The Song of the Cities

Royal and Dower-royal, I the Queen
     Fronting thy richest sea with richer hands—
 A thousand mills roar through me where I glean
     All races from all lands. 

 Me the Sea-captain loved, the River built,
     Wealth sought and Kings adventured life to hold.
 Hail, England! I am Asia—Power on silt,
    Death in my hands, but Gold! 

Clive kissed me on the mouth and eyes and brow,
    Wonderful kisses, so that I became
 Crowned above Queens—a withered beldame now,
    Brooding on ancient fame. 

 Hail, Mother! Do they call me rich in trade?
    Little care I, but hear the shorn priest drone,
 And watch my silk-clad lovers, man by maid,
    Laugh ’neath my Shwe Dagon. 

 Hail, Mother! East and West must seek my aid
    Ere the spent gear may dare the ports afar.
 The second doorway of the wide world’s trade
    Is mine to loose or bar. 

 Hail, Mother! Hold me fast; my Praya sleeps
    Under innumerable keels to-day.
 Yet guard (and landward), or to-morrow sweeps
    Thy war-ships down the bay! 

Into the mist my guardian prows put forth,
    Behind the mist my virgin ramparts lie,
 The Warden of the Honour of the North,
    Sleepless and veiled am I! 
Peace is our portion. Yet a whisper rose,
    Foolish and causeless, half in jest, half hate.
 Now wake we and remember mighty blows,
     And, fearing no man, wait! 
From East to West the circling word has passed,
    Till West is East beside our land-locked blue;
 From East to West the tested chain holds fast,
    The well-forged link rings true! 
                    CAPE TOWN 

 Hail! Snatched and bartered oft from hand to hand,
    I dream my dream, by rock and heath and pine,
 Of Empire to the northward. Ay, one land
    From Lion’s Head to Line! 

 Greeting! Nor fear nor favour won us place,
    Got between greed of gold and dread of drouth,
 Loud-voiced and reckless as the wild tide-race
    That whips our harbour-mouth! 
Greeting! My birth-stain have I turned to good;
    Forcing strong wills perverse to steadfastness:
 The first flush of the tropics in my blood,
    And at my feet Success! 
The northern stirp beneath the southern skies—
    I build a Nation for an Empire’s need,
 Suffer a little, and my land shall rise,
    Queen over lands indeed! 

 Man’s love first found me; man’s hate made me Hell;
    For my babes’ sake I cleansed those infamies.
 Earnest for leave to live and labour well,
    God flung me peace and ease. 
Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart—
    On us, on us the unswerving season smiles,
 Who wonder ’mid our fern why men depart
    To seek the Happy Isles!

Choose another poem