LLR Books

RIENZI'S ADDRESS TO THE ROMANS


MARY RUSSELL MITFORD

                                                Friends!
    I come not here to talk. You know too well
    The story of our thralldom. We are slaves!
    The bright sun rises to his course, and lights
    A race of slaves! he sets, and his last beam
    Falls on a slave!--not such as, swept along
    By the full tide of power, the conqueror leads
    To crimson glory and undying fame,
    But base, ignoble slaves--slaves to a horde
    Of petty tyrants; feudal despots; lords,
    Rich in some dozen paltry villages,
    Strong in some hundred spearmen; only great
    In that strange spell--a name.
                                  Each hour dark fraud,
    Or open rapine, or protected murder,
    Cry out against them. But this very day,
    An honest man, my neighbor--there he stands--
    Was struck--struck like a dog, by one who wore
    The badge of Ursini, because, forsooth,
    He tossed not high his ready cap in air,
    Nor lifted up his voice in servile shouts
    At sight of that great ruffian! Be we men,
    And suffer such dishonor?--Men, and wash not
    The stain away in blood?
                                Such shames are common.
    I have known deeper wrongs. I that speak to you,
    I had a brother once, a gracious boy,
    Full of gentleness, of calmest hope,
    Of sweet and quiet joy: there was the look
    Of heaven upon his face, which limners give
    To the beloved disciple. How I loved
    That gracious boy! Younger by fifteen years,
    Brother at once and son! He left my side,
    A summer bloom on his fair cheek, a smile
    Parting his innocent lips: in one short hour,
    The pretty, harmless boy was slain! I saw
    The corse, the mangled corse, and then I cried
    For vengeance!
                         Rouse ye, Romans! rouse ye, slaves!
    Have ye brave sons? Look in the next fierce brawl
    To see them die. Have ye fair daughters? Look
    To see them live, torn from your arms, distained,
    Dishonored; and, if ye dare call for justice,
    Be answered by the lash!
                                              Yet this is Rome,
    That sat on her seven hills, and from her throne
    Of beauty ruled the world! Yet we are Romans!
    Why, in that elder day, to be a Roman
    Was greater than a king! And, once again,--
    Hear me, ye walls, that echoed to the tread
    Of either Brutus!--once again, I swear,
    The Eternal City shall be free!

Biographical and Historical: Mary Russell Mitford, born in 1787, was an English writer of miscellaneous works. Among her most noted productions is the tragedy "Rienzi," which was presented in London in 1828. It is the story of the Roman patriot, Rienzi, who led a revolution at Rome in 1347. He overthrew the power of the aristocracy and introduced many reforms in the government. After establishing himself in power, however, he is said to have become in turn haughty and arbitrary.