The Centenary of the Battle of the Nile

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

'Horatio Nelson - Honor est a Nilo'

A hundred years have lightened and have waned
Since ancient Nile by grace of Nelson gained
A glory higher in story now than time
Saw when his kings were gods that raged and reigned.
The day that left even England more sublime
And higher on heights that none but she may climb
Abides above all shock of change-born chance
Where hope and memory hear the stars keep chime.
The strong and sunbright lie whose name was France
Arose against the sun of truth, whose glance
Laughed large from the eyes of England, fierce as fire
Whence eyes wax blind that gaze on truth askance.
A name above all names of heroes, higher
Than song may sound or heart of man aspire,
Rings as the very voice that speaks the sea
To-day from all the sea's enkindling lyre.
The sound that bids the soul of silence be
Fire, and a rapturous music, speaks, and we
Hear what the sea's heart utters, wide and far:
"This was his day, and this day's light was he."
O sea, our sea that hadst him for thy star,
A hundred years that fall upon thee are
Even as a hundred flakes of rain or snow:
No storm of battle signs thee with a scar.
But never more may ship that sails thee show,
But never may the sun that loves thee know,
But never may thine England give thee more,
A man whose life and death shall praise thee so.
The Nile, the sea, the battle, and the shore,
Heard as we hear one word arise and soar,
Beheld one name above them tower and glow
Nelson: a light that time bows down before.

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