In Memoriam Reginae Dilectissimae Victoriae

A poem by William Ernest Henley

(May 24, 1819 - January 22, 1901)

Sceptre and orb and crown,
High ensigns of a sovranty containing
The beauty and strength and state of half a World,
Pass from her, and she fades
Into the old, inviolable peace.


She had been ours so long
She seemed a piece of ENGLAND: spirit and blood
And message ENGLAND'S self,
Home-coloured, ENGLAND in look and deed and dream;
Like the rich meadows and woods, the serene rivers,
And sea-charmed cliffs and beaches, that still bring
A rush of tender pride to the heart
That beats in ENGLAND'S airs to ENGLAND'S ends:
August, familiar, irremovable,
Like the good stars that shine
In the good skies that only ENGLAND knows:
So that we held it sure
GOD'S aim, GOD'S will, GOD'S way,
When Empire from her footstool, realm on realm,
Spread, even as from her notable womb
Sprang line on line of Kings;
For she was ENGLAND - ENGLAND and our Queen.


O, she was ours! And she had aimed
And known and done the best
And highest in time: greatly rejoiced,
Ruled greatly, greatly endured. Love had been hers,
And widowhood, glory and grief, increase
In wisdom and power and pride,
Dominion, honour, children, reverence:
So that, in peace and war
Innumerably victorious, she lay down
To die in a world renewed,
Cleared, in her luminous umbrage beautified
For Man, and changing fast
Into so gracious an inheritance
As Man had never dared
Imagine. Think, when she passed,
Think what a pageant of immortal acts,
Done in the unapproachable face
Of Time by the high, transcending human mind,
Shone and acclaimed
And triumphed in her advent! Think of the ghosts,
Think of the mighty ghosts: soldiers and priests,
Artists and captains of discovery,
GOD'S chosen, His adventurers up the heights
Of thought and deed - how many of them that led
The forlorn hopes of the World! -
Her peers and servants, made the air
Of her death-chamber glorious! Think how they thronged
About her bed, and with what pride
They took this sister-ghost
Tenderly into the night! O, think -
And, thinking, bow the head
In sorrow, but in the reverence that makes
The strong man stronger - this true maid,
True wife, true mother, tried and found
An hundred times true steel,
This unforgettable woman was your Queen!


Tears for her - tears! Tears and the mighty rites
Of an everlasting and immense farewell,
ENGLAND, green heart of the world, and you,
Dear demi-ENGLANDS, far-away isles of home,
Where the old speech is native, and the old flag
Floats, and the old irresistible call,
The watch-word of so many ages of years,
Makes men in love
With toil for the race, and pain, and peril, and death!
Tears, and the dread, tremendous dirge
Of her brooding battleships, and hosts
Processional, with trailing arms; the plaint -
Measured, enormous, terrible - of her guns;
The slow, heart-breaking throb
Of bells; the trouble of drums; the blare
Of mourning trumpets; the discomforting pomp
Of silent crowds, black streets, and banners-royal
Obsequious! Then, these high things done,
Rise, heartened of your passion! Rise to the height
Of her so lofty life! Kneel, if you must;
But, kneeling, win to those great altitudes
On which she sought and did
Her clear, supernal errand unperturbed!
Let the new memory
Be as the old, long love! So, when the hour
Strikes, as it must, for valour of heart,
Virtue, and patience, and unblenching hope,
And the inflexible resolve
That, come the World in arms,
This breeder of nations, ENGLAND, keeping the seas
Hers as from GOD, shall in the sight of GOD
Stand justified of herself
Wherever her unretreating bugles blow!
Remember that she lived
That this magnificent Power might still perdure -
Your friend, your passionate servant, counsellor, Queen.


Be that your chief of mourning - that! -
ENGLAND, O Mother, and you,
The daughter Kingdoms born and reared
Of ENGLAND'S travail and sweet blood;
And never will you lands,
The live Earth over and round,
Wherethrough for sixty royal and radiant years
Her drum-tap made the dawns
English - Never will you
So fittingly and well have paid your debt
Of grief and gratitude to the souls
That sink in ENGLAND'S harness into the dream:
'I die for ENGLAND'S sake, and it is well':
As now to this valiant, wonderful piece of earth,
To which the assembling nations bare the head,
And bend the knee,
In absolute veneration - once your Queen.

Sceptre and orb and crown,
High ensigns of a sovranty empaling
The glory and love and praise of a whole half-world,
Fall from her, and, preceding, she departs
Into the old, indissoluble Peace.


Into a land
Storm-wrought, a place of quakes, all thunder-scarred,
Helpless, degraded, desolate,
Peace, the White Angel, comes.
Her eyes are as a mother's. Her good hands
Are comforting, and helping; and her voice
Falls on the heart, as, after Winter, Spring
Falls on the World, and there is no more pain.
And, in her influence, hope returns, and life,
And the passion of endeavour: so that, soon,
The idle ports are insolent with keels;
The stithies roar, and the mills thrum
With energy and achievement; weald and wold
Exult; the cottage-garden teems
With innocent hues and odours; boy and girl
Mate prosperously; there are sweet women to kiss;
There are good women to breed. In a golden fog,
A large, full-stomached faith in kindliness
All over the world, the nation, in a dream
Of money and love and sport, hangs at the paps
Of well-being, and so
Goes fattening, mellowing, dozing, rotting down
Into a rich deliquium of decay.

Then, if the Gods be good,
Then, if the Gods be other than mischievous,
Down from their footstools, down
With a million-throated shouting, swoops and storms
War, the Red Angel, the Awakener,
The Shaker of Souls and Thrones; and at her heel
Trail grief, and ruin, and shame!
The woman weeps her man, the mother her son,
The tenderling its father. In wild hours,
A people, haggard with defeat,
Asks if there be a God; yet sets its teeth,
Faces calamity, and goes into the fire
Another than it was. And in wild hours
A people, roaring ripe
With victory, rises, menaces, stands renewed,
Sheds its old piddling aims,
Approves its virtue, puts behind itself
The comfortable dream, and goes,
Armoured and militant,
New-pithed, new-souled, new-visioned, up the steeps
To those great altitudes, whereat the weak
Live not. But only the strong
Have leave to strive, and suffer, and achieve.


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