Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Birthday Crown
By William Alexander, Archbishop of Armagh (1824–1911)
IF aught of simple song have power to touch
Your silent being, O ye country flowers,
    Twisted by tender hands
      Into a royal brede,
O hawthorn, tear thou not the soft white brow        5
Of the small queen upon her rustic throne;
    But breathe thy finest scent
      Of almond round about.
And thou, laburnum, and what other hue
Tinct deeper gives variety of gold,        10
    Inwoven lily, and vetch
      Bedropp’d with summer’s blood,
I charge you wither not this long June day!
O, wither not until the sunset come,
    Until the sunset’s shaft        15
      Slope through the chestnut tree;
Until she sit, high-gloried round about
With the great light above her mimic court—
    Her threads of sunny hair
      Girt sunnily by you!        20
What other crown that queen may wear one day,
What drops may touch her forehead not of balm,
    What thorns, what cruel thorns,
      I will not guess to-day.
Only, before she is discrown’d of you,        25
Ye dying flowers, and thou, O dying light,
    My prayer shall rise—‘O Christ!
      Give her the unfading crown.
‘The crown of blossoms worn by happy bride,
The thorny crown o’er pale and dying lips,        30
    I dare not choose for her—
      Give her the unfading crown!’

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