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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 23

Occupation of Naples by the Austrians

By Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

  • An attempt was made by the Neapolitans in 1821 to establish constitutional government, but it was suppressed by the intervention of Austria, whose troops entered Naples on March 23, 1821.

  • AY—down to the dust with them, slaves as they are—

    From this hour, let the blood in their dastardly veins,

    That shrunk at the first touch of Liberty’s war,

    Be sucked out by tyrants, or stagnate in chains!

    On, on, like a cloud, through their beautiful vales,

    Ye locusts of tyranny, blasting them o’er—

    Fill, fill up their wide sunny waters, ye sails

    From each slave-mart of Europe, and poison their shore!

    Let their fate be a mock-word—let men of all lands

    Laugh out, with a scorn that shall ring to the poles,

    When each sword that the cowards let fall from their hands

    Shall be forged into fetters to enter their souls!

    And deep and more deep as the iron is driven,

    Base slaves! may the whet of their agony be,

    To think—as the damned haply think of that heaven

    They had once in their reach—that they might have been free!

    Shame, shame, when there was not a bosom, whose heat,

    Ever rose o’er the Zero of ——’s heart,

    That did not, like echo, your war-hymn repeat,

    And send all its prayers with your liberty’s start

    When the world stood in hope—when a spirit, that breathed

    The fresh air of the olden time, whispered about,

    And the swords of all Italy half-way unsheathed,

    But waited one conquering cry to flash out!

    When around you, the shades of your mighty in fame,

    Filicajas and Petrarchs, seemed bursting to view,

    And their words and their warnings—like tongues of bright flame

    Over Freedom’s apostles—fell kindling on you!

    Good God! that in such a proud moment of life,

    Worth the history of ages—when, had you but hurled

    One bolt at your bloody invader, that strife

    Between freemen and tryants had spread through the world—

    That then—oh disgrace upon manhood! even then,

    You should falter, should cling to your pitiful breath,

    Cower down into beasts, when you might have stood men,

    And prefer the slave’s life of damnation to death!

    It is strange—it is dreadful—shout, tyranny, shout,

    Through your dungeons and palaces, “Freedom is o’er!”—

    If there lingers one spark of her light, tread it out,

    And return to your empire of darkness once more.

    For, if such are the braggarts that claim to be free,

    Come, Despot of Russia, thy feet let me kiss—

    Far nobler to live the brute bondman of thee,

    Than to sully even chains by a struggle like this.