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Wat Tyler - Act II





' When Adam delv'd, and Eve span,
' Who was then the gentleman?'

Wretched is the infant's lot,
Born within the straw-roof'd cot!
Be he generous, wise, or brave,
He must only be a slave.
Long, long labour, little rest,
Still to toil to be oppress'd;
Drain'd by taxes of his store,
Punish'd next for being poor;
This is the poor wretch's lot,
Born within the straw-roof'd cot.

While the peasant works— to sleep;
What the peasant sows— to reap;
On the couch of ease to lie,
Rioting in revelry;
Be he villain, be he fool,
Still to hold despotic rule,
Trampling on his slaves with scorn;
This is to be nobly born.

' When Adam delv'd, and Eve span,
' Who was then the gentleman?'


The mob are up in London— the proud courtiers
Begin to tremble.


Aye, aye, 'tis time to tremble;
Who'll plow their fields, who'll do their drudgery now?
And work like horses, to give them the harvest?


I only wonder we lay quiet so long.
We had always the same strength, and we deserved
The ills we met with for not using it.


Why do we fear those animals called lords?
What is there in the name to frighten us?
Is not my arm as mighty as a Baron's?



Have I done well, my father?— I remember'd
This good man lay in prison.


My dear child,
Most well; the people rise for liberty,
And their first deed should be to break the chains
That bind the virtuous:— O thou honest priest—
How much has thou endured!


Why aye, my friend!
These squalid rags bespeak what I have suffered.
I was revil'd— insulted— left to languish
In a damp dungeon; but I bore it cheerily—
My heart was glad— for I have done my duty.
I pitied my oppressors, and I sorrowed
For the poor men of England.


They have felt
Their strength—look round this heath! 'tis thronged with men.
Ardent for freedom; mighty is the event
That waits their fortune.


I would fain address them.


Do so, my friend, and teach to them their duty;
Remind them of their long withholden rights.
What ho there! silence!


Silence there, my friends,
This good man would address you.


Aye, aye, hear him—
He is no mealy mouthed court orator,
To flatter vice, and pamper lordly pride.


Friends! Brethren! for ye are my brethren all;
Englishmen met in arms to advocate
The cause of freedom! hear me! pause awhile
In the career of vengeance; it is true
I am a priest; but, as these rags may speak,
Not one who riots in the poor man's spoil,
Or trades with his religion. I am one
Who preach the law of Christ, and in my life,
Would practice what he taught. The son of God
Came not to you in power: humble in mien,
Lowly in heart, the man of Nazareth
Preach'd mercy, justice, love: 'Woe unto ye,
Ye that are rich:—if that ye would be saved,
Sell that ye have, and give unto the poor.'
So taught the Saviour: oh, my honest friends!
Have ye not felt the strong indignant throb
Of justice in your bosoms, to behold
The lordly Baron feasting on your spoils?
Have you not in your hearts arraign'd the lot
That gave him on the couch of luxury
To pillow his head, and pass the festive day
In sportive feasts, and ease, and revelry?
Have you not often in your conscience ask'd
Why is the difference, wherefore should that man,
No worthier than myself, thus lord it over me,
And bid me labour, and enjoy the fruits?
The God within your breasts has argued thus!
The voice of truth has murmur'd; came ye not
As helpless to the world? Shines not the sun
With equal ray on both?— Do ye not feel
The self same winds of heaven as keenly parch ye?
Abundant is the earth—the Sire of all,
Saw and pronounc'd that it was very good.
Look round: the vernal fields smile with new flowers,
The budding orchard perfumes the soft breeze,
And the green corn waves to the passing gale.
There is enough for all, but your proud Baron
Stands up, and arrogant of strength exclaims,
'I am a Lord—by nature I am noble:
These fields are mine, for I
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:51 min read

Robert Southey

Robert Southey was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. more…

All Robert Southey poems | Robert Southey Books

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