The King Of England

A poem by Henry Newbolt

(June 24th, 1902)

In that eclipse of noon when joy was hushed
Like the bird's song beneath unnatural night,
And Terror's footfall in the darkness crushed
The rose imperial of our delight,
Then, even then, though no man cried "He comes,"
And no man turned to greet him passing there,
With phantom heralds challenging renown
And silent-throbbing drums
I saw the King of England, hale and fair,
Ride out with a great train through London town.

Unarmed he rode, but in his ruddy shield
The lions bore the dint of many a lance,
And up and down his mantle's azure field
Were strewn the lilies plucked in famous France.
Before him went with banner floating wide
The yeoman breed that served his honour best,
And mixed with these his knights of noble blood;
But in the place of pride
His admirals in billowy lines abreast
Convoyed him close like galleons on the flood.

Full of a strength unbroken showed his face
And his brow calm with youth's unclouded dawn,
But round his lips were lines of tenderer grace
Such as no hand but Time's hath ever drawn.
Surely he knew his glory had no part
In dull decay, nor unto Death must bend,
Yet surely too of lengthening shadows dreamed
With sunset in his heart,
So brief his beauty now, so near the end,
And now so old and so immortal seemed.

O King among the living, these shall hail
Sons of thy dust that shall inherit thee:
O King of men that die, though we must fail
Thy life is breathed from thy triumphant sea.
O man that servest men by right of birth,
Our hearts' content thy heart shall also keep,
Thou too with us shalt one day lay thee down
In our dear native earth,
Full sure the King of England, while we sleep,
For ever rides abroad, through London town.

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