Before proud Rome's imperial throne,
In mind's unconquer’d mood,
As if the triumph were his own,
The dauntless captive stood;
None, to have seen his freeborn air,
Had fancied him a prisoner there.
Though through the crowded streets of Rome,
With slow and stately tread,
Far from his own lov’d island-home
That day in triumph led,—
Unbow’d his head, unbent his knee,
Undimm’d his eye, his aspect free.
A free and fearless glance he cast
On temple, arch, and tower,
By which the long procession pass’d
Of Rome's victorious power;
And somewhat of a scornful smile
Upcurl’d his haughty lip the while.
And now he stood with brow serene
Where slaves might prostrate fall;
Bearing a Briton's manly mien
In Caesar's palace hall;
Claiming, with kindling brow and cheek,
The privilege e’en there to speak.
Nor could Rome's haughty Lord withstand
The claim that look preferr’d;
But motion’d with uplifted hand
The suppliant should be heard;
If he, indeed, a suppliant were,
Whose glance demanded audience there.
Deep stillness fell on all the crowd;
From Claudius on his throne
Down to the meanest slave that bow’d
At his imperial tone;
Silent his fellow-captives’ grief,
As fearless spoke the Island Chief.
“Think not, thou Eagle-Lord of Rome,
And master of the world,
Though vict’ry's banner o’er thy dome
In triumph now be furl’d,
I would address thee as thy slave,—
But as the bold should greet the brave.
“I might perchance, could I have deign’d
To hold a Vassal's throne,
E’en now in Britain's isle have reign’d,
A king, in name alone.—
Yet holding, as thy meek ally,
A monarch's mimic pageantry.
“Then through Rome's crowded streets, this day,
I might have rode with thee;
Not in a captive's base array,
But fetterless, and free;—
If freedom he could hope to find
Whose bondage is of heart and mind.
“But canst thou marvel that,—freeborn,
With heart and hope unquell’d,
Throne, crown, and sceptre I should scorn,
By thy permission held?
Or that I should retain my right,
’Till wrested by a conqueror's might?