(Poem #1121) H.M.S. Foudroyant
[Being an humble address to Her Majesty's Naval advisers, who sold Nelson's old flagship to the Germans for a thousand pounds.] Who says the Nation's purse is lean, Who fears for claim or bond or debt, When all the glories that have been Are scheduled as a cash asset? If times are bleak and trade is slack, If coal and cotton fail at last, We've something left to barter yet -- Our glorious past. There's many a crypt in which lies hid The dust of statesman or of king; There's Shakespeare's home to raise a bid, And Milton's house its price would bring. What for the sword that Cromwell drew? What for Prince Edward's coat of mail? What for our Saxon Alfred's tomb? They're all for sale! And stone and marble may be sold Which serve no present daily need; There's Edward's Windsor, labelled old, And Wolsey's palace, guaranteed. St. Clement Danes and fifty fanes, The Tower and the Temple grounds; How much for these? Just price them, please, In British pounds. You hucksters, have you still to learn, The things which money will not buy? Can you not read that, cold and stern As we may be, there still does lie Deep in our hearts a hungry love For what concerns our island story? We sell our work -- perchance our lives, But not our glory. Go barter to the knacker's yard The steed that has outlived its time! Send hungry to the pauper ward The man who served you in his prime! But when you touch the Nation's store, Be broad your mind and tight your grip. Take heed! And bring us back once more Our Nelson's ship. And if no mooring can be found In all our harbours near or far, Then tow the old three-decker round To where the deep-sea soundings are; There, with her pennon flying clear, And with her ensign lashed peak high, Sink her a thousand fathoms sheer. There let her lie!
Righteous indignation and patriotic fervour are both emotions that have produced some fine poems, and today's rant - pardon me, today's *humble address* - combines them to good effect. Doyle is, of course, helped by the highly emotional nature of the subject - no one likes to feel that their nation's heritage is for sale to the highest bidder, and so there is a natural sympathy on the reader's part for the poem's point of view. But even discounting that, Doyle has done a fine job - the poem strikes a good balance between thick sarcasm and honest ire, not going overboard in either direction, or losing its audience by means of overly uncontrolled ranting. It's not, I admit, as good as Kipling (with whom a comparison is inevitable), but then, what is? martin Links: The HMS Foudroyant: http://home.europa.com/~bessel/Naval/Navimgs.html Interesting tidbit: http://www.quinion.com/words/weirdwords/ww-fou2.htm