Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

Europe, Mdcccci To Napoleon - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Soars still thy spirit, Child of Fire?
Dost hear the camps of Europe hum?
On eagle wings dost hover nigher
At the far rolling of the drum?
To see the harvest thou hast sown
Smilest thou now, Napoleon?

Long had the world in blinded mirth
Or suffering patience dreamed content,
When lo! like thunder over earth
Thy challenge pealed, the skies were rent:
Thy terrible youth rose up alone
Against the old world on its throne.

With shuddering then the peoples gazed,
And such a stupor bound them dumb
As those fierce Colchian ranks amazed
Who saw the youthful Jason come,
And challenging the War God's name
Step forth, his fiery yoke to tame.

He took those dread bulls by the horn,
Harnessed their fury to his will,
And in the furrow swiftly torn
The dragon's teeth abroad did spill:
When lo! behind his trampling heel
The furrow flowered into steel!

A spear, a plume, a warrior sprung--
Arm'd gods in wrath by hundreds; he
Faced all, and full amidst them flung
His magic helmet: instantly
Their swords upon themselves they drew,
And shouting each the other slew.

But no Medean spell was thine,
Napoleon, nor anointed charm;
Thy will was as a fate divine
To wavering men who watched thine arm
Drive on through Europe old thy plough.
The harvest ripens even now!

Time's purple flauntings, king and crown,
Old custom's tall and idle weeds,
Were tossed aside and trampled down,
While thou didst scatter fiery seeds,
That in the gendering lap of earth
Prepared a new world's Titan birth.

Then in thy path from underground,
Where long benumbed in trance they froze,
The Nations, giant forms unbound,
Slow to their aching stature rose;
And through their wintry veins again
Slow flushed the streams of life in pain.

Thy thunder, O Napoleon, passed,
But these whom thou hadst stirred to life,
On them the imperious doom was cast
Of inextinguishable strife.
For peace they longed, but blood and tears
Still blinded the tempestuous years.

A hundred years have flown, and still
For peace they pine; peace tarries yet.
These groaning armies Europe fill,
And war's red planet hath not set.
O mockery of peace, that gnaws
Their hearts for so abhorred a cause!

Is peace so easy? Nay, the names
That are most dear and most divine
To men, are like the heavenly flames
That farthest from possession shine.
Peace, love, truth, freedom, unto these
The way is through the storming seas.

Ye wakened nations, now no more
You battle for a monarch's whim;
The cause is now in your heart's core,
Your soul must strive through every limb;
They who with all their soul contend
Bear more, but to a nobler end.

Be patient in your strife! And thou,
O England, dearer than the rest;
England, with proud looks on thy brow,
England, with trouble at thy breast,
Seek on in patient fortitude
Strong peace, most worthy to be wooed.

Take up thy task, O nobly born!
With both hands grasp thy destiny.
Easy is ignorance, easy scorn,
And fluent pride, unworthy thee.
Grand rolls the planet of thy fate:
Be thy just passions also great!

Turn from the sweet lure of content,
Rise up among the beds of ease;
Be all thy will as a bow bent,
Thy sure on--coming like thy seas.
Purge clear within thy deep desires
To be our burning altar--fires!

Then welcome peril, so it bring
Thy true soul leaping into light;
A glory for our mouths to sing
And for our deeds to match in might,
Till thou at last our hope enthrone,
And make indeed thy peace our own.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010



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