Posts Tagged Queen Victoria

A Poem for Victoria Day

By a poet hostile to her reign. “Good, you were good, we say,” he writes. “You had no wit to be evil.” Probably worth remembering on the commemoration of her birthday Victoria herself was not immune from controversy, and that debate on the value of monarchy is very old indeed. (No nursy or any other blog posts today — doing things traditionally associated with the holiday — planting the garden, a barbeque and maybe fireworks later.)

TO QUEEN VICTORIA IN ENGLAND.
An address on her jubilee year.

Madam, you have done well!  Let others with praise unholy,
Speech addressed to a woman who never breathed upon earth,
Daub you over with lies or deafen your ears with folly,
I will praise you alone for your actual imminent worth.
Madam, you have done well!  Fifty years unforgotten
Pass since we saw you first, a maiden simple and pure.
Now when every robber landlord, capitalist rotten,
Hated oppressors, praise you—Madam, we are quite sure!

Never once as a foe, open foe, to the popular power,
As nobler kings and queens, have you faced us, fearless and bold:
No, but in backstairs fashion, in the stealthy twilight hour,
You have struggled and struck and stabbed, you have bartered and bought and sold!
Melbourne, the listless liar, the gentleman blood-beslavered,
Disraeli, the faithless priest of a cynical faith out-worn,
These were dear to your heart, these were the men you favoured.
Those whom the People loved were fooled and flouted and torn!

Never in one true cause, for your people’s sake and the light’s sake,
Did you strike one honest blow, did you speak one noble word:
No, but you took your place, for the sake of wrong and the night’s sake,
Ever with blear-eyed wealth, with the greasy respectable herd.
Not as some robber king, with a resolute minister slave to you,
Did you swagger with force against us to satisfy your greed:
No, but you hoarded and hid what your loyal people gave to you,
Golden sweat of their toil, to keep you a queen indeed!

Pure at least was your bed? pure was your Court?—We know not.
Were the white sepulchres pure?  Gather men thorns of grapes?
Your sons and your blameless spouse’s, certes, as Galahads show not.
Round you gather a crowd of bloated hypocrite shapes!
Never, sure, did one woman produce in such sixes and dozens
Such intellectual canaille as this that springs from you;
Sons, daughters, grandchildren, with uncles, aunts, and cousins,
Not a man or a woman among them—a wretched crew!

Madam, you have done well!  You have fed all these to repletion—
You have put a gilded calf beside a gilded cow,
And bidden men and women behold the forms of human completion—
Albert the Good, Victoria the Virtuous, for ever—and now!
But what to you were our bravest and best, man of science and poet,
Struggling for Light and Truth, or the Women who would be free?
Carlyle, Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Arnold?  We know it—
Tennyson slavers your hand; Argyll fawns at your knee!

Good, you were good, we say.  You had no wit to be evil.
Your purity shines serene over Floras mangled and dead.
You wasted not our substance in splendour, in riot or revel—
You quietly sat in the shade and grew fat on our wealth instead.
Madam, you have done well!  To you, we say, has been given
A wit past the wit of women, a supercomputable worth.
Of you we can say, if not “of such are the Kingdom of Heaven,”
Of such (alas for us!), of such are the Kingdom of Earth!

— Francis Adams

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Victoria Day 2010 [Updated]

Victoria Day is the memory of ritual long past, an anachronism frozen for all time, from when Canadians gave notice of the Queen’s birthday in a holiday, and because it was the Queen, we had (and still have) fireworks.

The Young Victoria

Also: the traditional time to plant the garden, which I intend to honour, so no substantive nursing post today. Instead, a poem redolent of homage and the Imperial Age which Victoria represented and during which Canada, for better or worse, was a jewel of the Empire. Not a bad poem, as such poems, or any poem about royalty, go. It is fun to read, yet it verges on sentimental doggerel, I’m afraid.

The Bells and Queen Victoria

“Gay go up and gay go down
To ring the Bells of London Town.”
When London Town’s asleep in bed
You’ll hear the Bells ring overhead.
In excelsis gloria!
Ringing for Victoria,
Ringing for their mighty mistress–ten years dead!

THE BELLS:
Here is more gain than Gloriana guessed–
Than Gloriana guessed or Indies bring–
Than golden Indies bring. A Queen confessed–
A Queen confessed that crowned her people King.
Her people King, and crowned all Kings above,
Above all Kings have crowned their Queen their love–
Have crowned their love their Queen, their Queen their love!

Denying her, we do ourselves deny,
Disowning her are we ourselves disowned.
Mirror was she of our fidelity,
And handmaid of our destiny enthroned;
The very marrow of Youth’s dream, and still
Yoke-mate of wisest Age that worked her will!

Our fathers had declared to us her praise–
Her praise the years had proven past all speech.
And past all speech our loyal hearts always,
Always our hearts lay open, each to each–
Therefore men gave the treasure of their blood
To this one woman–for she understood!

Four o’ the clock! Now all the world is still.
Oh, London Bells, to all the world declare
The Secret of the Empire–read who will!
The Glory of the People–touch who dare!

THE BELLS:
Power that has reached itself all kingly powers,
St. Margaret’s: By love o’erpowered–
St. Martin’s: By love o’erpowered–
St. Clement Danes: By love o’erpowered,
The greater power confers!

THE BELLS:
For we were hers, as she, as she was ours,
Bow Bells: And she was ours–
St. Paul’s: And she was ours–
Westminister: And she was ours,
As we, even we, were hers!

THE BELLS
As we were hers!

— Author Unknown

[UPDATE @ 0818] If you live in Ontario, since when have you ever seen a May 24th weather forecast like this?

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