England to the Sea by R. E. Vernède
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 thy 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 whorls 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 Trafalgar?
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!"