Shelley: The Masque of Anarchy

Today is the birthday of the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). It seems to me that in these dark days there could scarce be a better time to recall these words from his “Masque of Anarchy” (1819), penned in the wake of the Peterloo Massacre (on which topic might I also recommend Mike Leigh’s terrific movie Peterloo, released just in time for the bicentennial of that shameful slaughter of peaceful protesters. Gandhi loved this poem. May it give you inspiration.

“Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war.

And if then the tyrants dare,
Let them ride among you there;
Slash, and stab, and maim and hew;
What they like, that let them do.

With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay,
Till their rage has died away:

Then they will return with shame,
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek:

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!