Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald
   English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
320. Boadicea: An Ode
William Cowper (1731–1800)
WHEN the British warrior queen,
  Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Sought, with an indignant mien,
  Counsel of her country’s gods,
Sage beneath a spreading oak        5
  Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Every burning word he spoke
  Full of rage, and full of grief.
‘Princess! if our aged eyes
  Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,        10
’Tis because resentment ties
  All the terrors of our tongues.
‘Rome shall perish—write that word
  In the blood that she has spilt;
Perish, hopeless and abhorred,        15
  Deep in ruin as in guilt.
‘Rome, for empire far renowned,
  Tramples on a thousand states;
Soon her pride shall kiss the ground—
  Hark! the Gaul is at her gates!        20
‘Other Romans shall arise,
  Heedless of a soldier’s name;
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize—
  Harmony the path to fame.
‘Then the progeny that springs        25
  From the forests of our land,
Armed with thunder, clad with wings,
  Shall a wider world command.
‘Regions Cæsar never knew
  Thy posterity shall sway,        30
Where his eagles never flew,
  None invincible as they.’
Such the bard’s prophetic words,
  Pregnant with celestial fire,
Bending, as he swept the chords        35
  Of his sweet but awful lyre.
She, with all a monarch’s pride,
  Felt them in her bosom glow;
Rushed to battle, fought, and died;
  Dying, hurled them at the foe.        40
‘Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
  Heaven awards the vengeance due:
Empire is on us bestowed,
  Shame and ruin wait for you.’


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