The Fleet

A poem by Alfred Tennyson


You, you, if you shall fail to understand
What England is, and what her all-in-all,
On you will come the curse of all the land,
Should this old England fall
Which Nelson left so great.


His isle, the mightiest Ocean-power on earth,
Our own fair isle, the lord of every sea–
Her fuller franchise–what would that be worth–
Her ancient fame of Free–
Where she . . . a fallen state?


Her dauntless army scatter’d, and so small,
Her island-myriads fed from alien lands–
The fleet of England is her all-in-all;
Her fleet is in your hands,
And in her fleet her fate.


You, you, that have the ordering of her fleet,
If you should only compass her disgrace,
When all men starve, the wild mob’s million feet
Will kick you from your place,
But then too late, too late.

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