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A Dream of England

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Albion — ring of endless light,
Emerald of the Northern night,

Wreathed in alder, ash and oak,
Fastness of an ancient folk,

Set apart by temperament,
Sliver of a Continent,

Here, where Druid death was sung
Awkward, in its native tongue,

Roman slave and Viking meat,
Dirt beneath the Norman feet,

Bathed and cursed in Celtic silt,
Wracked by Anglo-Saxon guilt;

We, whose mongrel serfs gave birth
To dialects that bind the earth,

False modesty a cloak for wit
That never meant one word of it,

Stubborn, shabby, mirth-filled, vain,
Philip’s grief and Adolph’s bane,

White fangs on a silver sea:
‘And is there honey still for tea?’

You who love to mock and jeer —
Lend to me an English ear...


All our Empire now is dust,
Empires fade, as Empires must,

Glory’s fruit grown sour and stale,
Maps that once shone pink, grown pale;

Memsahib queens rule only graves,
Dreadnoughts rust beneath the waves,

Vicereines and topeed fools
Deck no elephants in jewels,

Punkah-wallahs toe no fans,
Lancers raid no caravans

Or ride to hounds in Khatmandu —
Their Gunga Dins have grown too few.

Younger lands, from West and East,
Now bid us to their victory feast,

Tell us truths, but tell them slant,
As nephews patronise an aunt,

Loot our gold, salute our pyre,
Then leave us, nodding by the fire,

Gnawing bones from fatted calves,
And glossing up our epitaphs:

This we know and understand —
We were once a younger land.


Yet the wheel in time shall turn,
Old New York, like Rome, shall burn;

Sullen crowds in New Beijings
Shall usher in Korean Kings;

Upon the plains and fields of France,
Africa shall rise to dance;

Edo shall renounce the West,
Shogun Popes shall be confessed,

Democracy shall pass away,
Brave new gods shall hold their sway;

Robot clones shall stretch their claws
To scourge the world in water wars:

Nothing new is there in this —
Who whistles Fate up, bears its kiss.


Thus men yearn by fire and sword
To swap their chains for kinder cord,

Breathing in the dust of Troy,
Despising those whom gods destroy,

As from some dormant melting pot,
Upon an isle that time forgot

Shall flame a ring of endless light,
An Emerald in the Northern night,

To bless an Arthur, rising free —
White fanged upon a silver sea...

All this I dreamt and thought it well,
This hero’s name should be — Patel!