The True-Born Englishman

The True-Born Englishman


Daniel Defoe

    THE fame of virtue ’tis for which I sound,
And heroes with immortal triumphs crowned.
Fame, built on solid virtue, swifter flies
Than morning light can spread my eastern skies.
The gathering air returns the doubling sound,
And loud repeating thunders force it round;
Echoes return from caverns of the deep;
Old Chaos dreamt on’t in eternal sleep;
Time hands it forward to its latest urn,
From whence it never, never shall return;
Nothing is heard so far or lasts so long;
’Tis heard by every ear and spoke by every tongue.
    My hero, with the sails of honour furled,
Rises like the great genius of the world.
By Fate and Fame wisely prepared to be
The soul of war and life of victory;
He spreads the wings of virtue on the throne,
And every wind of glory fans them on.
Immortal trophies dwell upon his brow,
Fresh as the garlands he has won but now.
    By different steps the high ascent he gains,
And differently that high ascent maintains.
Princes for pride and lust of rule make war,
And struggle for the name of conqueror.
Some fight for fame, and some for victory;
He fights to save, and conquers to set free.
    Then seek no phrase his titles to conceal,
And hide with words what actions must reveal,
No parallel from Hebrew stories take
Of god-like kings my similes to make;
No borrowed names conceal my living theme,
But names and things directly I proclaim.
’Tis honest merit does his glory raise,
Whom that exalts let no man fear to praise:
Of such a subject no man need be shy,
Virtue’s above the reach of flattery.
He needs no character but his own fame,
Nor any flattering titles but his name:
William’s the name that’s spoke by every tongue,
William’s the darling subject of my song.
Listen, ye virgins to the charming sound,
And in eternal dances hand it round:
Your early offerings to this altar bring,
Make him at once a lover and a king.
May he submit to none but to your arms,
Nor ever be subdued but by your charms.
May your soft thoughts for him be all sublime,
And every tender vow be made for him.
May he be first in every morning thought,
And Heaven ne’er hear a prayer when he’s left out.
May every omen, every boding dream,
Be fortunate by mentioning his name;
May this one charm infernal power affright,
And guard you from the terrors of the night;
May every cheerful glass, as it goes down
To William’s health, be cordials to your own.
Let every song be chorused with his name,
And music pay a tribute to his fame;
Let every poet tune his artful verse,
And in immortal strains his deeds rehearse.
And may Apollo never more inspire
The disobedient bard with his seraphic fire;
May all my sons their graceful homage pay,
His praises sing, and for his safety pray.
    Satire, return to our unthankful isle,
Secured by Heaven’s regard and William’s toil;
To both ungrateful and to both untrue,
Rebels to God, and to good-nature too.
    If e’er this nation be distressed again,
To whomsoe’er they cry, they’ll cry in vain;
To Heaven they cannot have the face to look,
Or, if they should, it would but Heaven provoke.
To hope for help from man would be too much,
Mankind would always tell them of the Dutch;
How they came here our freedoms to obtain,
Were paid and cursed, and hurried home again;
How by their aid we first dissolved our fears,
And then our helpers damned for foreigners.
’Tis not our English temper to do better,
For Englishmen think every man their debtor.
    ’Tis worth observing that we ne’er complained
Of foreigners, nor of the wealth they gained,
Till all their services were at an end.
Wise men affirm it is the English way
Never to grumble till they come to pay,
And then they always think, their temper’s such,
The work too little and the pay too much.
As frightened patients, when they want a cure,
Bid any price, and any pain endure;
But when the doctor’s remedies appear,
The cure’s too easy and the price too dear.
    Great Portland ne’er was bantered when he strove
For us his master’s kindest thoughts to move;
We ne’er lampooned his conduct when employed
King James’s secret counsels to divide:
Then we caressed him as the only man
Which could the doubtful oracle explain;
The only Hushai able to repel
The dark designs of our Achitopel;
Compared his master’s courage to his sense,
The ablest statesman and the bravest prince.
On his wise conduct we depended much,
And liked him ne’er the worse for being Dutch.
Nor was he valued more than he deserved,
Freely he ventured, faithfully he served.
In all King William’s dangers he has shared;
In England’s quarrels always he appeared:
The Revolution first, and then the Boyne,
In both his counsels and his conduct shine;
His martial valour Flanders will confess,
And France regrets his managing the peace.
Faithful to England’s interest and her king;
The greatest reason of our murmuring.
Ten years in English service he appeared,
And gained his master’s and the world’s regard:
But ’tis not England’s custom to reward.
The wars are over, England needs him not;
Now he’s a Dutchman, and the Lord knows what.
    Schomberg, the ablest soldier of his age,
With great Nassau did in our cause engage:
Both joined for England’s rescue and defence,
The greatest captain and the greatest prince.
With what applause, his stories did we tell!
Stories which Europe’s volumes largely swell.
We counted him an army in our aid:
Where he commanded, no man was afraid.
His actions with a constant conquest shine,
From Villa-Viciosa to the Rhine.
France, Flanders, Germany, his fame confess,
And all the world was fond of him, but us.
Our turn first served, we grudged him the command:
Witness the grateful temper of the land.
    We blame the King that he relies too much
On strangers, Germans, Hugonots, and Dutch,
And seldom does his great affairs of state
To English counsellors communicate.
The fact might very well be answered thus:
He has so often been betrayed by us,
He must have been a madman to rely
On English Godolphin’s fidelity.
For, laying other arguments aside,
This thought might mortify our English pride,
That foreigners have faithfully obeyed him,
And none but Englishmen have e’er betrayed him.
They have our ships and merchants bought and sold,
And bartered English blood for foreign gold.
First to the French they sold our Turkey fleet,
And injured Talmarsh next at Camaret.
The King himself is sheltered from their snares,
Not by his merit, but the crown he wears.
Experience tells us ’tis the English way
Their benefactors always to betray.
    And lest examples should be too remote,
A modern magistrate of famous note
Shall give you his own character by rote.
I’ll make it out, deny it he that can,
His worship is a true-born Englishman,
In all the latitude of that empty word,
By modern acceptations understood.
The parish books his great descent record;
And now he hopes ere long to be a lord.
And truly, as things go, it would be pity
But such as he should represent the City:
    While robbery for burnt-offering he brings,
And gives to God what he has stole from kings:
Great monuments of charity he raises,
And good St. Magnus whistles out his praises.
To City gaols he grants a jubilee,
And hires huzzas from his own Mobilee.11
Lately he wore the golden chain and gown,
With which equipped, he thus harangued the town.


     With clouted iron shoes and sheep-skin breeches,

More rags than manners, and more dirt than riches;
From driving cows and calves to Leyton Market,
While of my greatness there appeared no spark yet,
Behold I come, to let you see the pride
With which exalted beggars always ride.
Born to the needful labours of the plough,
The cart-whip graced me, as the chain does now.
Nature and Fate, in doubt what course to take,
Whether I should a lord or plough-boy make,
Kindly at last resolved they would promote me,
And first a knave, and then a knight, they vote me.
What Fate appointed, Nature did prepare,
And furnished me with an exceeding care,
To fit me for what they designed to have me;
And every gift, but honesty, they gave me.
    And thus equipped, to this proud town I came,
In quest of bread, and not in quest of fame.
Blind to my future fate, a humble boy,
Free from the guilt and glory I enjoy,
The hopes which my ambition entertained
Were in the name of foot-boy all contained.
The greatest heights from small beginnings rise;
The gods were great on earth before they reached the skies.
    B——well, the generous temper of whose mind
Was ever to be bountiful inclined,
Whether by his ill-fate or fancy led,
First took me up, and furnished me with bread.
The little services he put me to
Seemed labours, rather than were truly so.
But always my advancement he designed,
For ’twas his very nature to be kind.
Large was his soul, his temper ever free;
The best of masters and of men to me.
And I, who was before decreed by Fate
To be made infamous as well as great,
With an obsequious diligence obeyed him,
Till trusted with his all, and then betrayed him.
    All his past kindnesses I trampled on,
Ruined his fortunes to erect my own.
So vipers in the bosom bred, begin
To hiss at that hand first which took them in.
With eager treachery I his fall pursued,
And my first trophies were Ingratitude.
Ingratitude, the worst of human wit,
The basest action mankind can commit;
Which, like the sin against the Holy Ghost,
Has least of honour, and of guilt the most;
Distinguished from all other crimes by this,
That ’tis a crime which no man will confess.
That sin alone, which should not be forgiven
On earth, although perhaps it may in Heaven.
    Thus my first benefactor I o’erthrew;
And how should I be to a second true?
The public trusts came next into my care,
And I to use them scurvily prepare.
My needy sovereign lord I played upon,
And lent him many a thousand of his own;
For which great interests I took care to charge,
And so my ill-got wealth became so large.
    My predecessor, Judas, was a fool,
Fitter to have been whipped and sent to school
Than sell a Saviour. Had I been at hand,
His Master had not been so cheap trepanned;
I would have made the eager Jews have found,
For forty pieces, thirty thousand pound.
    My cousin, Ziba, of immortal fame
(Ziba and I shall never want a name),
First-born of treason, nobly did advance
His master’s fall for his inheritance,
By whose keen arts old David first began
To break his sacred oath with Jonathan:
The good old king, ’tis thought, was very loth
To break his word, and therefore broke his oath.
Ziba’s a traitor of some quality,
Yet Ziba might have been informed by me:
Had I been there, he ne’er had been content
With half the estate, nor have the government.
    In our late revolution ’twas thought strange
That I, of all mankind, should like the change;
But they who wondered at it never knew
That in it I did my old game pursue;
Nor had they heard of twenty thousand pound,
Which never yet was lost, nor ne’er was found.
    Thus all things in their turn to sale I bring,
God and my master first, and then the King;
Till, by successful villanies made bold,
I thought to turn the nation into gold;
And so to forgery my hand I bent,
Not doubting I could gull the Government;
But there was ruffled by the Parliament.
And if I ’scaped the unhappy tree to climb,
’Twas want of law, and not for want of crime.
    But my old friend,12 who printed in my face
A needful competence of English brass,
Having more business yet for me to do,
And loth to lose his trusty servant so,
Managed the matter with such art and skill
As saved his hero and threw down the bill.
    And now I’m graced with unexpected honours,
For which I’ll certainly abuse the donors.
Knighted, and made a tribune of the people,
Whose laws and properties I’m like to keep well;
The custos rotulorum of the City,
And captain of the guards of their banditti.
Surrounded by my catchpoles, I declare
Against the needy debtor open war;
I hang poor thieves for stealing of your pelf,
And suffer none to rob you but myself.
    The King commanded me to help reform ye,
And how I’ll do it, Miss shall inform ye.
I keep the best seraglio in the nation,
And hope in time to bring it into fashion.
For this my praise is sung by every bard,
For which Bridewell would be a just reward.
In print my panegyrics fill the streets,
And hired gaol-birds their huzzas repeat.
Some charities contrived to make a show,
Have taught the needy rabble to do so,
Whose empty noise is a mechanic fame,
Since for Sir Belzebub they’d do the same.


Then let us boast of ancestors no more,

Or deeds of heroes done in days of yore,
In latent records of the ages past,
Behind the rear of time, in long oblivion placed.
For if our virtues must in lines descend,
The merit with the families would end,
And intermixtures would most fatal grow;
For vice would be hereditary too;
The tainted blood would of necessity
Involuntary wickedness convey.
    Vice, like ill-nature, for an age or two
May seem a generation to pursue;
But virtue seldom does regard the breed;
Fools do the wise, and wise men fools succeed.
What is’t to us what ancestors we had?
If good, what better? or what worse, if bad?
Examples are for imitation set,
Yet all men follow virtue with regret.
    Could but our ancestors retrieve the fate,
And see their offspring thus degenerate;
How we contend for birth and names unknown,
And build on their past actions, not our own;
They’d cancel records, and their tombs deface,
And openly disown the vile degenerate race:
For fame of families is all a cheat,
’Tis personal virtue only makes us great.

11.    “Mobile,” applied to the movable, unstable populace, was first abridged to “mob” in Charles the Second’s time.    [back]

12.    The Devil.—[D.F.]    [back]

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