To Dr. Priestley. Dec. 29, 1792
This poem was originally published in The Morning Chronicle on 8 January 1793.
Stirs not thy spirit, Priestley, as the train
With low obeisance, and with servile phrase,
File behind file, advance, with supple knee,
And lay their necks beneath the foot of power?
Burns not thy cheek indignant, when thy name,
On which delighted science lov'd to dwell,
Becomes the bandied theme of hooting crowds?
With timid caution, or with cool reserve,
When e'en each reverend Brother keeps aloof,
Eyes the struck deer, and leaves thy naked side
A mark for power to shoot at? Let it be.
"On evil days though fallen and evil tongues,"
To thee, the slander of a passing age
Imports not. Scenes like these hold little space
In his large mind, whose ample stretch of thought
Grasps future periods.—Well can'st thou afford
To give large credit for that debt of fame
Thy country owes thee. Calm thou can'st consign it
To the slow payment of that distant day,
If distant, when thy name, to freedom's join'd,
Shall meet the thanks of a regenerate land.