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Who Would Not Die For England! poem – Alfred Austin


Who would not die for England!

This great thought,

Through centuries of Glory handed down

By storied vault in monumental fane,

And homeless grave in lone barbaric lands,

Homeless but not forgotten, so can thrill

With its imperious call the hearts of men,

That suddenly from dwarf ignoble lives

They rise to heights of nobleness, and spurn

The languid couch of safety, to embrace

Duty and Death that evermore were twin.

“Who would not die for England!”

Thus He said,

Who at the holiest of all English hearths,

The holiest and the highest, had been given

A seat, an English Princess for his Bride,-

Now at that hearth weeping her widowed tears,

Bitter and barren as the winter rain.

“It is not meet that I, whom this famed Isle,

This generous, mighty, and majestic Land,

Ennobled as her son, should not repay

Her splendid gift of kinship. Let me go,

Go where they go, Her world-researching race,

That slumber pillowed on the half-drawn sword,

And wake at whisper of her will, to greet

Duty and Death that evermore were twin.”

Who would not die for England!

And for Her

He dies, who, whether in the fateful fight,

Or in the marish jungle, where She bids,

Far from encircling fondness, far from kiss

Of clinging babes, hushes his human heart,

And, stern to every voice but Hers, obeys

Duty and Death that evermore were twin.

So across the far-off foam,

Bring him hither, bring him home,

Over avenues of wave,-

English ground,-to English grave;

Where his soldier dust may rest,

England’s Flag above his breast,

And, love-tended, long may bloom

English flowers about his tomb.

Who would not die for England, that can give

A sepulture like this, ‘mid hamlet crofts,

And comely cottages with old-world flowers,

And rustic seats for labour-palsied limbs,

The pensioners of Peace! I linger here,

Pondering the dark inexplicable Night,

Here by this river-girt sequestered shrine

Whose vanished walls were reared anew by Him,

Of Princes the most princely, if it be

That Wisdom, Love, and Virtue more adorn

Sarcophagus of Kings than dripping spears,

Lone wailing hearths and hecatombs of slain.

And He too died for England, He who lived

Scorning all joy save that great joy of all,

The love of one true woman, She a Queen,

Empress and Queen, yet not the more revered,

Not the more loved, for those resounding names,

Than for the lowlier titles, Gracious, Good,

The Worthiest of Women ever crowned.

Sweetest Consort, sagest Prince!

Snows on snows have melted since

England lost you;-late to learn

Worth that never can return;

Learned to know you as you were,

Known, till then, alone to Her!

Luminous as sun at noon,

Tender as the midnight moon,

Steadfast as the steered-by star,

Wise as Time and Silence are:

Deaf to vain-belittling lie,

Deaf to gibing jealousy;

Thinking only of the goal,

And, like every lofty soul,

Scanning with a far-off smile

The revilings of the vile.

Yes, He too died for England! thence withdrawn

Dim to that undiscoverable land

Where our lost loved ones dwell with wistful eyes,

And lips that look but speak not. . . . But away!

Away from these soft-whispering waves that make

A dulcet dirge around the new-delved grave,

To bluff East-Anglia, where on wind-swept lawns

The sanguine crocus peeps from underground

To feel the sun and only finds the snow;

And, whinnying on the norland blast, the surge

Leaps against iron coast with iron hoof,

As though the hosts of Denmark foamed afresh,

Caparisoned for ravin! And I see

A cradle, not a coffin, and therein

Another Child to England; and, veiled Fate

Over it bent with deep-divining gaze,

And with oracular lips, like nurse inspired,

Foretelling the fair Future.

“Another Albert shalt Thou be, so known,

So known, so honoured, and His name shall stand

The sponsor to your spotlessness, until

Dawns the full day when, conscious of your soul,

Your soul, your self, and that high mission laid

On all of such begetting, you may seize

The sceptre of your will, and, thus-wise armed

Against the sirens of disloyal sense,

Like to your pure progenitor abide

In God’s stern presence, and surrender never

That last prerogative of all your race,

To live and die for England!”


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