Poems (1898)/To the Tsar (1890)

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For other versions of this work, see To the Tsar (Coates).

TO THE TSAR (1890)

O Thou into whose human hand is given
A godlike might! who, for thy earthly hour,
Above reproof, self-counseled and self-shriven,
Wieldest o'er regions vast despotic power!
Mortal, who by a breath,
A look, a hasty word, as soon forgot,
Commandest energies of life and death!—
Midst terrors dread, that darkly multiply,
Wilt thou thy vision blind, and listen not
Whilst unto Heaven ascends thy people's cry?


In vain, in vain! The injuries they speak
Down unto final depths their souls have stirr'd:
The aged plead through them, the childish-weak,
The mad, the dying,—and they shall be heard!
Thou wilt not hear them; but,
Though Heaven were hedged about with walls of stone,
And though with brazen gates forever shut,
And sentried 'gainst petitions of despair,
'T were closely guarded as thy fearful throne,
That cry of helpless wrong should enter there!


O Majesty! 'T is great to be a king,
But greater is it yet to be a man!
The exile by far Lena perishing,
The captive in Kara who bears thy ban,
Ransomed at length and free,
Shall rise from torments that make heroes strong;
Shall rise, as equal souls, to question thee;
And for defense there nothing shall endure
Of all which to thy lofty state belong,
Save that thou hast of human, brave, and pure!


Cæsar, thou still art man, and serv'st a King
Who wields a power more terrible than thine!
Slow, slow to anger, and long-suffering,
He hears his children cry, and makes no sign:
He hears them cry, but, oh!
Imagine not his tardy judgments sleep,
Or that their agonies He doth not know
Who, hidden, waste where tyrants may not see!
Eternal watch He over them doth keep,—
Eternal watch,—and Russia shall be free!