This State of England in Our Times — Alfred Lord Tennyson


How much I love this writer's manly style! By such men led, our press had ever been The public conscience of our noble isle, Severe and quick to feel a civic sin, To raise the people and chastise the times With such a heat as lives in great creative rhymes.

O you, the Press! what good from you might spring! What power is yours to blast a cause or bless! I fear for you, as for some youthful king, Lest you go wrong from power in excess. Take heed of your wide privileges! we The thinking men of England, loathe a tyranny.

A freeman is, I doubt not, freest here; The single voice may speak his mind aloud; An honest isolation need not fear The Court, the Church, the Parliament, the crowd. No, nor the Press! and look you well to that— We must not dread in you the nameless autocrat.

And you, dark Senate of the public pen, You may not, like yon tyrant, deal in spies. Yours are the public acts of public men, But yours are not their household privacies. I grant you one of the great Powers on earth, But be not you the blatant traitors of the hearth.

You hide the hand that writes: it must be so, For better so you fight for public ends; But some you strike can scarce return the blow; You should be all the nobler, O my friends. Be noble, you! nor work with faction's tools To charm a lower sphere of fulminating fools.

But knowing all your power to heat or cool, To soothe a civic wound or keep it raw, Be loyal, if you wish for wholesome rule: Our ancient boast is this—we reverence law. We still were loyal in our wildest fights, Or loyally disloyal battled for our rights.

O Grief and Shame if while I preach of laws Whereby to guard our Freedom from offence— And trust an ancient manhood and the cause Of England and her health of commonsense— There hang within the heavens a dark disgrace, Some vast Assyrian doom to burst upon our race.

I feel the thousand cankers of our State, I fain would shake their triple-folded ease, The hogs who can believe in nothing great, Sneering bedridden in the down of Peace Over their scrips and shares, their meats and wine, With stony smirks at all things human and divine!

I honour much, I say, this man's appeal. We drag so deep in our commercial mire, We move so far from greatness, that I feel Exception to be character'd in fire. Who looks for Godlike greatness here shall see The British Goddess, sleek Respectability.

Alas for her and all her small delights! She feels not how the social frame is rack'd. She loves a little scandal which excites; A little feeling is a want of tact. For her there lie in wait millions of foes, And yet the 'not too much' is all the rule she knows.

Poor soul! behold her: what decorous calm! She, with her week-day worldliness sufficed, Stands in her pew and hums her decent psalm With decent dippings at the name of Christ! And she has mov'd in that smooth way so long, She hardly can believe that she shall suffer wrong.

Alas, our Church! alas, her growing ills, And those who tolerate not her tolerance, But needs must sell the burthen of their wills To that half-pagan harlot kept by France! Free subjects of the kindliest of all thrones, Headlong they plunge their doubts among old rags and bones.

Alas, Church writers, altercating tribes— The vessel and your Church may sink in storms. Christ cried: Woe, woe, to Pharisees and Scribes! Like them, you bicker less for truth than forms. I sorrow when I read the things you write, What unheroic pertness! what un-Christian spite!

Alas, our youth, so clever yet so small, Thin dilletanti deep in nature's plan, Who make the emphatic One, by whom is all, An essence less concentred than a man! Better wild Mahmoud's war-cry once again! O fools, we want a manlike God and Godlike men!

Go, frightful omens. Yet once more I turn To you that mould men's thoughts; I call on you To make opinion warlike, lest we learn A sharper lesson than we ever knew. I hear a thunder though the skies are fair, But shrill you, loud and long, the warning-note: Prepare!

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