The Bengali Book of English Verse/A Song of Britannia (Manmohan Ghose)


A Song of Britannia.


Muse, who art quick to fire
At the least noble thing,
And frankest praise to bring
Upon the quivering lyre,
Why art thou slow to sing
Now when the world beclouds
With battle, such as shrouds
Earth in a mist of tears?
For want of heart belike,
While thunder sings afar
And even the bravest fears.
Seek'st thou a theme for song
No fears can ever wrong,
No tears can tarnish? Strike
And sing Britannia.


Britannia the fair,
Whom oceans girdle round,
With hill and valley crowned,
And purest wash of air
From her Atlantic bound.
What heaths so fresh as hers
With blossom? and how stirs
The soft wind in her pines.
Earth's fairest isle, 'tis said,
Where all things lovely are.

Yet beauty there not mines
Strength; for no cliff is there
No headland calmly fair
But fringed with wild sprays wed
To shout Britannia.


Britannia the strong,
Whom God designed should queen
The Ocean plain, serene
Though threat'ning foes bethrong:
Whose fate shall not belong,
While round her, every deck
Bristling with cannon, speck
The seas her angry fleet.
Not earth to dominate
Or to embroil with war
Tower they: 'tis to keep sweet
The world's dear peace they bulk
So with their silent hulk
In all eyes power, elate
To speak Britannia.


Britannia the free,
Of soil so virtuous, such
No foot of slave can touch
But walks at liberty.
The staff she is, the crutch
By whom weak lands arise,
Who nourished in her eyes
Grow, and shake off the sloth
Of old anarchic power.
Two richly tokens are
Of her boon influence, both:
What man of Ind or Nile
Who sees his fat fields smile

But his lips burst aflower
To praise Britannia.


Britannia the sage,
With her own history wise;
The stars were her allies
To write that ample page.
'Twas her victorious eyes
The vantage saw, whence she
To this wide regency
Through acts adventurous won:
Which if from strife and jar
She keep, the secret learn
From her mild brow alone;
How, not the world to daunt
Or power imperial flaunt
She makes the queen'd earth yearn
To serve Britannia.


Britannia the good,
With her own heart at school,
Whom flatterer cannot fool
Nor rebel sour; at flood
Her own strength taught to rule.
Hers are the mighty hands
That o'er a hundred lands
Weave good from dawn to gray.
Like fond words from afar
Hers are the winged sails
O'er ocean: words are they
Which in a moment bring
Her brood beneath her wing;
And none so small that fails
To knit Britannia.


Britannia wide-flung
Over the globe; its half
Her children, whether graff
Or scion mother-sprung;
Sons, now to be her staff
When her path glooms; though Rhine,
Danube and Elbe combine
Of these (O idlest dream!),
To reave her. Hers they are,
Rous'd, ardent in her right!
From Ganges utmost stream
Far as Canadian firs
And bush Australian, hers.
Joined even in hell's despite
To help Britannia.


Britannia the heart
And brain that bulwarks power;
See, at the crucial hour
How well she bears her part!
From fields how peaceful flower
In millions arms and men!
Which now she pours again
To those old battlefields,
France, Flanders; makes her star
Of glory that she shields
The weak, confronts the strong.
Brute force let others sing;
She shows in everything
To her it shall belong
To be—Britannia.


Britannia, sublime
To flame in generous deed;
In others’ cause to bleed.
So to the end of time
It shall be. Once she freed
The Iberian. Wellington
And Torres Vedras spun
The lines of victory then.
Another Trafalgar
The bleak North Seas await;
Where her fleet towers the main;
Each mighty battleship
Charged to the very lip
With thunder. Big with fate
They loom Britannia.