Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

Three Sonnets Written In Mid-Channel - Poem by Alfred Austin

I
Now upon English soil I soon shall stand,
Homeward from climes that fancy deems more fair;
And well I know that there will greet me there
No soft foam fawning upon smiling strand,
No scent of orange-groves, no zephyrs bland,
But Amazonian March, with breast half bare
And sleety arrows whistling through the air,
Will be my welcome from that burly land.
Yet he who boasts his birthplace yonder lies,
Owns in his heart a mood akin to scorn
For sensuous slopes that bask 'neath Southern skies,
Teeming with wine and prodigal of corn,
And, gazing through the mist with misty eyes,
Blesses the brave bleak land where he was born.

II
And wherefore feels he thus? Because its shore
Nor conqueror's foot nor despot's may defile,
But Freedom walks unarmed about the isle,
And Peace sits musing beside each man's door.
Beyond these straits, the wild-beast mob may roar,
Elsewhere the veering demagogue beguile:
We, hand in hand with the Past, look on and smile,
And tread the ways our fathers trod before.
What though some wretch, whose glory you may trace
Past lonely hearths and unrecorded graves,
Round his Sword-sceptre summoning swarms of slaves,
Menace our shores with conflict or disgrace,-
We laugh behind the bulwark of the waves,
And fling the foam defiant in his face.

III
And can it be,-when Heaven this deep moat made,
And filled it with the ungovernable seas,
Gave us the winds for rampart, waves for frise,
Behind which Freedom, elsewhere if betrayed,
Might shelter find, and flourish unafraid,-
That men who learned to lisp at English knees
Of English fame, to pamper womanish ease
And swell the surfeits of voracious trade
Shall the impregnable breakers undermine,
Take ocean in reverse, and, basely bold,
Burrow beneath the bastions of the brine?-
Nay, England, if the citadel be sold
For lucre thus, Tarpeia's doom be thine,
And perish smothered in a grave of gold!


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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