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Wat Tyler - Act III

Robert Southey 1774 (Bristol) – 1843 (London)



PIERS (meeting JOHN BALL.)

You look disturb'd, my father?


Piers, I am so.
Jack Straw has forced the Tower: seized the Archbishop,
And beheaded him.


The curse of insurrection!


Aye, Piers! our nobles level down their vassals—
Keep them at endless labour like their brutes,
Degrading every faculty by servitude:
Repressing all the energy of the mind.
We must not wonder then, that like wild beasts,
When they have burst their chains, with brutal rage
They revenge them on their tyrants.


This Archbishop!
He was oppressive to his humble vassals:
Proud, haughty, avaricious.—


A true high-priest!
Preaching humility with his mitre on!
Praising up alms and Christian charity
Even whilst his unforgiving hand distress'd
His honest tenants.


He deserv'd his fate then.


Justice can never link with cruelty.
Is there among the catalogue of crimes
A sin so black that only Death can expiate?
Will Reason never rouse her from her slumbers,
And darting thro' the veil her eagle eye,
See in the sable garment of the law
Revenge conceal'd? —This high priest has been haughty—
He has oppress'd his vassals: tell me, Piers,
Does his Death remedy the ills he caused?
Were it not better to repress his power
Of doing wrong—that so his future life
Might expiate the evils of the past,
And benefit mankind?


But must not vice
Be punished?


Is not punishment revenge?
The momentary violence of anger
May be excus'd: the indignant heart will throb
Against oppression, and the outstretch'd arm
Resent its injured feelings: the Collector
Insulted Alice, and roused the keen emotions
Of a fond father. Tyler murder'd him.

Murder'd!—a most harsh word.


Yes, murder'd him:
His mangled feelings prompted the bad act,
And Nature will almost commend the deed
That Justice blames: but will the awaken'd feelings
Plead with their heart-emoving eloquence
For the cool deliberate murder of Revenge?
Would you, Piers, in your calmer hour of reason
Condemn an erring brother to be slain?
Cut him at once from all the joys of life,
All hopes of reformation! to revenge
The deed his punishment cannot recall?
My blood boil'd in me at the fate of Tyler,
Yet I revenged not.


Oh my Christian father!
They would not argue thus humanely on us,
Were we within their power.


I know they would not!
But we must pity them that they are vicious,
Not imitate their vice.


Alas, poor Tyler!
I do repent me much that I stood back,
When he advanced fearless in rectitude
To meet these royal assassins.


Not for myself,
Tho' I have lost an honest virtuous friend,
Mourn I the death of Tyler: he was one
Gifted with the strong energy of mind,
Quick to perceive the right, and prompt to act
When Justice needed: he would listen to me
With due attention, yet not yielding lightly
What had to him seem'd good; severe in virtue
He awed the ruder people whom he led
By his stern rectitude.


Witness that day
When they destroy'd the palace of the Gaunt;
And hurl'd the wealth his avarice had amass'd,
Amid the fire: the people, fierce in zeal,
Threw in the flames the wretch whose selfish hand
Purloin'd amid the tumult.


I lament
The death of Tyler, for my country's sake.
I shudder lest posterity enslav'd
Should rue his murder!—who shall now control
The giddy multitude, blind to their own good,
And listening with avidity to the tale
Of courtly falsehood!


The King must perform
His plighted promise.

(Cry without) —The Charter!—the Charter!

(Enter Mob and Herald.)


Read it out—read it out.


Aye, aye, let's hear the Charter.


Richard Plantagenet, by the grace of God,
King of England, Ireland, France, Scotland,
and the town of Berwick upon Tweed, to all
whom it may concern, These presents,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:25 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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