Poetry Tuesday: What Constitutes a State

An Ode, In Imitation of Alcaeus
Sir William Jones

       WHAT constitutes a State?
Not high-raised battlement or laboured mound,
       Thick wall or moated gate;
Not cities proud with spires and turrets crowned;
       Not bays and broad-armed ports,
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride;
        Not starred and spangled courts,
Where low-browed baseness wafts perfume to pride.
      No:—men, high-minded men,
With powers as far above dull brutes endued
       In forest, brake, or den,
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude;
       Men, who their duties know,
But know their rights, and, knowing, dare maintain,
        Prevent the long-aimed blow,
And crush the tyrant while they rend the chain:
        These constitute a State,
And sovereign Law, that State’s collected will,
        O’er thrones and globes elate,
Sits Empress, crowning good, repressing ill.
        Smit by her sacred frown,
The fiend, Dissension, like a vapour sinks,
       And e’en the all-dazzling crown
Hides her faint rays, and at her bidding shrinks.
        Such was this heaven-loved isle,
Than Lesbos fairer and the Cretan shore!
        No more shall Freedom smile?
Shall Britons languish, and be men no more?
        Since all must life resign,
Those sweet rewards which decorate the brave,
       ’Tis folly to decline,
And steal inglorious to the silent grave.


About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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