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CORSICA.
* Written in the year 1769.

A manly race
Of unsubmitting spirit, wise and brave;
Who still thro' bleeding ages struggled hard
To hold a generous undiminish'd state;
Too much in vain!
THOMSON.
1 HAIL generous CORSICA! unconquer'd isle!
2 The fort of freedom; that amidst the waves
3 Stands like a rock of adamant, and dares
4 The wildest fury of the beating storm.
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5 And are there yet, in this late sickly age
6 (Unkindly to the tow'ring growths of virtue)
7 Such bold exalted spirits? Men whose deeds,
8 To the bright annals of old GREECE oppos'd,
9 Would throw in shades her yet unrival'd name,
10 And dim the lustre of her fairest page.
11 And glows the flame of LIBERTY so strong
12 In this lone speck of earth! this spot obscure,
13 Shaggy with woods, and crusted o'er with rock,
14 By slaves surrounded and by slaves oppress'd!
15 What then should BRITONS feel? should they not catch
16 The warm contagion of heroic ardour,
17 And kindle at a fire so like their own?
18 Such were the working thoughts which swell'd the breast
19 Of generous BOSWEL; when with nobler aim
20 And views beyond the narrow beaten track
21 By trivial fancy trod, he turn'd his course
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22 From polish'd Gallia's soft delicious vales,
23 From the grey reliques of imperial Rome,
24 From her long galleries of laurel'd stone,
25 Her chisel'd heroes, and her marble gods,
26 Whose dumb majestic pomp yet awes the world,
27 To animated forms of patriot zeal,
28 Warm in the living majesty of virtue,
29 Elate with fearless spirit, firm, resolv'd,
30 By forune unsubdued, unaw'd by power.
31 How raptur'd fancy burns, while warm in thought
32 I trace the pictur'd landscape; while I kiss
33 With pilgrim lips devout the sacred soil
34 Stain'd with the blood of heroes. CYRNUS, hail!
35 Hail to thy rocky, deep indented shores,
36 And pointed cliffs, which hear the chafing deep
37 Incessant foaming round their shaggy sides:
38 Hail to thy winding bays, thy shelt'ring ports
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39 And ample harbours, which inviting stretch
40 Their hospitable arms to every sail:
41 Thy numerous streams, that bursting from the cliffs
42 Down the steep channel'd rock impetuous pour
43 With grateful murmur: on the fearful edge
44 Of the rude precipice, thy hamlets brown
45 And straw-roof'd cots, which from the level vale
46 Scarce seen, amongst the craggy hanging cliffs
47 Seem like an eagle's nest aerial built:
48 Thy swelling mountains, brown with solemn shade
49 Of various trees, that wave their giant arms
50 O'er the rough sons of freedom; lofty pines,
51 And hardy fir, and ilex ever green,
52 And spreading chesnut, with each humbler plant,
53 And shrub of fragrant leaf, that clothes their sides
54 With living verdure; whence the clust'ring bee
55 Extracts her golden dews: the shining box,
56 And sweet-leav'd myrtle, aromatic thyme,
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57 The prickly juniper, and the green leaf
58 Which feeds the spinning worm; while glowing bright
59 Beneath the various foliage, wildly spreads
60 The arbutus, and rears his scarlet fruit
61 Luxuriant, mantling o'er the craggy steeps;
62 And thy own native laurel crowns the scene.
63 Hail to thy savage forests, awful, deep:
64 Thy tangled thickets, and thy crowded woods,
65 The haunt of herds untam'd; which sullen bound
66 From rock to rock with fierce unsocial air
67 And wilder gaze, as conscious of the power
68 That loves to reign amid the lonely scenes
69 Of unbroke nature: precipices huge,
70 And tumbling torrents; trackless desarts, plains
71 Fenc'd in with guardian rocks, whose quarries teem
72 With shining steel, that to the cultur'd fields
73 And sunny hills which wave with bearded grain
74 Defends their homely produce. LIBERTY,
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75 The mountain goddess, loves to range at large
76 Amidst such scenes, and on the iron soil
77 Prints her majestic step: for these she scorns
78 The green enamel'd vales, the velvet lap
79 Of smooth savannahs, where the pillow'd head
80 Of luxury reposes; balmy gales,
81 And bowers that breathe of bliss: for these, when first
82 This isle emerging like a beauteous gem
83 From the dark bosom of the Tyrrhene main
84 Rear'd its fair front, she mark'd it for her own,
85 And with her spirit warm'd: her genuine sons,
86 A broken remnant, from the generous stock
87 Of ancient Greece, from Sparta's sad remains,
88 True to their high descent, preserv'd unquench'd
89 The sacred fire thro' many a barbarous age:
90 Whom, nor the iron rod of cruel Carthage,
91 Nor the dread sceptre of imperial Rome,
92 Nor bloody Goth, nor grisly Saracen,
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93 Nor the long galling yoke of proud Liguria,
94 Could crush into subjection. Still unquell'd
95 They rose superior, bursting from their chains
96 And claim'd man's dearest birthright, LIBERTY:
97 And long, thro' many a hard unequal strife
98 Maintain'd the glorious conflict; long withstood
99 With single arm, the whole collected force
100 Of haughty Genoa, and ambitious Gaul:
101 And shall withstand it, trust the faithful Muse.
102 It is not in the force of mortal arm,
103 Scarcely in fate, to bind the struggling soul
104 That gall'd by wanton power, indignant swells
105 Against oppression; breathing great revenge,
106 Careless of life, determin'd to be free.
107 And fav'ring heaven approves: for see the Man,
108 Born to exalt his own, and give mankind
109 A glimpse of higher natures: just, as great;
110 The soul of counsel, and the nerve of war;
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111 Of high unshaken spirit, temper'd sweet
112 With soft urbanity, and polish'd grace,
113 And attic wit, and gay unstudied smiles:
114 Whom heaven in some propitious hour endow'd
115 With every purer virtue: gave him all
116 That lifts the hero, or adorns the man.
117 Gave him the eye sublime; the searching glance
118 Keen, scanning deep, that smites the guilty soul
119 As with a beam from heaven; on his brow
120 Serene, and spacious front, set the broad seal
121 Of dignity and rule; then smil'd benign
122 On this fair pattern of a God below,
123 High wrought, and breath'd into his swelling breast
124 The large ambitious wish to save his country.
125 Oh beauteous title to immortal fame!
126 The man devoted to the public, stands
127 In the bright records of superior worth
128 A step below the skies: if he succeed,
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129 The first fair lot which earth affords, is his;
130 And if he falls, he falls above a throne.
131 When such their leader can the brave despair?
132 Freedom the cause and PAOLI the chief.
133 Success to your fair hopes! a British muse,
134 Tho' weak and powerless, lifts her fervent voice,
135 And breathes a prayer for your success. Oh could
136 She scatter blessings as the morn sheds dews,
137 To drop upon your heads! but patient hope
138 Must wait the appointed hour; secure of this,
139 That never with the indolent and weak
140 Will freedom deign to dwell; she must be seiz'd
141 By that bold arm that wrestles for the blessing:
142 'Tis heaven's best gift and must be bought with blood.
143 When the storm thickens, when the combat burns,
144 And pain and death in every horrid shape
145 That can appall the feeble, prowl around,
146 Then virtue triumphs; then her tow'ring form
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147 Dilates with kindling majesty; her mien
148 Breathes a diviner spirit, and enlarg'd
149 Each spreading feature, with an ampler port
150 And bolder tone, exulting, rides the storm,
151 And joys amidst the tempest: then she reaps
152 Her golden harvest; fruits of nobler growth
153 And higher relish than meridian suns
154 Can ever ripen; fair, heroic deeds,
155 And godlike action. 'Tis not meats, and drinks,
156 And balmy airs, and vernal suns, and showers
157 That feed and ripen minds; 'tis toil and danger;
158 And wrestling with the stubborn gripe of fate;
159 And war, and sharp distress, and paths obscure
160 And dubious. The bold swimmer joys not so
161 To feel the proud waves under him, and beat
162 With strong repelling arm the billowy surge;
163 The generous courser does not so exult
164 To toss his floating mane against the wind,
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165 And neigh amidst the thunder of the war,
166 As virtue to oppose her swelling breast
167 Like a firm shield against the darts of fate.
168 And when her sons in that rough school have learn'd
169 To smile at danger, then the hand that rais'd
170 Shall hush the storm, and lead the shining train
171 Of peaceful years in bright procession on.
172 Then shall the shepherd's pipe, the muse's lyre,
173 On CYRNUS' shores be heard: her grateful sons
174 With loud acclaim and hymns of cordial praise
175 Shall hail their high deliverers; every name
176 To virtue dear be from oblivion snatch'd,
177 And plac'd among the stars: but chiefly thine,
178 Thine, PAOLI, with sweetest sound shall dwell
179 On their applauding lips; thy sacred name,
180 Endear'd to long posterity, some muse,
181 More worthy of the theme, shall consecrate
182 To after ages, and applauding worlds
183 Shall bless the godlike man who sav'd his country.
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184 So vainly wish'd, so fondly hop'd the Muse:
185 Too fondly hop'd: The iron fates prevail,
186 And CYRNUS is no more. Her generous sons,
187 Less vanquish'd than o'erwhelm'd, by numbers crush'd,
188 Admir'd, unaided fell. So strives the moon
189 In dubious battle with the gathering clouds,
190 And strikes a splendour thro' them; till at length
191 Storms roll'd on storms involve the face of heaven
192 And quench her struggling fires. Forgive the zeal
193 That, too presumptuous, whisper'd better things
194 And read the book of destiny amiss.
195 Not with the purple colouring of success
196 Is virtue best adorn'd: th' attempt is praise.
197 There yet remains a freedom, nobler far
198 Than kings or senates can destroy or give;
199 Beyond the proud oppressor's cruel grasp
200 Seated secure; uninjur'd; undestroy'd;
201 Worthy of Gods: The freedom of the mind.

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): CORSICA.
Themes: liberty; patriotism; other countries
Genres: blank verse

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Source edition

Poems. London: printed for Joseph Johnson, 1773, pp. []-12. vi,138p. ; 4⁰. (ESTC T236)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.