ordain'd them, free!
315 Haste, mighty chief! our injur'd rights restore!
316 Quick spread thy sails for Albion's longing shore!
317 Haste, mighty chief! ere millions groan enslav'd;
318 And add three realms to one already saved!
319 While Freedom lives, thy memory shall be dear,
320 And reap fresh honours each returning year;
321 Nations preserv'd shall yield immortal fame,
322 And endless ages bless thy glorious name!
323 Then shall my CA'NDISH, foremost in the field,
324 By justice arm'd, his sword conspicuous wield;
325 While willing legions crowd around his car,
326 And rush impetuous to the righteous war.
327 On that great day be every chance defied,
328 And think thy RUSSELL combats by thy side;
329 Nor, crown'd with victory, cease thy generous toil,
330 Till firmest peace secure this happy isle.
331 Ne'er let thine honest, open heart believe
332 Professions specious, forg'd but to deceive;
333 Fear may extort them, when resources fail,
334 But O! reject the baseless, flattering tale.
335 Think not that promises, or oaths can bind,
336 With solemn ties, a Rome-devoted mind;
337 Which yields to all the holy juggler saith,
338 And deep imbibes the bloody, damning faith.
339 What though the Bigot raise to Heaven his eyes,
340 And call the Almighty witness from the skies!
341 Soon as the wish'd occasion he explores,
342 To plant the Roman cross on England's shores,
343 All, all will vanish, while his priests applaud,
344 And saint the perjurer for the pious fraud.
345 Far let him fly these freedom-breathing climes,
346 And seek proud Rome, the fosterer of his crimes;
347 There let him strive to mount the Papal chair,
348 And scatter empty thunders in the air,
349 Grimly preside in Superstition's school,
350 And curse those kingdoms he could never rule,
351 Here let me pause, and bid the world adieu,
352 While Heaven's bright mansions open to my view! —
353 Yet still one care, one tender care remains;
354 My bounteous friend, relieve a father's pains!
355 Watch o'er my Son, inform his waxen youth,
356 And mould his mind to virtue and to truth;
357 Soon let him learn fair liberty to prize,
358 And envy him, who for his country dies;
359 In one short sentence to comprize the whole,
360 Transfuse to his the virtues of thy soul.
361 Preserve thy life, my too, too generous friend,
362 Nor seek with mine thy happier fate to blend!
363 Live for thy country, live to guard her laws,
364 Proceed, and prosper in the glorious cause;
365 While I, though vanquish'd, scorn the field to fly,
366 But boldly face my foes, and bravely die.
367 Let princely MONMOUTH courtly wiles beware,
368 Nor trust too far to fond paternal care;
369 Too oft dark deeds deform the midnight cell,
370 Heaven only knows how noble ESSEX fell!
371 SIDNEY yet lives, whose comprehensive mind
372 Ranges at large through systems unconfin'd;
373 Wrapt in himself, he scorns the tyrant's power,
374 And hurls defiance even from the Tower;
375 With tranquil brow awaits the unjust decree,
376 And, arm'd with virtue, looks to follow me.
377 CA'NDISH, farewell! may Fame our names entwine!
378 Through life I lov'd thee, dying I am thine;[Page 129]
379 With pious rites let dust to dust be thrown,
380 And thus inscribe my monumental stone.
381 "Here RUSSEL lies, enfranchis'd by the grave,
382 " He priz'd his birthright, nor would live a slave.
383 "Few were his words, but honest and sincere,
384 " Dear were his friends, his country still more dear;
385 "In parents, children, wife, supremely bless'd,
386 " But that one passion swallow'd all the rest;
387 "To guard her freedom was his only pride,
388 " Such was his love, and for that love he died. "
389 Yet fear not thou, when Liberty displays
390 Her glorious flag, to steer his course to praise;
391 For know, (whoe'er thou art that read'st his fate,
392 And think'st, perhaps, his sufferings were too great,)
393 Bless'd as he was, at her imperial call,
394 Wife, children, parents, he resign'd them all;
395 Each fond affection then forsook his soul,
396 And AMOR PATRIAE occupied the whole;
397 In that great cause he joy'd to meet his doom,
398 Bless'd the keen axe, and triumph'd o'er the tomb.
399 The hour draws near — But what are hours to me?
400 Hours, days, and years hence undistinguish'd flee!
401 Time, and his glass unheeded pass away,
402 Absorb'd, and lost in one vast flood of day!
403 On Freedom's wings my soul is borne on high,
404 And soars exulting to its native sky!