ENGLAND IN 1819
Percy Bysshe Shelley
- An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,
- Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
- Through public scorn,-mud from a muddy spring,
- Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
- But leechlike to their fainting country cling,
- Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,
- A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,
- An army, which liberticide and prey
- Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,
- Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
- Religion Christless, Godless-a book sealed;
- A Senate,--Time's worst statute unrepealed,
- Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may
- Burst, to illumine our tempestous day.
The poet describes the state of England in 1819:
- The king (George III - eighty-one in 1819 and dead the following year) is "old, mad, blind, despised (disprezzato), and dying."
- The princes are "the dregs (feccia) of their dull (ottusa) race," and “flow through public scorn (disprezzo)” like “mud from a muddy spring (sorgente fangosa), unable to see, feel for, or know their people, clinging (attaccate) like leeches (come sanguisughe) to their country until they "drop, blind in blood, without a blow (colpo)." - He condamne the Hanoverian Royal family and England’s corrupt political leaders who are described as “leeches”-sucking the country’s blood. The reference to blood is an allusion of Peterloo massacre.
- The English populace are "starved and stabbed in untilled (non coltivati) fields”;
- the army is corrupted by "liberticide and prey" - He remarks how the army, itself composed of the “people” is a “two-edged sword (a doppio taglio)”, used both to defeat britain’s declared enemies and also to attack and kill its own citizens.
- the laws "tempt and slay";
- religion is Christless and Godless, "a book sealed (sigillato)";
- and the English Senate is like "Time's worst statute (probably a reference to the Act of union between England and Ireland), unrepealed (non abrogate)."
Each of these things, the speaker says, is like a grave from which "a glorious Phantom may burst to illuminate our tempestuous day."
The poem ends with an intimation of future revolution.