1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

J. S. B. Junr., "Lines, suggested by reading an Extract from Miss Barrett's Essay on Mind, reviewed in the Imperial Magazine" Imperial Magazine 10 (October 1828) 939-40.



And what? my country perish — England fall!
And bow supine at ruin's tyrant call!
Shall England's turrets moulder and decay,
And all her grandeur surely sink away?
Shall conquering hordes their impious hand uplift,
And blast fair Albion, heaven's propitious gift?
Shall that bright star, whose lustre tills the skies,
Be dash'd from heaven, and doom'd no more to rise?
Fall! yes, she must! but not while time shall last,
With time's own doom blest England's die be cast.
She has a name which sister-lands revere,
Heaven gives a power which crouching nations fear;
Nor empty is that name, nor vain that power,
Nor given to flourish but a short-lived hour.

Great Babel was — but nation-like she fell,
And Egypt too the waste of time can tell:
Fair Elam rose, but soon her reign was o'er,
And widow'd Judah blooms elate no more:
Illustrious Greece, sage wisdom's favr'ite boast,
Amid the wreck of empires, too, is lost:
Ev'n brave Italia paid the mighty debt,
And saw, at last, her sun of glory set.
Then say, shall England 'scape the general doom,
Nor sink, like others, in the nations tomb?
Shall she alone uprear her fadeless bead,
And lasting comforts o'er her children spread?
Shall she alone meridian honours wear,
Nor sable night, with all her horrors, share?
Yea, even this, our ardent hopes behold,
Her future weal mid ages yet untold:
Nor fancy only paints the lovely view,
Nor heavenly poesy proclaims it true:
We fix our hopes secure upon a rock
That braves the storm, and scorns the tempest's shock.
'Tis not in England's power we make our boast,
Nor England's genius that delights us most;
Though sweet her minstrelsy, we heed it not;
Though vast her science, let it be forgot;
Her arts, her arms, her liberty, we prize,
But 'tis not these can fix her in the skies:
A higher title England calls her own,
A nobler name upon her front is shewn:
Let sceptics doubt, and meaner foes revile,
Our favoured country is a Christian isle!
Her cities raise aspiring domes on high,
Whence praise and prayer are wafted to the sky;
In her the poor, the wretched, and the blind,
An open door, a welcome refuge find;
A land of charity, a land of truth,
Where heavenly wisdom guides her happy youth.
But vain these praises — let us look above,
Our trust alone be in Almighty love.
While England sullies not her honour'd name,
Nor deeds of darkness blast her glorious fame;
While in an arm superior to her own,
She trusts for safety, and in that alone
Her sons with truth and confidence may smile
And peace and happiness still bless our isle.

Why fell the nations? why their glory lost?
In their own strength they vainly made their boast;
Nor looked to Him who gave them strength and power,
Nor deem'd Omnipotence their strongest tower.
No Christian temples on their shores were seen,
But bloody sacrifice and rites obscene;
Where superstition held unbounded sway,
And claim'd the homage Pagans well might pay.
Then rise, my country, wash away each stain,
Nor let a crime among thy song remain;
Let Christian virtues in thy empire shine,
And Christian blessing truly shall be thine.
Nay, more, thy love to other lands be shown, fly
Britain's song the Gospel trump be blown.
To fellow-men some heavenly good impart,
And raise the bead, and cheer the darkened heart.

Then sing, fair poetess, in happier strains,
Nor desolate thy country's blooming plains;
Let patriot themes thy glowing breast inspire,
And all the woman kindle on thy lyre.
Sad ruin ill befits the female song,
To darker minds such direful strains belong.
Come, see Britannia's glory still appears,
'Midst a long vista of approaching years:
And, as the banyan, pride of India's coast,
Bears, with increasing age, a growing host,
So Britain's mighty empire shall extend,
And from the parent stock new trees descend
Around her standard nations gladly press,
And all the world her matchless name confess.