Vos Deos Laudamus: The Conservative Journalist’s Anthem

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

‘As a matter of fact, no man living, or who ever lived, not Cæsar or Pericles, not Shakespeare or Michael Angelo, could confer honour more than he took on entering the House of Lords.’
- Saturday Review, December 15, 1883.

‘Clumsy and shallow snobbery can do no hurt.’
- Ibid.

O Lords our Gods, beneficent, sublime,
In the evening, and before the morning flames,
We praise, we bless, we magnify your names.
The slave is he that serves not; his the crime
And shame, who hails not as the crown of Time
That House wherein the all-envious world acclaims
Such glory that the reflex of it shames
All crowns bestowed of men for prose or rhyme.
The serf, the cur, the sycophant is he
Who feels no cringing motion twitch his knee
When from a height too high for Shakespeare nods
The wearer of a higher than Milton’s crown.
Stoop, Chaucer, stoop: Keats, Shelley, Burns, bow down:
These have no part with you, O Lords our Gods.

O Lords our Gods, it is not that ye sit
Serene above the thunder, and exempt
From strife of tongues and casualties that tempt
Men merely found by proof of manhood fit
For service of their fellows: this is it
Which sets you past the reach of Time’s attempt,
Which gives us right of justified contempt
For commonwealths built up by mere men’s wit:
That gold unlocks not, nor may flatteries ope,
The portals of your heaven; that none may hope
With you to watch how life beneath you plods,
Save for high service given, high duty done;
That never was your rank ignobly won:
For this we give you praise, O Lords our Gods.

O Lords our Gods, the times are evil: you
Redeem the time, because of evil days.
While abject souls in servitude of praise
Bow down to heads untitled, and the crew
Whose honour dwells but in the deeds they do,
From loftier hearts your nobler servants raise
More manful salutation: yours are bays
That not the dawn’s plebeian pearls bedew;
Yours, laurels plucked not of such hands as wove
Old age its chaplet in Colonos’ grove.
Our time, with heaven and with itself at odds,
Makes all lands else as seas that seethe and boil;
But yours are yet the corn and wine and oil,
And yours our worship yet, O Lords our Gods.

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