The following verses were written by the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1819 in the hope of inciting a peaceful revolution which would bring down the tyranny of the King and the rich, land-owning nobility.
This poem aptly describes what Shelley was hoping for in England, which is almost exactly what has happened in Egypt right now. For England, substitute Egypt. What England never could, Egypt did.
This Egyptian revolution brought down the dictator, but it must also be the end of Orientalism and the stupid European notion of the Arab world as “other”. Our culture and beliefs may not be the same, but our hearts and dreams and hopes and aspirations are the same. Our leaders may be enemies, but those who suffer will eventually think the same. Who is to say we are not brothers and friends?
SONG TO THE PEOPLE OF EGYPT (From: The Mask of Anarchy, by P.B. Shelley)
‘Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold–
‘Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free–
‘Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.
‘Let the tyrants pour around
With a quick and startling sound,
Like the loosening of a sea,
Troops of armed emblazonry.
‘Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.
‘Let the fixed bayonet
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.
Let the horsemen’s scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.
‘Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,
‘And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armed steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.
‘Let the laws of your own land,
Good or ill, between ye stand
Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
Arbiters of the dispute,
‘The old laws of England–they
Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
Children of a wiser day;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo–Liberty!
On those who first should violate
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue,
And it will not rest on you.
‘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.
‘Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand–
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.
‘And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.
‘And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
A volcano heard afar.
‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
‘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.’