Read CHAPTER 4. EPICEDIA of Hawthorn and Lavender with Other Verses , free online book, by William Ernest Henley, on

TWO DAYS (February 15 September 28, 1894)

To V. G.

That day we brought our Beautiful One to lie
In the green peace within your gates, he came
To give us greeting, boyish and kind and shy,
And, stricken as we were, we blessed his name:
Yet, like the Creature of Light that had been ours,
Soon of the sweet Earth disinherited,
He too must join, even with the Year’s old flowers,
The unanswering generations of the Dead.
So stand we friends for you, who stood our friend
Through him that day; for now through him you know
That though where love was, love is till the end,
Love, turned of death to longing, like a foe,
Strikes: when the ruined heart goes forth to crave
Mercy of the high, austere, unpitying Grave.


(Ob. October 30, 1897)

He looked half-parson and half-skipper: a quaint,
Beautiful blend, with blue eyes good to see,
And old-world whiskers. You found him cynic, saint,
Salt, humourist, Christian, poet; with a free,
Far-glancing, luminous utterance; and a heart
Large as ST. FRANCIS’S: withal a brain
Stored with experience, letters, fancy, art,
And scored with runes of human joy and pain.
Till six-and-sixty years he used his gift,
His gift unparalleled, of laughter and tears,
And left the world a high-piled, golden drift
Of verse: to grow more golden with the years,
Till the Great Silence fallen upon his ways
Break into song, and he that had Love have Praise.


London, December 10, 1869. Ladysmith, January 15, 1900.

We cheered you forth brilliant and kind and brave.
Under your country’s triumphing flag you fell.
It floats, true Heart, over no dearer grave
Brave and brilliant and kind, hail and farewell!


The day’s high work is over and done,
And these no more will need the sun:
Blow, you bugles of ENGLAND, blow!
These are gone whither all must go,
Mightily gone from the field they won.
So in the workaday wear of battle,
Touched to glory with GOD’S own red,
Bear we our chosen to their bed.
Settle them lovingly where they fell,
In that good lap they loved so well;
And, their deliveries to the dear LORD said,
And the last desperate volleys ranged and sped,
Blow, you bugles of ENGLAND, blow
Over the camps of her beaten foe
Blow glory and pity to the victor Mother,
Sad, O, sad in her sacrificial dead!

Labour, and love, and strife, and mirth,
They gave their part in this goodly Earth
Blow, you bugles of ENGLAND, blow!
That her Name as a sun among stars might glow,
Till the dusk of Time, with honour and worth:
That, stung by the lust and the pain of battle,
The One Race ever might starkly spread,
And the One Flag eagle it overhead!
In a rapture of wrath and faith and pride,
Thus they felt it, and thus they died;
So to the Maker of homes, to the Giver of bread,
For whose dear sake their triumphing souls they shed,
Blow, you bugles of ENGLAND, blow,
Though you break the heart of her beaten foe,
Glory and praise to the everlasting Mother,
Glory and peace to her lovely and faithful dead!


(May 24, 1819 January 22, 1901)

Sceptre and orb and crown, High ensigns of a sovranty containing The beauty and strength and state of half a World, Pass from her, and she fades Into the old, inviolable peace.


She had been ours so long
She seemed a piece of ENGLAND: spirit and blood
And message ENGLAND’S self,
Home-coloured, ENGLAND in look and deed and dream;
Like the rich meadows and woods, the serene rivers,
And sea-charmed cliffs and beaches, that still bring
A rush of tender pride to the heart
That beats in ENGLAND’S airs to ENGLAND’S ends:
August, familiar, irremovable,
Like the good stars that shine
In the good skies that only ENGLAND knows:
So that we held it sure
GOD’S aim, GOD’S will, GOD’S way,
When Empire from her footstool, realm on realm,
Spread, even as from her notable womb
Sprang line on line of Kings;
For she was ENGLAND ENGLAND and our Queen.


O, she was ours! And she had aimed
And known and done the best
And highest in time: greatly rejoiced,
Ruled greatly, greatly endured. Love had been hers,
And widowhood, glory and grief, increase
In wisdom and power and pride,
Dominion, honour, children, reverence:
So that, in peace and war
Innumerably victorious, she lay down
To die in a world renewed,
Cleared, in her luminous umbrage beautified
For Man, and changing fast
Into so gracious an inheritance
As Man had never dared
Imagine. Think, when she passed,
Think what a pageant of immortal acts,
Done in the unapproachable face
Of Time by the high, transcending human mind,
Shone and acclaimed
And triumphed in her advent! Think of the ghosts,
Think of the mighty ghosts: soldiers and priests,
Artists and captains of discovery,
GOD’S chosen, His adventurers up the heights
Of thought and deed how many of them that led
The forlorn hopes of the World!
Her peers and servants, made the air
Of her death-chamber glorious! Think how they thronged
About her bed, and with what pride
They took this sister-ghost
Tenderly into the night! O, think
And, thinking, bow the head
In sorrow, but in the reverence that makes
The strong man stronger this true maid,
True wife, true mother, tried and found
An hundred times true steel,
This unforgettable woman was your Queen!


Tears for her tears! Tears and the mighty rites
Of an everlasting and immense farewell,
ENGLAND, green heart of the world, and you,
Dear demi-ENGLANDS, far-away isles of home,
Where the old speech is native, and the old flag
Floats, and the old irresistible call,
The watch-word of so many ages of years,
Makes men in love
With toil for the race, and pain, and peril, and death!
Tears, and the dread, tremendous dirge
Of her brooding battleships, and hosts
Processional, with trailing arms; the plaint
Measured, enormous, terrible of her guns;
The slow, heart-breaking throb
Of bells; the trouble of drums; the blare
Of mourning trumpets; the discomforting pomp
Of silent crowds, black streets, and banners-royal
Obsequious! Then, these high things done,
Rise, heartened of your passion! Rise to the height
Of her so lofty life! Kneel, if you must;
But, kneeling, win to those great altitudes
On which she sought and did
Her clear, supernal errand unperturbed!
Let the new memory
Be as the old, long love! So, when the hour
Strikes, as it must, for valour of heart,
Virtue, and patience, and unblenching hope,
And the inflexible resolve
That, come the World in arms,
This breeder of nations, ENGLAND, keeping the seas
Hers as from GOD, shall in the sight of GOD
Stand justified of herself
Wherever her unretreating bugles blow!
Remember that she lived
That this magnificent Power might still perdure
Your friend, your passionate servant, counsellor, Queen.


Be that your chief of mourning that!
ENGLAND, O Mother, and you,
The daughter Kingdoms born and reared
Of ENGLAND’S travail and sweet blood;
And never will you lands,
The live Earth over and round,
Wherethrough for sixty royal and radiant years
Her drum-tap made the dawns
English Never will you
So fittingly and well have paid your debt
Of grief and gratitude to the souls
That sink in ENGLAND’S harness into the dream:
‘I die for ENGLAND’S sake, and it is well’:
As now to this valiant, wonderful piece of earth,
To which the assembling nations bare the head,
And bend the knee,
In absolute veneration once your Queen.

Sceptre and orb and crown, High ensigns of a sovranty empaling The glory and love and praise of a whole half-world, Fall from her, and, preceding, she departs Into the old, indissoluble Peace.


Into a land
Storm-wrought, a place of quakes, all thunder-scarred,
Helpless, degraded, desolate,
Peace, the White Angel, comes.
Her eyes are as a mother’s. Her good hands
Are comforting, and helping; and her voice
Falls on the heart, as, after Winter, Spring
Falls on the World, and there is no more pain.
And, in her influence, hope returns, and life,
And the passion of endeavour: so that, soon,
The idle ports are insolent with keels;
The stithies roar, and the mills thrum
With energy and achievement; weald and wold
Exult; the cottage-garden teems
With innocent hues and odours; boy and girl
Mate prosperously; there are sweet women to kiss;
There are good women to breed. In a golden fog,
A large, full-stomached faith in kindliness
All over the world, the nation, in a dream
Of money and love and sport, hangs at the paps
Of well-being, and so
Goes fattening, mellowing, dozing, rotting down
Into a rich deliquium of decay.

Then, if the Gods be good,
Then, if the Gods be other than mischievous,
Down from their footstools, down
With a million-throated shouting, swoops and storms
War, the Red Angel, the Awakener,
The Shaker of Souls and Thrones; and at her heel
Trail grief, and ruin, and shame!
The woman weeps her man, the mother her son,
The tenderling its father. In wild hours,
A people, haggard with defeat,
Asks if there be a God; yet sets its teeth,
Faces calamity, and goes into the fire
Another than it was. And in wild hours
A people, roaring ripe
With victory, rises, menaces, stands renewed,
Sheds its old piddling aims,
Approves its virtue, puts behind itself
The comfortable dream, and goes,
Armoured and militant,
New-pithed, new-souled, new-visioned, up the steeps
To those great altitudes, whereat the weak
Live not. But only the strong
Have leave to strive, and suffer, and achieve.