Friday, September 2, 2016

BRITANNIA, a poem

"LONDON CROWDS AWAITING WAR NEWS"
Buckingham Palace, 4 August 1914*
I AM calling together my sons—
The children my love gave birth,
     I am arming them
          As the swift sand runs,
     And sending them with their battle guns,
To prove their manhood's worth.
I should have, God knows, less power
To stay them by pleadings poor
     Than the mother who tried
          In woodland bower
     To hold from knighthood—
          His rightful dower—
Her boy, Sir Peredur!
For they know full well, as he knew,
How base is the touch of fear
     When tyrannous wrong
          Would right subdue;
     And they to me
          And themselves are true
When danger draweth near.
Oh, strong with the love I gave,
Their souls have the strength I give,
     Who have taught my sons
          To be pure and brave,
     Nor to fly the chance of a hero's grave,
Where, deathless, heroes live!
"Britannia" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in the Poetry Review (Great Britain) in 1914, and subsequently in Poems (1916) Volume 2.

From the Poetry Review (1914):
In this our second war number, we have the privilege of printing a patriotic poem by Florence Earle Coates, who has been described by the best authority as “the leading living poet of the United States.” Mrs. Coates was among the Americans delayed in England by the outbreak of war, and on the eve of her departure she called on us with this contribution as an expression of her admiration and feeling for Great Britain, and appreciation of the kindness she had received when over here. We believe this poem to be the first on the war by an American writer of eminence to be published in this country.
*Image facing p. 184 of The Literary Digest History of the World War (1919) Volume I. The original caption reads in part: "...The crowd was described at the time as 'one seething mass of humanity, surging down Constitution Hill and around the palace gates cheering with all its might.'"

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