FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sonnets for Struggle and Solidarity

by PETER LINEBAUGH

John Thelwall (1764-1834), though victim of a stammer as a child, became the foremost orator in England of the 1790s, not in the stuffy gentleman’s club of Parliament but in the wide open common fields where the people could come to hear him.  The government imprisoned him on a charge of high treason.  He published his Poems Written in Close Confinement in The Tower and Newgate (1795).

The sonnet “To Tyranny” was written in the Tower of London on 14 July 1794.  It is for the Greeks who’ve just lost their radio and TV, shut down to please the IMF, the European Commission and the European Bank.  It is for the people in Istanbul at Taksim Square who are struggling to save some trees, and preserve an ancient neighborhood against proud development pomp.  And it is for us to help us remember the depth of our struggle and our duty of solidarity.

To Tyranny

O Hell born Tyranny!  How blest the land

Whose watchful citizens with dauntless breast

Oppose thy first approach!  With aspect bland

Thou wont, alas! too oft, to lull to rest

The sterner virtues that should guard the throne

Of Liberty.  Deck’d with the gaudy zone

Of Pomp, and usher’d with lascivious arts

Of glossing Luxury thy fraudful smile

Ensnares the dazzled senses, till our hearts

Sink, palsied, in degenerate lethargy.

Then bursts the swoln destruction forth; and while

Down the rough tide of Power Oppression drives

The shipwreck’ed multitude, no hope survives,

But from the whelming storm of Anarchy.

This sonnet was composed in Newgate Prison on 24 October 1794.  The jury found Thelwall innocent.  The government responded by passing two Gagging Acts partly intended to silence him.  It is for Julian Asange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden.

The Cell

Within the Dungeon’s noxious gloom

The Patriot still, with dauntless breast,

The cheerful aspect can assume –

And smile – in conscious Virtue blest!

The damp foul floor, the ragged wall,

And shattered window, grated high;

The trembling ruffian may appal,

Whose thoughts no sweet resource supply.

But he, unaw’d by guilty fears

(To Freedom and his Country true)

Who o’er a race of well-spent years

Can cast the retrospective view,

Looks inward to his heart, and sees

The objects that must ever please.

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is the Magna Carta Manifesto. He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com

More articles by:

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. His books included: The London Hanged,(with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and Magna Carta Manifesto. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance.  He can be reached at:plineba@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail