Whose nobility comes to thee, stamped
with a seal,
Far, far more ennobling than monarch e’er set,
With the blood of thy race, offered up for the weal
Of a nation that swears by that martyrdom yet I
Shalt thou be faint-hearted and
turn from the strife,
From the mighty arena, where all that is grand,
And devoted and pure, and adorning in life,
’Tis for high-thoughted spirits like thine to command?
Oh no, never dream it—while
good men despair
Between tyrants and traitors, and timid men bow,
Never think, for an instant, thy country can spare
Such a light from her darkening horizon as thou.
With a spirit as meek as the gentlest
Who in life’s sunny valley lie sheltered and warm;
Yet bold and heroic as ever yet rose
To the top cliffs of Fortune and breasted her storm;
With an ardour for liberty, fresh as in
It first kindles the bard and gives life to his lyre,
Yet mellowed even now by that mildness of truth
Which tempers, but chills not, the patriot fire;
With an eloquence—not like
those rills from a height,
Which sparkle and foam, and in vapour are o’er;
But a current that works out its way into light
Through the filtering recesses of thought and of lore.
Thus gifted, thou never canst sleep
in the shade;
If the stirrings of Genius, the music of fame,
And the charms of thy cause have not power to persuade,
Yet think how to Freedom thou’rt pledged by thy Name.
Like the boughs of that laurel, by
Set apart for the Fane and its service divine,
So the branches that spring from the old Russell tree,
Are by Liberty claimed for the use of her shrine.
In spite of strong literary proclivities it would certainly have been a wrench to Lord John to leave the stirring scenes of Parliamentary life, and his feeling about it may be gathered from a letter written to his brother in 1841:
Lord John Russell to the Duke of Bedford
ENDSLEIGH, October 13, 1841
Whatever may be said about other families, I do not think ours ought to retire from active exertion. In all times of popular movement the Russells have been on the “forward” side. At the Reformation the first Earl of Bedford, in Charles the First’s days Francis the great Earl, in Charles the Second’s William, Lord Russell, in later times Francis Duke of Bedford—my father—you—and lastly myself in the Reform Bill.
At the General Election in 1818 Lord John was again elected for Tavistock, and began to make the furtherance of Parliamentary Reform his particular aim. In 1820 he became member for Huntingdonshire. Henceforward, whenever the question of Reform came before the House, Lord John was recognized as its most prominent supporter.