Ode for Trafalgar Day, 1905

A poem by Henry Newbolt

"Partial firing continued until 4.30, when a victory having been reported to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Nelson, K.B., and Commander-in-Chief, he then died of his wound."--Log of the Victory, October 21, 1805.

England! to-day let fire be in thine eyes
And in thy heart the throb of leaping guns;
Crown in thy streets the deed that never dies,
And tell their fathers' fame to all thy sons!
Behold! behold! on that unchanging sea
Where day behind Trafalgar rises pale,
How dread the storm to be
Drifts up with ominous breath
Cloud after towering cloud of billowy sail
Full charged with thunder and the bolts of death.

Yet when the noon is past, and thy delight,
More delicate for these good hundred years,
Has drunk the splendour and the sound of fight
And the sweet sting of long-since vanished fears,
Then, England, come thou down with sterner lips
From the bright world of thy substantial power,
Forget thy seas, thy ships,
And that wide echoing dome
To watch the soul of man in his dark hour
Redeeming yet his dear lost land of home.

What place is this? What under-world of pain
All shadow-barred with glare of swinging fires?
What writhing phantoms of the newly slain?
What cries? What thirst consuming all desires?
This is the field of battle: not for life,
Not for the deeper life that dwells in love,
Not for the savour of strife
Or the far call of fame,
Not for all these the fight: all these above
The soul of this man cherished Duty's name.

His steadfast hope from self has turned away,
For the Cause only must he still contend:
"How goes the day with us? How goes the day?"
He craves not victory, but to make an end.
Therefore not yet thine hour, O Death: but when
The weapons forged against his country's peace
Lie broken round him--then
Give him the kiss supreme;
Then let the tumult of his warfare cease
And the last dawn dispel his anguished dream.

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