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Pax Britannica poem – Alfred Austin


Behind her rolling ramparts England lay,

Impregnable, and girt by cliff-built towers,

Weaving to peace and plenty, day by day,

The long-drawn hours.

In peace Spring freed her flocks and showered her grain,

Summer sate smiling under peaceful leaves,

And Autumn piled on the unwarlike wain

Her sickled sheaves.

And white-winged keels flew fluttering to her shore,

Laden with Eastern bale or Southern fleece,

And from the fields of far-off labour bore

The spoils of Peace.

Then, seeing Her within her waves so blest,

The jealous nations, panoplied alike,

Said, “Look, She wears no armour on her breast:

What if we strike?”

But She, of their base greed and armed array

Haughtily heedless, moated by her main,

Still across ocean ploughed her peaceful way

In strong disdain.

Then each to other muttered, “Now at last

Her splendour shall be ours, and we shall slake

Our envy. She is pillowed on her Past,

And will not wake.”

Slowly as stirs a lion from his bed,

Lengthens his limbs, and crisps his mane, She rose,

Then shook out all her strength, and, flashing, said,

“Where are my foes?”

Thus to herself She did herself reveal,

Swiftly yet calmly put her armour on,

And, round her Empire sentinelled in steel,

Like morning shone!

From field and forge there thronged embattled hosts,

And that one struck the anvil, this the lyre,

And from the furnaces of war her coasts

Were fringed with fire.

Dazed and dismayed, they veiled their futile vow;

Some fain would be her friend, and some would nurse

Their hate till they could curb the might that now

They could but curse.

But they who watch from where the west wind blows,

Since great themselves, proud that their kith are great,

Said, “See what comes when England with her foes

Speaks at the gate!”

Then back to loom and share her people poured,

Chanting peace-paeans as they reaped and gleaned,

While, gazing worldward, on her undrawn sword

Watchful She leaned.


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