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H.M.S. Foudroyant -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(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!
-- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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?



  The HMS Foudroyant:
  Interesting tidbit:

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