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John Ball. I am John Ball; but I am not a rebel. Take
the name, who, arrogant in strength, Rebel against the people's sovereignty.
Sir John. John Ball, you are accused of stirring up The poor deluded people to rebellion, Not having the fear of God and of the king Before your eyes; of preaching up strange notions, Heretical and treasonous, - such as saying That kings have not a right from Heaven to govern; That all mankind are equal; and that rank And the distinctions of society, Ay, and the sacred rights of property, Are evil and oppressive. Plead you guilty To this most heavy charge? John Ball.
If it be guilt To preach what you are pleased to call strange
notions, That all mankind as brethren must be equal ; That privileged orders of society Are evil and oppressive; that the right Of property is a juggle to deceive The poor, whom
you oppress, — I plead me guilty. Sir John. It is against the custom of this court That the prisoner should plead guilty. John Ball.
Why, then, put you The needless question ? Sir Judge, let me save The vain and empty insult of a trial : What I have done, that I dare justify. Sir John. Did you not tell the mob they were
And preach upon the equality of man,
That I told them
John Ball. Tell me, Sir Judge, What does the government avail the peasant? Would not he plough his field, and sow the corn, Ay, and in peace enjoy the harvest too, Would not the sun shine, and the dews descend, Though neither king nor parliament existed ? Do your court politics aught matter him? Would he be warring even unto death With his French neighbors ? Charles and Richard
contend; The people fight and suffer. Think ye, sirs, If neither country had been cursed with a chief, The peasants would have quarrelled ? King.
This is treason : The patience of the court has been insulted. Condemn the foul-mouthed, contumacious rebel. Sir John. John Ball, whereas you are accused
before us Of stirring up the people to rebellion, And preaching to them strange and dangerous
doctrines; And whereas your behavior to the court Has been most insolent and contumacious, Insulting majesty; and since you have pleaded Guilty to all these charges, - I condemn you To death. You shall be hangèd by the neck, But not till you are dead; your bowels opened ; Your heart torn out, and burnt before your face ; Your traitorous head be severed from your body ; Your body quartered, and exposed upon
The city gates,
a terrible example: And the Lord God have mercy on your soul ! John Ball. Why, be it so.
I can smile at your vengeance, For I am armed with rectitude of soul. The truth, which all my life I have divulged, And am now doomed in torments to expire for, Shall still survive. The destined hour must come When it shall blaze with sun-surpassing splendor, And the dark mists of prejudice and falsehood Fade in its strong effulgence. Flattery's incense No more shall shadow round the gore-dyed throne; That altar of oppression, fed with rites More savage than the priests of Moloch taught, Shall be consumed amid the fire of Justice; The rays of truth shall emanate around, And the whole world be lighted. King.
Drag him hence! Away with him to death! Order the troops Now to give quarter, and make prisoners; Let the blood-reeking sword of war be sheathed, That the law may take vengeance on the rebels.
POEMS CONCERNING THE SLAVE
mad hands! For ever on your plain Must the gorged vulture clog his beak with blood ? For ever must your Niger's tainted flood Roll to the ravenous shark his banquet slain? Hold your mad hands! and learn at length to know, And turn your vengeance on the common foe, Yon treacherous vessel, and her godless crew. Let never traders with false prétext fair Set on your shores again their wicked feet: With interdict and indignation meet Repel them, and with fire and sword pursue. Avarice, the white, cadaverous fiend, is there, Who spreads his toils accursed wide and far, And, for his púrveyor, calls the demon War.
Why dost thou beat thy breast, and rend thine hair,