AN EPISTLE FROM A SWISS Officer to his Friend at Rome.
1 FROM horrid mountains ever hid in snow,
2 And barren lands, and dreary plains below;
3 To you, dear sir, my best regards I send,
4 The weakest reasoner, as the truest friend.[Page 59]
5 Your arguments, that vainly strive to please,
6 Your arts, your country, and your palaces;
7 What signs of Roman grandeur still remain —
8 Much you have said; and much have said in vain.
9 Fine pageants these for slaves, to please the eye;
10 And put the neatest dress on misery!
11 Bred up to slav'ry and dissembled pain,
12 Unhappy man! you trifle with your chain:
13 But should your friend with your desires comply,
14 And sell himself to Rome and slav'ry;
15 He could not wear his trammels with that art,
16 Or hide the noble anguish of his heart:
17 You'd soon repent the livery that you gave;
18 For, trust me, I should make an aukward slave.
19 Falsely you blame our barren rocks and plains,
20 Happy in freedom and laborious swains;
21 Our peasants chearful to the field repair,
22 And can enjoy the labours of the year;
23 Whilst yours, beneath some tree, with mournful eyes,
24 Sees for his haughty lord his harvests rise:
25 Then silent sighs; but stops his slavish breath:
26 He silent sighs: for should he speak, 'tis death.
27 Hence from our field the lazy grain we call,
28 Too much for want, for luxury too small:
29 Whilst all Campania's rich inviting soil
30 Scarce knows the plowshare, or the reaper's toil.
31 In arms we breed our youth. To dart from far,
32 And aim aright the thunder of the war;[Page 60]
33 To whirl the faulchion, and direct the blow;
34 To ward the stroke, or bear upon the foe.
35 Early in hardships through the woods they fly,
36 Nor feel the piercing frost, or wintry sky;
37 Some prowling wolf or foamy boar to meet,
38 And stretch the panting savage at their feet:
39 Inur'd by this, they seek a nobler war,
40 And show an honest pride in ev'ry scar;
41 With joy the danger and the blood partake,
42 Whilst ev'ry wound is for their country's sake.
43 But you, soft warriors, forc'd into the field,
44 Or faintly strike, or impotently yield;
45 For well this universal truth you know,
46 Who fights for tyrants is his country's foe.
47 I envy not your arts, the Roman schools,
48 Improv'd, perhaps, but to inslave your souls.
49 May you to stone, or nerves or beauty give,
50 And teach the soft'ning marble how to live;
51 May you the passions in your colours trace,
52 And work up every piece with every grace;
53 In airs and attitudes be wondrous wise,
54 And know the arts to please, or to surprize;
55 In musick's softest sound consume the day,
56 Sounds that would melt the warrior's soul away:
57 Vain efforts these, an honest fame to raise;
58 Your painters, and your eunuchs, be your praise:
59 Grant us more real goods, you heav'nly powers!
60 Virtue, and arms, and liberty be ours.
61 Weak are your offers to the free and brave;
62 No bribe can purchase me to be a slave.
63 Hear me, ye rocks, ye mountains, and ye plains,
64 The happy bounds of our Helvetian swains!
65 In thee, my country, will I fix my seat;
66 Nor envy the poor wretch, that would be great:
67 My life and arms I dedicate to thee; —
68 For, know, it is my int'rest to be free.