Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

Victoria - Poem by Alfred Austin

The lark went up, the mower whet his scythe,
On golden meads kine ruminating lay,
And all the world felt young again and blithe,
Just as to-day.

The partridge shook her covey from her wings,
And limped along the grass; on leaf and lawn
Shimmered the dew, and every throat that sings
Chanted the dawn.

The doe was followed by her new-dropped fawn,
And, folding all her feathers on her breast,
The swan within the reedmace deep withdrawn
Dreamed on her nest.

In the green wheat the poppy burst aflame,
Wildrose and woodbine garlanded the glade,
And, twin with maiden Summer, forth there came
A summer Maid.

Her face was as the face of mid-June when
Blossoms the meadowsweet, the bindweed blows:
Pale as a lily first She blenched, and then
Blushed like a rose.

They placed a Crown upon her fair young brow,
They put a Sceptre in her girlish hand,
Saying, ``Behold! You are Sovereign Lady now
Of this great Land!''

Silent She gazed, as one who doth not know
The meaning of a message. When She broke
The hush of awe around her, 'twas as though
Her soul that spoke.

``With this dread summons, since 'tis Heaven's decree,
I would not palter, even if I could;
But, being a woman only, I can be
Not great, but good.

``I cannot don the breastplate and the helm,
To my weak waist the sword I cannot gird,
Nor in the discords that distract a Realm
Be seen or heard.

``But in my People's wisdom will I share,
And in their valour play a helpful part,
Lending them still, in all they do or dare,
My woman's heart.

``And haply it may be that, by God's grace,
And unarmed Love's invulnerable might,
I may, though woman, lead a manly race
To higher height;

``If wise will curb disorderly desire,
The Present hold the parent Past in awe,
Religion hallowing with its sacred fire
Freedom and Law.

``Never be broken, long as I shall reign,
The solemn covenant 'twixt them and me,
To keep this Kingdom, moated by the main,
Loyal yet free.''

Thus with grave utterance and majestic mien
She with her eighteen summers filled the Throne
Where Alfred sate: a girl, withal a Queen,
Aloft, alone!

But Love that hath the power to force apart
The bolts and baulk the sentinels of Kings,
Came o'er the sea, and in her April heart
Folded his wings.

Thenceforth more dear than diadem She owned
A princely helpmate, sharer in her trust,
If not her Sceptre:-since, withal, enthroned
By Time the just.

Scorner of wrong, and lover of the right,
Compounded all of nobleness he seemed,
And was indeed the perfect gentle Knight
The poet dreamed.

So when the storm of wrath arose that drave
Scared Rulers from their realms, Her Throne, deep laid
In liberty and trust, calm shelter gave
To Kings dismayed.

And stronger grew the bond of love and grace
Betwixt Her and her People, while that She
Reigned the glad Mother of a Royal race,
Rulers to be.

But Death that deepens love in darkening life
Turned to a pall the purple of her Throne.
Then, more than once the maid, the widowed wife
Reigned all alone!

``Leave me awhile to linger with the dead,''
Weeping, She sued. ``But doubt not that I still
Am nuptialled to my People, and have wed
Their deathless will.

``Their thoughts shall be my thoughts, their aim my aim,
Their free-lent loyalty my right divine;
Mine will I make their triumphs, mine their fame,
Their sorrows mine.

``And I will be the bond to link them all
In patriot purpose till my days be done,
So that, in mind and might, whate'er befall,
They still keep One.''

Then to the winds yet wider was unfurled
The Flag that tyrants never could enslave,
Till its strong wisdom governed half the world,
And all the wave!

And, panoplied alike for War or Peace,
Victoria's England furroweth still the foam
To harvest Empire, wiser than was Greece,
Wider than Rome!

Therefore with glowing hearts and proud glad tears,
The children of her Island Realm to-day
Recall her sixty venerable years
Of virtuous sway.

Now too from where Saint-Lawrence winds, adown
'Twixt forests felled and plains that feel the plough,
And Ganges jewels the Imperial Crown
That girds her brow;

From Afric's Cape, where loyal watchdogs bark,
And Britain's Sceptre ne'er shall be withdrawn,
And that young Continent that greets the dark
When we the dawn;

From steel-capped promontories stern and strong,
And lone isles mounting guard upon the main,
Hither her subjects wend to hail her long
Resplendent Reign.

And ever when mid-June's musk-roses blow,
Our Race will celebrate Victoria's name,
And even England's greatness gain a glow
From Her pure fame.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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