The Land – Rudyard Kipling

When Julius Fabricius Sub-Prefect of the Weald
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field
He called to him Hobdenius—a Briton of the Clay
Saying: “What about that River-piece for layin’ in to hay?”

And the aged Hobden answered: “I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin’ bad.
An’ the more that you neeglect her the less you’ll get her clean.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to but if I was you I’d dreen.”

So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style —
Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile
And in drouthy middle August when the bones of meadows show
We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago.

Then Julius Fabricius died as even Prefects do
And after certain centuries Imperial Rome died too.
Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main
And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane.

Well could Ogier work his war-boat—well could Ogier wield his brand—
Much he knew of foaming waters—not so much of farming land.
So he called to him a Hobden of the old unaltered blood
Saying: “What about that River-piece; she doesn’t look no good ?”

And that aged Hobden answered “‘Tain’t for me to interfere.
But I’ve known that bit o’ meadow now for five and fifty year.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to but I’ve proved it time on ‘ time
If you want to change her nature you have got to give her lime!”

Ogier sent his wains to Lewes twenty hours’ solemn walk
And drew back great abundance of the cool grey healing chalk.
And old Hobden spread it broadcast never heeding what was in’t—
Which is why in cleaning ditches now and then we find a flint.

Ogier died. His sons grew English—Anglo-Saxon was their name—
Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came;
For Duke William conquered England and divided with his men
And our Lower River-field he gave to William of Warenne.

But the Brook (you know her habit) rose one rainy autumn night
And tore down sodden flitches of the bank to left and right.
So said William to his Bailiff as they rode their dripping rounds:
“Hob what about that River-bit—the Brook’s got up no bounds ?”

And that aged Hobden answered: “‘Tain’t my business to advise
But ye might ha’ known ‘twould happen from the way the valley lies.
Where ye can’t hold back the water you must try and save the sile.
Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to but if I was you I’d spile!”

They spiled along the water-course with trunks of willow-trees
And planks of elms behind ’em and immortal oaken knees.
And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel-beds away
You can see their faithful fragments iron-hard in iron clay.

Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto I who own the River-field
Am fortified with title-deeds attested signed and sealed
Guaranteeing me my assigns my executors and heirs
All sorts of powers and profits which—are neither mine nor theirs

I have rights of chase and warren as my dignity requires.
I can fish—but Hobden tickles—I can shoot—but Hobden wires.
I repair but he reopens certain gaps which men allege
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o’er the track-betraying dew ?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew ?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran
And summons him to judgment ? I would sooner summons Pan.

His dead are in the churchyard—thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made;
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded rooted fruited in some land the Law calls mine.

Not for any beast that burrows not for any bird that flies
Would I lose his large sound counsel miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff woodman wheelwright field-surveyor engineer
And if flagrantly a poacher—’tain’t for me to interfere.

“Hob what about that River-bit ?” I turn to him again
With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
“Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to but”—and here he takes command.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus’ Hobden owns the land.

“The Land”

—written by Rudyard Kipling, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet – Lord Alfred Tennyson

I

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay
And a pinnace like a flutter’d bird came flying from far away;
“Spanish ships of war at sea! we have sighted fifty-three!”
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: “’Fore God I am no coward;
But I cannot meet them here for my ships are out of gear
And the half my men are sick. I must fly but follow quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty-three?”

II

Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: “I know you are no coward;
You fly them for a moment to fight with them again.
But I’ve ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.
I should count myself the coward if I left them my Lord Howard
To these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.”

III

So Lord Howard past away with five ships of war that day
Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer heaven;
But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from the land
Very carefully and slow
Men of Bideford in Devon
And we laid them on the ballast down below:
For we brought them all aboard
And they blest him in their pain that they were not left to Spain
To the thumb-screw and the stake for the glory of the Lord.

IV

He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and to fight
And he sailed away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight
With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.
“Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard tell us now
For to fight is but to die!
There’ll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.”
And Sir Richard said again: “We be all good Englishmen.
Let us bang these dogs of Seville the children of the devil
For I never turn’d my back upon Don or devil yet.”

V

Sir Richard spoke and he laugh’d and we roar’d a hurrah and so
The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of the foe
With her hundred fighters on deck and her ninety sick below;
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen
And the little Revenge ran on thro’ the long sea-lane between.

VI

Thousands of their soldiers look’d down from their decks and laugh’d
Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad little craft
Running on and on till delay’d
By their mountain-like San Philip that of fifteen hundred tons
And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning tiers of guns
Took the breath from our sails and we stay’d.

VII

And while now the great San Philip hung above us like a cloud
Whence the thunderbolt will fall
Long and loud
Four galleons drew away
From the Spanish fleet that day.
And two upon the larboard and two upon the starboard lay
And the battle-thunder broke from them all.

VIII

But anon the great San Philip she bethought herself and went
Having that within her womb that had left her ill content;
And the rest they came aboard us and they fought us hand to hand
For a dozen times they came with their pikes and musqueteers
And a dozen times we shook ’em off as a dog that shakes his ears
When he leaps from the water to the land.

IX

And the sun went down and the stars came out far over the summer sea
But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three.
Ship after ship the whole night long their high-built galleons came
Ship after ship the whole night long with her battle-thunder and flame;
Ship after ship the whole night long drew back with her dead and her shame.
For some were sunk and many were shatter’d and so could fight us no more—
God of battles was ever a battle like this in the world before?

X

For he said “Fight on! fight on!”
Tho’ his vessel was all but a wreck;
And it chanced that when half of the short summer night was gone
With a grisly wound to be drest he had left the deck
But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly dead
And himself he was wounded again in the side and the head
And he said “Fight on! fight on!”

XI

And the night went down and the sun smiled out far over the summer sea
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay round us all in a ring;
But they dared not touch us again for they fear’d that we still could sting
So they watch’d what the end would be.
And we had not fought them in vain
But in perilous plight were we
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain
And half of the rest of us maim’d for life
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate strife;
And the sick men down in the hold were most of them stark and cold
And the pikes were all broken or bent and the powder was all of it spent;
And the masts and the rigging were lying over the side;
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride:
“We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory my men!
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore
We die—does it matter when?
Sink me the ship Master Gunner—sink her split her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God not into the hands of Spain!”

XII

And the gunner said “Ay ay” but the seamen made reply:
“We have children we have wives
And the Lord hath spared our lives.
We will make the Spaniard promise if we yield to let us go;
We shall live to fight again and to strike another blow.”
And the lion there lay dying and they yielded to the foe.

XIII

And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore him then
Where they laid him by the mast old Sir Richard caught at last
And they praised him to his face with their courtly foreign grace;
But he rose upon their decks and he cried: 100
“I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant man and true;
I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do.
With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Grenville die!”
And he fell upon their decks and he died.

XIV

And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant and true
And had holden the power and glory of Spain so cheap
That he dared her with one little ship and his English few;
Was he devil or man? He was devil for aught they knew
But they sank his body with honor down into the deep.
And they mann’d the Revenge with a swarthier alien crew
And away she sail’d with her loss and long’d for her own;
When a wind from the lands they had ruin’d awoke from sleep
And the water began to heave and the weather to moan
And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew
And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earthquake grew
Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their masts and their flags
And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shatter’d navy of Spain
And the little Revenge herself went down by the island crags
To be lost evermore in the main.

“The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet”

—written by Lord Alfred Tennyson, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

Hymn to Love – Lascelles Abercrombie

 

We are thine, O Love, being in thee and made of thee,
As thou, Love, were the deep thought
And we the speech of the thought; yea, spoken are we,
Thy fires of thought out-spoken:

But burn’d not through us thy imagining
Like fierce mood in a song caught,
We were as clamour’d words a fool may fling,
Loose words, of meaning broken.

For what more like the brainless speech of a fool,–
The lives travelling dark fears,
And as a boy throws pebbles in a pool
Thrown down abysmal places?

Hazardous are the stars, yet is our birth
And our journeying time theirs;
As words of air, life makes of starry earth
Sweet soul-delighted faces;

As voices are we in the worldly wind;
The great wind of the world’s fate
Is turned, as air to a shapen sound, to mind
And marvellous desires.

But not in the world as voices storm-shatter’d,
Not borne down by the wind’s weight;
The rushing time rings with our splendid word
Like darkness filled with fires.

For Love doth use us for a sound of song,
And Love’s meaning our life wields,
Making our souls like syllables to throng
His tunes of exultation.

Down the blind speed of a fatal world we fly,
As rain blown along earth’s fields;
Yet are we god-desiring liturgy,
Sung joys of adoration;

Yea, made of chance and all a labouring strife,
We go charged with a strong flame;
For as a language Love hath seized on life
His burning heart to story.

Yea, Love, we are thine, the liturgy of thee.
Thy thought’s golden and glad name,
The mortal conscience of immortal glee,
Love’s zeal in Love’s own glory.

“Hymn to Love”

—written by Lascelles Abercrombie, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

The Farmer’s Bride – Charlotte Mew

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles):

Three summers since I chose a maid,
Too young maybe—but more’s to do
At harvest-time than bide and woo.
When us was wed she turned Continue reading The Farmer’s Bride – Charlotte Mew

Exposure – Wilfred Owen

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles):

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us…
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent…
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient…
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous, Continue reading Exposure – Wilfred Owen

If – Rudyard Kipling

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles):

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too; Continue reading If – Rudyard Kipling