Verse > Anthologies > Walter Murdoch, comp. > The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
Walter Murdoch (1874–1970).  The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse.  1918.
166. Sonnets of the Empire
By Archibald T. Strong
Gloriana’s England

FORTH sped thy gallant sailors, blithe and free,
  Fearing nor foeman’s hate, nor iron clime,
  Nor Lima’s flame, nor Plata’s fever-slime,
So they might give thee far Cathay in fee;
Yet swept thy poets o’er a vaster sea,        5
  ’Neath fairer gales to Indies more sublime,
  Questing along the golden shores of Rhyme
For all the treasure of eternity.
One will, one end, one pulse of deep desire,
  Drove Hudson through the ice to joy and death,        10
    Sped Drake to glory through the long South roll:
And kindled Marlowe’s eager heart with fire,
  Set Spenser voyaging ’neath the spirit’s breath,
    And won the world for Shakespeare’s captain soul.

GREAT sea dog, fighter in the great old way!
  What though thy ships were tinder, and the pest
  Rotted thy ruffian crews that need had prest,
And all thy keels were clogged with foul decay,
Yet through the roaring months thy squadron lay
  A watch-dog eager at the throat of Brest        20
  While all the ocean smote her from the West
And all the tempests tore her in their play.
Thy soul was of the whirlwind, and thy cry
  Still leaps from out the crash of guns and waves
    To hurl us headlong on the foeman’s van,        25
As in the Bay of Death, ’mid breakers high
  And felon reefs whereo’er the Atlantic raves,
    Thy flagship foremost into glory ran.

WHITE soul of England’s glory, sovereign star!
  Ne’er shall disaster beat her down, nor shame,        30
  While still she sees thee by the leaping flame
That kindled o’er Aboukir, near and far,
Or feels thee quivering through the onset’s jar
  That filled the North with fear of England’s name,
  Or trembles with the joy of all the fame        35
That died and cast out death at Trafalgar.
Thy name was lightning, and like lightning ay
  Thine onset shivered, far and swift and fell:
    Ever thy watchword holds us, and whene’er
The fierce Dawn breaks, and far along the sky        40
  Roars the last battle, yet with us ’tis well—
    We keep the touch, thy hand and soul are there.
Dawn at Liverpool

THE SUNLIGHT laughs along the serried stone
  About whose feet the wastrel tide runs free;
  Light lie the shipmasts, fairy-like to see,        45
Athwart the royal city’s splendour thrown;
On runs the noble river, wide and lone,
  Like some great soul that presses to the sea
  Where life is rendered to eternity
And eager thought hath rest in the Unknown.        50
So sets thy tide, my country, to the deep
  Whose face is black with thunder near and far,
    And vexed with fleering gusts and tyrannous rain.
Shall the cloud lift and give thee rest and sleep,
  Or wilt thou ’mid the surge and crash of war        55
    Shatter thy life against the invading main?
Australia, 1902

GALLANT is Spring along thy laughing hills,
  With wattle’s loveliest scent and gleam of gold,
  When the good rain hath quickened all thy mould,
And the hot musk thine air with incense fills.        60
Sweet is the chime of all thy tinkling rills,
  And fair thy Summer’s glory to behold,
  And soft is life for thee, the sunny-souled,
Far from the world and all its olden ills.
Yet ’tis not calm that builds the hero breed,        65
  High hearts are tempered ’neath a stormy star,
    Through want and danger doth the soul increase,
Stern rings the clarion voice of Angel Need
  To bid thee vanquish self, and gaze afar
    And save thy soul alive from Harlot Peace.        70
Australia, 1905

CARELESS she lies along the Southern Main,
  The lovely maiden, wanton with the spell
  Of sun and vastness and the ocean swell:
Northward the great gnomes watch her beauty, fain
To snatch her wealth of gold and fleece and grain,        75
  And bend her being to their purpose fell:
  But she lies lazy, and the passing bell
Of older glory stirs her sense in vain.
Nor shall she wake and know her danger near
  Till some high heart and true, her fated lord,        80
    Shall kiss her lips, and all her will control,
And fill her wayward heart with holy fear,
  And cross her forehead with his iron sword,
    And bring her strength, and armour, and a soul.
Australia, 1914

THE NIGHT is thick with storm and driving cloud,
  Lurid at instants through the blackness break
  Quick gleams of war across the perilous lake
From yonder isles that awe and magic shroud:
Far in the northland smite Thor’s hammers loud
  On steel that warlocks for her spoilure make,        90
  Till lo! from sleep Australia starts awake
And lifts the queenly head that sloth had bowed.
Not yet her eyes are clear: throughout her brain
  Still swarm the antic creatures of her dream,
    The idiot jests, the sports that kill the soul,        95
Yet shall not night lay hold on her again,
  For through the rack she spies the morning gleam
    Clear on the sword that lights her to her goal.
Australia to England

BY all the deeds to Thy dear glory done,
  By all the lifeblood spilt to serve Thy need,        100
  By all the fettered lives Thy touch hath freed,
By all Thy dream in us anew begun:
By all the guerdon English sire to son
  Hath given of highest vision, kingliest deed,
  By all Thine agony, of God decreed        105
For trial and strength, our fate with Thine is one.
Still dwells Thy spirit in our hearts and lips,
  Honour and life we hold from none but Thee,
    And if we live Thy pensioners no more
But seek a nation’s might of men and ships,        110
  ’Tis but that when the world is black with war
    Thy sons may stand beside Thee strong and free.


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