What of the years of Englishmen?
What have they brought of growth and grace
Since mud-built London by its fen
Became the Briton’s breeding-place?
What of the Village, where our blood
Was brewed by sires, half man, half brute,
In vessels of wild womanhood,
From blood of Saxon, Celt and Jute?
What are its gifts, this Harvest Home
Of English tilth and English cost,
Where fell the hamlet won by Rome
And rose the city that she lost?
O! terrible and grand and strange
Beyond all phantasy that gleams
When Hope, asleep, sees radiant Change
Come to her through the halls of dreams!
A heaving sea of life, that beats
Like England’s heart of pride to-day,
And up from roaring miles of streets
Flings on the roofs its human spray;
And fluttering miles of flags aflow,
And cannon’s voice, and boom of bell,
And seas of fire to-night, as though
A hundred cities flamed and fell;
While, under many a fair festoon
And flowering crescent, set ablaze
With all the dyes that English June
Can lend to deck a day of days,
And past where mart and palace rise,
And shrine and temple lift their spears,
Below five million misted eyes
Goes a grey Queen of Sixty Years —
Go lords, and servants of the lords
Of earth, with homage on their lips,
And kinsmen carrying English swords,
And offering England battle-ships;
And tribute-payers, on whose hands
Their English fetters scarce appear;
And gathered round from utmost lands
Ambassadors of Love and Fear!
Dim signs of greeting waved afar,
Far trumpets blown and flags unfurled,
And England’s name an Avatar
Of light and sound throughout the world —
Hailed Empress among nations, Queen
Enthroned in solemn majesty,
On splendid proofs of what has been,
And presages of what will be!
For this your sons, foreseeing not
Or heeding not, the aftermath,
Because their strenuous hearts were hot
Went first on many a cruel path,
And, trusting first and last to blows,
Fed death with such as would gainsay
Their instant passing, or oppose
With talk of Right strength’s right of way!
For this their names are on the stone
Of mountain spires, and carven trees
That stand in flickering wastes unknown
Wait with their dying messages;
When fire blasts dance with desert drifts
The English bones show white below,
And, not so white, when summer lifts
The counterpane of Yukon’s snow.
Condemned by blood to reach for grapes
That hang in sight, however high,
Beyond the smoke of Asian capes,
The nameless, dauntless, dead ones lie;
And where Sierran morning shines
On summits rolling out like waves,
By many a brow of royal pines
The noisiest find quiet graves.
By lust of flesh and lust of gold,
And depth of loins and hairy breadth
Of breast, and hands to take and hold,
And boastful scorn of pain and death,
And something more of manliness
Than tamer men, and growing shame
Of shameful things, and something less
Of final faith in sword and flame —
By many a battle fought for wrong,
And many a battle fought for right,
So have you grown august and strong,
Magnificent in all men’s sight —
A voice for which the kings have ears,
A face the craftiest statesmen scan;
A mind to mould the after years,
And mint the destinies of man!
Red sins were yours: the avid greed
Of pirate fathers, smocked as Grace,
Sent Judas missioners to read
Christ’s Word to many a feebler race —
False priests of Truth who made their tryst
At Mammon’s shrine, and reft or slew —
Some hands you taught to pray to Christ
Have prayed His curse to rest on you!
Your way has been to pluck the blade
Too readily, and train the guns.
We here, apart and unafraid
Of envious foes, are but your sons:
We stretched a heedless hand to smutch
Our spotless flag with Murder’s blight —
For one less sacrilegious touch
God’s vengeance blasted Uzza white!
You vaunted most of forts and fleets,
And courage proved in battle-feasts,
The courage of the beast that eats
His torn and quivering fellow-beasts;
Your pride of deadliest armament —
What is it but the self-same dint
Of joy with which the Caveman bent
To shape a bloodier axe of flint?
But praise to you, and more than praise
And thankfulness, for some things done;
And blessedness, and length of days
As long as earth shall last, or sun!
You first among the peoples spoke
Sharp words and angry questionings
Which burst the bonds and shed the yoke
That made your men the slaves of Kings!
You set and showed the whole world’s school
The lesson it will surely read,
That each one ruled has right to rule —
The alphabet of Freedom’s creed
Which slowly wins it proselytes
And makes uneasier many a throne;
You taught them all to prate of Rights
In language growing like your own!
And now your holiest and best
And wisest dream of such a tie
As, holding hearts from East to West,
Shall strengthen while the years go by:
And of a time when every man
For every fellow-man will do
His kindliest, working by the plan
God set him. May the dream come true!
And greater dreams! O Englishmen,
Be sure the safest time of all
For even the mightiest State is when
Not even the least desires its fall!
Make England stand supreme for aye,
Because supreme for peace and good,
Warned well by wrecks of yesterday
That strongest feet may slip in blood!
More Poetry from John Farrell:John Farrell Poems based on Topics: Gold, God, Death & Dying, Fairness, Hope, Light, War & Peace, Man, Love, Pain, Charity
Readers Who Like This Poem Also Like:Based on Topics: Love Poems, Man Poems, God Poems, Life Poems, World Poems, Light Poems, Mind Poems, Time Poems, Death & Dying Poems, War & Peace Poems, Faces Poems
Based on Keywords: festoon, tamer, armament, foreseeing, presages, smutch, counterpane, bloodier, craftiest, proselytes, jute