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About this Poem 

From Ballads and Songs (London: Cassell and Company, 1896).

 

May-Day Ode

  But yesterday a naked sod
    The dandies sneered from Rotten Row,
    And cantered o'er it to and fro:
              And see 'tis done!
  As though 'twere by a wizard's rod
    A blazing arch of lucid glass
    Leaps like a fountain from the grass
              To meet the sun!

  A quiet green but few days since,
    With cattle browsing in the shade:
    And here are lines of bright arcade
              In order raised!
  A palace as for fairy Prince,
    A rare pavilion, such as man
    Saw never since mankind began,
              And built and glazed!

  A peaceful place it was but now,
    And lo! within its shining streets
    A multitude of nations meets;
              A countless throng
  I see beneath the crystal bow,
    And Gaul and German, Russ and Turk,
    Each with his native handiwork
              And busy tongue.

  I felt a thrill of love and awe
    To mark the different garb of each,
    The changing tongue, the various speech
              Together blent:
  A thrill, methinks, like His who saw
    "All people dwelling upon earth
    Praising our God with solemn mirth
              And one consent."

  High Sovereign, in your Royal state,
    Captains, and chiefs, and councillors,
    Before the lofty palace doors
              Are open set,—
  Hush ere you pass the shining gate:
    Hush! ere the heaving curtain draws,
    And let the Royal pageant pause
              A moment yet.

  People and prince a silence keep!
    Bow coronet and kingly crown.
    Helmet and plume, bow lowly down,
              The while the priest,
  Before the splendid portal step,
    (While still the wondrous banquet stays,)
    From Heaven supreme a blessing prays
              Upon the feast.

  Then onwards let the triumph march;
    Then let the loud artillery roll,
    And trumpets ring, and joy-bells toll,
              And pass the gate.
  Pass underneath the shining arch,
    'Neath which the leafy elms are green;
    Ascend unto your throne, O Queen!
              And take your state.

  Behold her in her Royal place;
    A gentle lady; and the hand
    That sways the sceptre of this land,
              How frail and weak!
  Soft is the voice, and fair the face:
    She breathes amen to prayer and hymn;
    No wonder that her eyes are dim,
              And pale her cheek.

  This moment round her empire's shores
    The winds of Austral winter sweep,
    And thousands lie in midnight sleep
              At rest to-day.
  Oh! awful is that crown of yours,
    Queen of innumerable realms
    Sitting beneath the budding elms
              Of English May!

  A wondrous scepter 'tis to bear:
    Strange mystery of God which set
    Upon her brow yon coronet,—
              The foremost crown
  Of all the world, on one so fair!
    That chose her to it from her birth,
    And bade the sons of all the earth
              To her bow down.

  The representatives of man
    Here from the far Antipodes,
    And from the subject Indian seas,
              In Congress meet;
  From Afric and from Hindustan,
    From Western continent and isle,
    The envoys of her empire pile
              Gifts at her feet;

  Our brethren cross the Atlantic tides,
    Loading the gallant decks which once
    Roared a defiance to our guns,
              With peaceful store;
  Symbol of peace, their vessel rides!*
    O'er English waves float Star and Stripe,
    And firm their friendly anchors gripe
              The father shore!

  From Rhine and Danube, Rhone and Seine,
    As rivers from their sources gush,
    The swelling floods of nations rush,
              And seaward pour:
  From coast to coast in friendly chain,
  With countless ships we bridge the straits,
  And angry ocean separates
              Europe no more.

  From Mississippi and from Nile—
    From Baltic, Ganges, Bosphorous,
    In England's ark assembled thus
              Are friend and guest.
  Look down the mighty sunlit aisle,
    And see the sumptuous banquet set,
    The brotherhood of nations met.
              Around the feast!

  Along the dazzling colonnade,
    Far as the straining eye can gaze,
    Gleam cross and fountain, bell and vase,
              In vistas bright;
  And statues fair of nymph and maid,
    And steeds and pards and Amazons,
    Writhing and grappling in the bronze,
              In endless fight.

  To deck the glorious roof and dome,
    To make the Queen a canopy,
    The peaceful hosts of industry
              Their standards bear.
  Yon are the works of Brahmin loom;
    On such a web of Persian thread
    The desert Arab bows his head
              And cries his prayer.

  Look yonder where the engines toil:
    These England's arms of conquest are,
    The trophies of her bloodless war:
              Brave weapons these.
  Victorians over wave and soil,
    With these she sails, she weaves, she tills,
    Pierces the everlasting hills
              And spans the seas.

  The engine roars upon its race,
    The shuttle whirs the woof,
    The people hum from floor to roof,
              With Babel tongue.
  The fountain in the basin plays,
    The chanting organ echoes clear,
    An awful chorus 'tis to hear,
              A wondrous song!

  Swell, organ, swell your trumpet blast,
    March, Queen and Royal pageant, march
    By splendid aisle and springing arch
              Of this fair Hall:
  And see! above the fabric vast,
    God's boundless Heaven is bending blue,
    God's peaceful sunlight's beaming through,
              And shines o'er all.

  May, 1851.

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray, born July 18, 1811, was an English writer best known for his novels, particularly The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (The Mershon Company Publishers, 1852) and Vanity Fair (Bradbury and Evans, 1848). While in school, Thackeray began writing poems, which he published in a number of magazines, chiefly Fraser and Punch. He died on December 24, 1863.

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