Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'Destruction of the Bastile' (1789-91)1


Heard'st thou yon universal cry,

And dost thou linger still on Gallia's shore?

Go, Tyranny! beneath some barbarous sky

Thy terrors lost, and ruin'd power deplore!

What tho' through many a groaning age

Was felt thy keen suspicious rage,

Yet Freedom rous'd by fierce Disdain

Has wildly broke thy triple chain,

And like the storm which Earth's deep entrails hide,

At length has burst its way and spread the ruins wide.


*    *    *2


In sighs their sickly breath was spent; each gleam

Of Hope had ceas'd the long long day to cheer;

Or if delusive, in some flitting dream,

It gave them to their friends and children dear

Awaked by lordly Insult's sound

To all the doubled horrors round,

Oft shrunk they from Oppression's band

While Anguish rais'd the desperate hand

For silent death; or lost the mind's controll,

Thro' every burning vein would tides of Frenzy roll.



But cease, ye pitying bosoms, cease to bleed!

Such scenes no more demand the tear humane;

I see, I see! Glad Liberty succeed

With every patriot virtue in her train!

And mark yon peasantís rapturíd eyes;

Secure he views his harvests rise;

No fetter vile the mind shall know,

And Eloquence shall fearless glow.

Yes! Liberty the soul of Life shall reign,

Shall throb in every pulse, shall flow thro' every vein!



Shall France alone a Despot spurn?

Shall she alone, O Freedom boast thy care?

Lo, round thy standard Belgia's heroes burn,

Thro Power's blood-stain'd streamers fire the air,

And wider yet thy influence spread,

Not e'er recline thy weary head,

Till every land from pole to pole

Shall boast one independent soul!

And still, as erst, let favour'd Britain be

First ever of the first and freest of the free!



(1) Written in 1789-91. First published in 1834. The Bastille was destroyed on July 14 1789.

(2) The manuscript is incomplete at this point. Stanzas 2 and 3 were torn out and probably describe the conditions in the Bastille.

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