September 20, 2006

Some 19th Century Anglospherist Poetry

Thanks to ELC, who quoted this in the comments section to the previous post.

Sonnets: America.


i


Men say, Columbia, we shall hear thy guns.
But in what tongue shall be thy battle-cry?
Not that our sires did love in years gone by,
When all the Pilgrim Fathers were little sons
In merry homes of England? Back, and see
Thy satchell'd ancestor! Behold, he runs
To mine, and, clasp'd, they tread the equal lea
To the same village-school, where side by side
They spell "Our Father". Hard by, the twin-pride
Of that grey hall whose ancient oriel gleams
Thro' yon baronial pines, with looks of light
Our sister-mothers sit beneath one tree.
Meanwhile our Shakespeare wanders past and dreams
His Helena and Hermia. Shall we fight?


ii


Nor force nor fraud shall sunder us! O ye
Who north or south, on east or western land,
Native to noble sounds, say truth for truth,
Freedom for freedom, love for love, and God
For God; Oh ye who in eternal youth
Speak with a living and creative flood
This universal English, and do stand
Its breathing book; live worthy of that grand
Heroic utterance—parted, yet a whole,
Far yet unsever'd,—children brave and free
Of the great Mother-tongue, and ye shall be
Lords of an Empire wide as Shakespeare's soul,
Sublime as Milton's immemorial theme,
And rich as Chaucer's speech, and fair as Spenser's dream.


Sydney Dobell (1824-1874)


The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1913), ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch, # 304.

Posted by James C. Bennett at September 20, 2006 04:29 PM
Comments

An awful lot of similar poems were written in America for Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in June 1897. If you have a strong stomach and time on your hands, and don't mind the style of William McGonagall, it's quite interesting reading.

Of course, the trick is to try to separate out the sentiments of those caught up in the hubris of it all, the transient wave of Anglophilia from 1895 after the Spanish-American War and the goings-on in the Philippines, and a genuine sense of belonging to one overarching civilisation. It's beyond me, frankly...

Posted by: Ed at September 21, 2006 09:12 AM

Can't beat Kipling, say I. A truly great poet and a man who understood history and Anglospherism. He also realized that the British Empire was ending as everyone was celebrating the Diamond Jubilee.

Posted by: Helen at September 21, 2006 09:59 AM

"Of course, the trick is to try to separate out the sentiments of those caught up "...

Except that it doesn't matter in the long run, since where the rubber meets the road in building a "genuine sense of belonging to one overarching civilisation" is what braod masses of people feela nd commit too, and if they don't separate these sentiments out when they make the million personal decisions that make up history, then those diffenrences hardly matter.

Posted by: Jim at September 21, 2006 02:35 PM

I presume that Helen is refering to Kipling's Recessional of 1897. I'm not sure that this poem shows us that he saw that the Empire was ending - rather, he was making about about the transience of power: the Empire would end one day, but even when he died in 1940 I doubt that he foresaw such a swift end to British world dominance.

As for Jim's point, well yes-ish, in that I agree with the general point but I was talking about the individual poems in and of themselves, rather than Anglo-American relations as a whole over a period of time.

Posted by: Ed at September 22, 2006 04:53 AM

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Posted by: fidel at March 7, 2007 01:10 AM
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