Poems of the Great War/England to the Sea


ENGLAND TO THE SEA


HEARKEN, O Mother, hearken to thy daughter!
    Fain would I tell thee what men tell to me,
Saying that henceforth no more on any water
    Shall I be first or great or loved or free,

But that these others—so the tale is spoken—
    Who have not known thee all these centuries
By fire and sword shall yet turn England broken
    Back from thy breast and beaten from thy seas,

Me—whom thou barest where they waves should
        guard me,
    Me—whom thou suckled'st on thy milk of foam,
Me—whom thy kisses shaped what while they
        marred me,
    To whom thy storms are sweet and ring of
        home.

"Behold," they cry, "she is grown soft and
          strengthless,
    All her proud memories changed to fear and
        fret."
Say, thou, who hast watched through ages that are
        lengthless,
    Whom have I feared, and when did I forget?

What sons of mine have shunned thy words and
        races?
    Have I not reared for thee time and again
And bid go forth to share thy fierce embraces
    Sea-ducks, sea-wolves, sea-rovers, and sea-men?

Names that thou knowest—great hearts that thou
        holdest,
    Rocking them, rocking them in an endless
        wake—
Captains the world can match not with its boldest,
    Hawke, Howard, Grenville, Frobisher, Drake?

Nelson—the greatest of them all—the master
    Who swept across thee like a shooting star,
And, while the Earth stood veiled before disaster,
    Caught Death and slew him—there—at Tra-
        falgar?

Mother, they knew me then as thou didst know
        me;
    Then I cried, Peace, and every flag was furled:
But I am old, it seems, and they would show me
    That never more my peace shall bind the world.

Wherefore, O Sea, I, standing thus before thee,
    Stretch forth my hands unto thy surge and say:
"When they come forth who seek this empire o'er
        thee,
    And I go forth to meet them—on that day

"God grant to us the old Armada weather,
    The winds that rip, the heavens that stoop and
        lour—
Not till the Sea and England sink together,
    Shall they be masters! Let them boast that
        hour!"