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Ave Imperatrix

 Set in this stormy Northern sea,
Queen of these restless fields of tide,
England! what shall men say of thee,
Before whose feet the worlds divide?

The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
And through its heart of crystal pass,
Like shadows through a twilight land,

The spears of crimson-suited war,
The long white-crested waves of fight,
And all the deadly fires which are
The torches of the lords of Night.
The yellow leopards, strained and lean, The treacherous Russian knows so well, With gaping blackened jaws are seen Leap through the hail of screaming shell.
The strong sea-lion of England's wars Hath left his sapphire cave of sea, To battle with the storm that mars The stars of England's chivalry.
The brazen-throated clarion blows Across the Pathan's reedy fen, And the high steeps of Indian snows Shake to the tread of armed men.
And many an Afghan chief, who lies Beneath his cool pomegranate-trees, Clutches his sword in fierce surmise When on the mountain-side he sees The fleet-foot Marri scout, who comes To tell how he hath heard afar The measured roll of English drums Beat at the gates of Kandahar.
For southern wind and east wind meet Where, girt and crowned by sword and fire, England with bare and bloody feet Climbs the steep road of wide empire.
O lonely Himalayan height, Grey pillar of the Indian sky, Where saw'st thou last in clanging flight Our winged dogs of Victory? The almond-groves of Samarcand, Bokhara, where red lilies blow, And Oxus, by whose yellow sand The grave white-turbaned merchants go: And on from thence to Ispahan, The gilded garden of the sun, Whence the long dusty caravan Brings cedar wood and vermilion; And that dread city of Cabool Set at the mountain's scarped feet, Whose marble tanks are ever full With water for the noonday heat: Where through the narrow straight Bazaar A little maid Circassian Is led, a present from the Czar Unto some old and bearded khan, - Here have our wild war-eagles flown, And flapped wide wings in fiery fight; But the sad dove, that sits alone In England - she hath no delight.
In vain the laughing girl will lean To greet her love with love-lit eyes: Down in some treacherous black ravine, Clutching his flag, the dead boy lies.
And many a moon and sun will see The lingering wistful children wait To climb upon their father's knee; And in each house made desolate Pale women who have lost their lord Will kiss the relics of the slain - Some tarnished epaulette - some sword - Poor toys to soothe such anguished pain.
For not in quiet English fields Are these, our brothers, lain to rest, Where we might deck their broken shields With all the flowers the dead love best.
For some are by the Delhi walls, And many in the Afghan land, And many where the Ganges falls Through seven mouths of shifting sand.
And some in Russian waters lie, And others in the seas which are The portals to the East, or by The wind-swept heights of Trafalgar.
O wandering graves! O restless sleep! O silence of the sunless day! O still ravine! O stormy deep! Give up your prey! Give up your prey! And thou whose wounds are never healed, Whose weary race is never won, O Cromwell's England! must thou yield For every inch of ground a son? Go! crown with thorns thy gold-crowned head, Change thy glad song to song of pain; Wind and wild wave have got thy dead, And will not yield them back again.
Wave and wild wind and foreign shore Possess the flower of English land - Lips that thy lips shall kiss no more, Hands that shall never clasp thy hand.
What profit now that we have bound The whole round world with nets of gold, If hidden in our heart is found The care that groweth never old? What profit that our galleys ride, Pine-forest-like, on every main? Ruin and wreck are at our side, Grim warders of the House of Pain.
Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet? Where is our English chivalry? Wild grasses are their burial-sheet, And sobbing waves their threnody.
O loved ones lying far away, What word of love can dead lips send! O wasted dust! O senseless clay! Is this the end! is this the end! Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead To vex their solemn slumber so; Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head, Up the steep road must England go, Yet when this fiery web is spun, Her watchmen shall descry from far The young Republic like a sun Rise from these crimson seas of war.

by Oscar Wilde
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