1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Wooden Walls of England.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (25 June 1773).

Henry Green


Four Prior stanzas, the lines shortened by a foot in a lyric variation of this popular form. Green's poem became very popular after it was set by the composer Thomas Arne, with a different conclusion: "Ere yet Columbus dar'd t' explore | New regions rising from the main; | From sea to sea, from shore to shore, | Bear then, ye winds, the solemn strain! | This sacred truth, an awe-struck world appals, | Britain's best bulwarks are her Wooden Walls" Universal Magazine 70 (June 1782) 322. Perhaps the stanza was selected in deference to Ramillies, the name of Green's ship and the subject of Matthew Prior's poem.

Headnote: "The following was presented to the King at his Levee on Monday, by the Author. The Wooden Walls of England, an Ode, by Henry Green, Purser of his Majesty's Ship Ramillies."



When Britain on her sea-girt shore,
Her white-rob'd Druids erst address'd;
What Aid (she cry'd) shall I implore,
What best defense, by numbers press'd?
"Tho' hostile nations round thee rise,
(The mystic Oracles reply'd)
And view thine isle with envious eyes,
Their threats defy, their rage deride,
Nor fear Invasions from your adverse Gauls:
Britain's best bulwarks are her WOODEN WALLS.

"Thine Oaks descending to the main,
With floating forts shall stem the tides,
Asserting Britain's wat'ry reign
Where'er her thundering Navy rides:
Nor less to peaceful arts inclin'd,
Where Commerce opens all her stores,
In social bands will league mankind,
And join the sea-divided shores:
Spread then thy sails where Naval Glory calls:
Britain's best bulwarks are her WOODEN WALLS.

Hail, happy isle! what tho' the vales
No vine-impurpled tribute yield,
Nor fann'd with odour-breathing gales,
Nor crops spontaneous glad the field:
Yet Liberty rewards the toil
Of Industry, to labour prone,
Who jocund ploughs the grateful soil,
And reaps the harvest she has sown.
While other realms tyrannic sway inthralls,
Britain's best bulwarks are her WOODEN WALLS."

Thus spake the bearded Seers of yore,
In visions wrapt of Britain's fame
Ere yet Iberia felt her pow'r,
Or Gallia trembled at her name.
O! that my muse inspir'd could sing
The praises to her Heroes due,
Would heaven-born genius imp her wing,
Pleas'd, she'd the glorious theme pursue!
Then should my verse record great GEORGE'S reign,
Who stretch'd from Pole to Pole his wide domain.

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