This poem was addressed to those who like Richard Cobden and John Bright were seeking the reform of political evils in Great Britain by peaceful and Christian means. It will be remembered that the Anti-Corn Law League was in the midst of its labors at this time.
GOD bless ye, brothers! in the fight
Ye ‘re waging now, ye cannot fail,
For better is your sense of right
Than king-craft’s triple mail.
Than tyrant’s law, or bigot’s ban,
More mighty is your simplest word;
The free heart of an honest man
Than crosier or the sword.
Go, let your blinded Church rehearse
The lesson it has learned so well;
It moves not with its prayer or curse
The gates of heaven or hell.
Let the State scaffold rise again;
Did Freedom die when Russell died?
Forget ye how the blood of Vane
From earth’s green bosom cried?
The great hearts of your olden time
Are beating with you, full and strong;
All holy memories and sublime
And glorious round ye throng.
The bluff, bold men of Runnymede
Are with ye still in times like these;
The shades of England’s mighty dead,
Your cloud of witnesses!
The truths ye urge are borne abroad
By every wind and every tide;
The voice of Nature and of God
Speaks out upon your side.
The weapons which your hands have found
Are those which Heaven itself has wrought,
Light, Truth, and Love; your battle-ground
The free, broad field of Thought.
No partial, selfish purpose breaks
The simple beauty of your plan,
Nor lie from throne or altar shakes
Your steady faith in man.
The languid pulse of England starts
And bounds beneath your words of power,
The beating of her million hearts
Is with you at this hour!
O ye who, with undoubting eyes,
Through present cloud and gathering storm,
Behold the span of Freedom’s skies,
And sunshine soft and warm;
Press bravely onward! not in vain
Your generous trust in human-kind;
The good which bloodshed could not gain
Your peaceful zeal shall find.
Press on! the triumph shall be won
Of common rights and equal laws,
The glorious dream of Harrington,
And Sidney’s good old cause.
Blessing the cotter and the crown,
Sweetening worn Labor’s bitter cup;
And, plucking not the highest down,
Lifting the lowest up.
Press on! and we who may not share
The toil or glory of your fight
May ask, at least, in earnest prayer,
God’s blessing on the right!