Lines written immediately after the Birmingham Riots

American Apollo (27 March 1794)

Three couplet Spenserians “from a London Paper.” Later in the Time-Piece and Literary Companion the poem was signed “E. Rushton, of Liverpool.” Edward Rushton affirms his allegiance to the ideals of the French Revolution and the cause of those who had suffered at the hands of the anti-jacobin rioters: “Tho’ Chapels blaze, tho’ Mansions fall | And one vast ruin frown on all, | Yet, undismay’d, they still defend thy cause— | Still brand the tyrant’s sway, and Britain’s partial laws.” The Time-Piece, a New York newspaper, reprinted a number of Rushton’s poems in 1797-98 including this with the blank filled in as “George.”

C. H. Timperley: “At this time politics ran very high in Liverpool. He had published several pieces, all in favour of the rights of man. He became a noted character, was marked and shot at; the lead passed close to his eyebrows, but did not do him the least injury. If by his manly and upright conduct he became the object of dislike to a clique of petty tyrants in his native town, he experienced the satisfaction of enjoying the steady attachment and unremitting attention of a few tried friends, who with him had rejoiced in the triumphs of liberty in whatever land they were achieved. — The purses of W. Roscoe and Rathbone, were offered to him; he was invited to take what sum he might want, he refused them both, determined to maintain his independence” Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:855-56.

Thy real friends, O Liberty!
Must gaze on France with ecstacy,
Must hold that day for ever dear
Which clos’d a despot’s proud career,
Must venerate the wondrous deed
Which millions from their shackles freed—
Which shews the world’s anointed things,
How puny, when oppos’d, are kings,
And which, in terms all powerful, bids mankind,
Burst their degrading chains, and be what heaven design’d.

Yes! Liberty, thy friends sincere
Must Gallia’s dauntless sons revere,
And tho’ a vain, a worthless crew,
With tythe and benefice in view,
Should far and wide their slanders fling
And raise the cry of “Church and king,”
Tho’ chapels blaze, tho’ mansions fall,
And one vast ruin frown on all;
Yet undismay’d, they still defend thy cause,
Still brand the tyrant’s sway, and Britain’s partial laws.

Let the infuriate rabble rise
And awful flames illume the skies;
Let priests exultant eye the blaze,
Then to the mob deal pence and praise—
Let magistrates, with snail-like haste
Attempt to stay th’ infernal waste?
Let pious — such deeds to check,
From justice screen the ruffians neck;
Such wrongs as these but sprinkle Freedom’s fire,
And speed that grand reform, which patriots’ souls desire!

Comments are closed.