The Immortal Strain

A poem by Edward Dyson

“Late Midshipman John Travers (Chester), aged 16 years. He was mortally wounded early in the action, yet he remained alone in a most exposed post awaiting orders, with his gun's crew dead all round him.”


We told old stories one by one,
Brave tales of men who toyed with death,
Of wondrous deeds of valor done
In days of bold Elizabeth.
“Alas! our British stock,” said we,
“Is not now what it used to be.”

We read of Drake's great sailors, or
Of fighting men that Nelson led,
Who steered the walls of oak to war.
“These were our finest souls,” we said.
“Their fame is on the ocean writ,
Nor time, nor storm may cancel it.

“The mariners of England then
Were lords of battle and of breeze.
The were, indeed the wondrous men
Who won for us the shoreless seas,
Who took old Neptune's ruling brand
And set it in Britannia's hand.

“But now,” we sighed, “the blood is pale,
We're little people of the street,
And dare not front the shrilling gale.
The sons of England are effete,
Of shorter limb and smaller mould,
Mere pigmies by the men of old.”

Then came the vibrant bugle note.
None cowered at the high alarm,
The steady fleets were still afloat,
And England saw her soldiers arm,
And readily, with sober grace.
The close-set ranks swung into place.

On sea and shore they fought again,
And storied heroes came to life,
Once more were added to the slain.
Once more found glory in the strife;
Again her yeoman sons arose;
A wall 'tween Britain and her foes.

The eager lads, with laughing lips
And souls elate, where oceans roar,
Or planes the eagle's flight eclipse,
Give all for her, and come no more;
Or where death thunders down the sky
Beside their silent guns they lie;

This boy who, while the iron rains
With seething riot whip the flood,
Fights on, till in his heart remains
No single drop of English blood,
Avers the British strain sublime,
Outliving Death, outlasting Time!

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