From Socialist Voice, September 2010

On a royal visit


This is a short extract from “The Irish Avatar,” written in 1821 by George Byron, one of the greatest poets in the English language. Though by birth a member of the English aristocracy, Byron was an opponent of the Tories and a defender of the Luddites (who smashed the equipment of employers who drove down wages). He supported the national liberation struggle of Italy and participated in the liberation struggle of Greece, where he is now a national hero. He wrote “The Irish Avatar” in a fury when he learnt of the intended visit to Ireland of George Hanover (“King George IV”) and presented it to his friend Thomas Moore, whose style he imitates in the poem. It is not hard to see the similarities between the grovellers of 1821 (headed by Daniel O’Connell) and those of today.

                    But he comes! the Messiah of Royalty comes—
                    Like a goodly Leviathan rolled from the waves—
                    Then receive him as best such an Advent becomes—
                    With a legion of cooks, and an army of slaves . . .

                    Let the tables be loaded with feasts till they groan—
                    Till they groan like thy people, through ages of woe—
                    Let the wine flow around the old Bacchanal’s throne,
                    Like their blood which has flowed, and which yet has to flow . . .

                    Shout—drink—feast—and flatter! Oh, Erin! how low
                    Wert thou sunk by Misfortune and Tyranny, till
                    Thy welcome of Tyrants hath plunged thee below
                    The depth of thy deep in a deeper gulf still . . .

                    Till now, I had envied thy sons and thy shore,
                    Though their virtues were hunted, their liberties fled—
                    There was something so warm and sublime in the core
                    Of an Irishman’s heart, that I envy—thy dead!

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