Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Founder’s Day
By Robert Bridges (1844–1930)
 
A Secular Ode on the Ninth Jubilee of Eton College

CHRIST and his Mother, heavenly maid,
Mary, in whose fair name was laid
Eton’s corner, bless our youth
With Truth, and Purity, mother of truth!
 

    O ye, ’neath breezy skies of June,
        5
By silver Thames’s lulling tune,
In shade of willow or oak, who try
The golden gates of poesy;
 
Or on the tabled sward all day
Match your strength in England’s play,        10
Scholars of Henry, giving grace
To toil and force in game or race;
 
Exceed the prayer and keep the fame
Of him, the sorrowful king, who came
Here in his realm a realm to found,        15
Where he might stand for ever crown’d.
 

    Or whether with naked bodies flashing
Ye plunge in the lashing weir; or dashing
The oars of cedar skiffs, ye strain
Round the rushes and home again;—        20
 
Or what pursuit soe’er it be
That makes your mingled presence free,
When by the school gate ’neath the limes
Ye muster, waiting the lazy chimes;
 
May Peace, that conquereth sin and death,        25
Temper for you her sword of faith;
Crown with honour the loving eyes,
And touch with mirth the mouth of the wise.
 

    Here is eternal spring: for you
The very stars of heaven are new;        30
And aged Fame again is born,
Fresh as a peeping flower of morn.
 
For you shall Shakespeare’s scene unroll,
Mozart shall steal your ravish’d soul,
Homer his bardic hymn rehearse,        35
Virgil recite his maiden verse.
 
Now learn, love, have, do, be the best;
Each in one thing excel the rest:
Strive; and hold fast this truth of heaven—
To him that hath shall more be given.        40
 

    Slow on your dial the shadows creep,
So many hours for food and sleep,
So many hours till study tire,
So many hours for heart’s desire.
 
These suns and moons shall memory save,        45
Mirrors bright for her magic cave;
Wherein may steadfast eyes behold
A self that groweth never old.
 
O in such prime enjoy your lot,
And when ye leave regret it not;        50
With wishing gifts in festal state
Pass ye the angel-sworded gate.
 

    Then to the world let shine your light,
Children in play be lions in fight,
And match with red immortal deeds        55
The victory that made ring the meads:
 
Or by firm wisdom save your land
From giddy head and grasping hand:
IMPROVE THE BEST; so shall your sons
Better what ye have better’d once.        60
 
Send them here to the court of grace
Bearing your name to fill your place:
Ye in their time shall live again
The happy dream of Henry’s reign:
 

    And on his day your steps be bent
        65
Where, saint and king, crown’d with content,
He biddeth a prayer to bless his youth
With Truth, and Purity, mother of Truth.
 
 
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