Charles Cole was one of the finest radical poets of the early nineteenth century. His poetry was often reprinted in the major democratic newspapers of the day, such as the Northern Star, the Chartist Circular, and even Reynolds’s Newspaper. ‘Once as the Oak’ was first printed in Cole’s collection of poetry titled A Poetical Address to His Grace the Duke of Wellington (1835). It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.
Once as the Oak—his Country’s pride—
Withstands the wintry gale,
The Briton, stern in soul, defied
And made the tyrant quail;
Then, strength was seated in his form,
His eye of courage told;
His energy was like the storm,
Or torrent fiercely roll’d.
No longer like the oak he stands,
Unless it with’ring be,
For tyrants bind, in slavish bands,
The children of the Free;
His weak—his wasting form behold;
His strength—his glory past;
His cheek is pale, his heart is cold,
He shrinks before the blast.
Wake! Sons of Britons! From your trance—
The lethargy of years;
Better in Freedom’s cause advance,
Than shed unmanly tears!
Who’d stain, with servile drops, the soil,
Which drank a nobler flood,
By HAMPDEN trod ‘mid battle’s broil,
And water’d with his blood?