Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Ave Imperatrix (Author: Oscar Wilde)


  1. 1] Set in this stormy Northern sea,
    2] Queen of these restless fields of tide,
    3] England! what shall men say of thee,
    4] Before whose feet the worlds divide?
  2. 5] The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
    6] Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
    7] And through its heart of crystal pass,
    8] Like shadows through a twilight land,
  3. 9] The spears of crimson-suited war,
    10] The long white-crested waves of fight,
    11] And all the deadly fires which are
    12] The torches of the lords of Night.
  4. 13] The yellow leopards, strained and lean,
    14] The treacherous Russian knows so well,
    15] With gaping blackened jaws are seen
    16] Leap through the hail of screaming shell.
  5. 17] The strong sea-lion of England's wars
    18] Hath left his sapphire cave of sea,
    19] To battle with the storm that mars
    20] The star of England's chivalry.
  6. 21] The brazen-throated clarion blows
    22] Across the Pathan's reedy fen,
    23] And the high steeps of Indian snows
    24] Shake to the tread of armèd men.
  7. 25] And many an Afghan chief, who lies
    26] Beneath his cool pomegranate-trees,
    27] Clutches his sword in fierce surmise
    28] When on the mountain-side he sees
  8. 29] The fleet-foot Marri scout, who comes
    30] To tell how he hath heard afar
    31] The measured roll of English drums
    32] Beat at the gates of Kandahar.
  9. 33] For southern wind and east wind meet
    34] Where, girt and crowned by sword and fire,
    35] England with bare and bloody feet
    36] Climbs the steep road of wide empire.

  10. p.695

  11. 37] O lonely Himalayan height,
    38] Grey pillar of the Indian sky,
    39] Where saw'st thou last in clanging fight
    40] Our wingèd dogs of Victory?
  12. 41] The almond groves of Samarcand,
    42] Bokhara, where red lilies blow,
    43] And Oxus, by whose yellow sand
    44] The grave white-turbaned merchants go:
  13. 45] And on from thence to Ispahan,
    46] The gilded garden of the sun,
    47] Whence the long dusty caravan
    48] Brings cedar and vermilion;
  14. 49] And that dread city of Cabool
    50] Set at the mountain's scarpèd feet,
    51] Whose marble tanks are ever full
    52] With water for the noonday heat:
  15. 53] Where through the narrow straight Bazaar
    54] A little maid Circassian
    55] Is led, a present from the Czar
    56] Unto some old and bearded khan,—
  16. 57] Here have our wild war-eagles flown,
    58] And flapped wide wings in fiery fight;
    59] But the sad dove, that sits alone
    60] In England—she hath no delight.
  17. 61] In vain the laughing girl will lean
    62] To greet her love with love-lit eyes:
    63] Down in some treacherous black ravine,
    64] Clutching his flag, the dead boy lies.
  18. 65] And many a moon and sun will see
    66] The lingering wistful children wait
    67] To climb upon their father's knee;
    68] And in each house made desolate
  19. 69] Pale women who have lost their lord
    70] Will kiss the relics of the slain—
    71] Some tarnished epaulette—some sword—
    72] Poor toys to soothe such anguished pain.
  20. 73] For not in quiet English fields
    74] Are these, our brothers, lain to rest,


    75] Where we might deck their broken shields
    76] With all the flowers the dead love best.
  21. 77] For some are by the Delhi walls,
    78] And many in the Afghan land,
    79] And many where the Ganges falls
    80] Through seven mouths of shifting sand.
  22. 81] And some in Russian waters lie,
    82] And others in the seas which are
    83] The portals to the East, or by
    84] The wind-swept heights of Trafalgar.
  23. 85] O wandering graves! O restless sleep!
    86] O silence of the sunless day!
    87] O still ravine! O stormy deep!
    88] Give up your prey! Give up your prey!
  24. 89] And thou whose wounds are never healed,
    90] Whose weary race is never won,
    91] O Cromwell's England! must thou yield
    92] For every inch of ground a son?
  25. 93] Go! crown with thorns thy gold-crowned head,
    94] Change thy glad song to song of pain;
    95] Wind and wild wave have got thy dead,
    96] And will not yield them back again.
  26. 97] Wave and wild wind and foreign shore
    98] Possess the flower of English land—
    99] Lips that thy lips shall kiss no more,
    100] Hands that shall never clasp thy hand.
  27. 101] What profit now that we have bound
    102] The whole round world with nets of gold,
    103] If hidden in our heart is found
    104] The care that groweth never old?
  28. 105] What profit that our galleys ride,
    106] Pine-forest-like, on every main?
    107] Ruin and wreck are at our side,
    108] Grim warders of the House of Pain.
  29. 109] Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet?
    110] Where is our English chivalry?
    111] Wild grasses are their burial-sheet,
    112] And sobbing waves their threnody.

  30. p.697

  31. 113] O loved ones lying far away,
    114] What word of love can dead lips send!
    115] O wasted dust! O senseless clay!
    116] Is this the end! is this the end!
  32. 117] Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead
    118] To vex their solemn slumber so;
    119] Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head,
    120] Up the steep road must England go
  33. 121] Yet when this fiery web is spun,
    122] Her watchmen shall descry from far
    123] The young Republic like a sun
    124] Rise from these crimson seas of war.