Commonplace: Edith Nesbit, “A Song of Peace and Honor”

We, men of England, children of her might,

With all our mother’s record-roll of glory,

Great with her greatness, noble with her name,

Drank with our mother’s milk our mother’s story,

And in our veins the splendor of her fame

Made strong our blood and bright;

And to her absent sons her name has been

Familiar music heard in distant lands,

Heart of our heart, and sinews of our hands,

England, our Mother, our Mistress and our Queen!

Out of the thunderous echoes of the past,

Through the gold dust of centuries, we hear

Her voice: “O children of a royal line,

Sons of my heart who hold your England dear,

Mine was the past, make ye the future mine

All glorious to the last!”

And, as we hear her, cowards grow to men,

And men to heroes, and the voice of fear

Is as a whisper in a deaf man’s ear

And the dead past is quick in us again.

Her robe is woven of glory and of renown,

Hers are the golden laden argosies

And lordship of the wild and watery ways,

Her flag is blown across the utmost seas;

Dead nations built her throne and kingdoms blaze

For jewels in her crown.

Her empire like a girdle doth enfold

The world; her feet on ancient foes are set;

She wears the steel-wrought blood-bright amulet

Wrought by her children in the days of old.

Yet in a treasury of such gems as these,

Which power and sovereignty and kingship fill

To the vast limit of the circling sun,

England, our Mother, in her heart holds still

As her most precious jewel, save only one,

The priceless pearl of peace —

Peace, plucked from out of the very heart of war

Through the long agony of strenuous years,

Made pure by blood and sanctified by tears,

A pearl to lie where England’s treasures are.

O peaceful English lanes, all white with may,

O English meadows where the grass grows tall,

O red-roofed village, field and farm and fold

Where the long shadows of the elm-trees fall

On the wide pastures which the sun calls gold,

And twilight dew calls grey;

These are the home, the happy cradle place

Of every man who has our English tongue,

Sprung from those loins from which our sires have sprung,

Heirs of the glory of our mighty race.

Brothers, we hold the pearl of priceless worth,

How dare we then to cast our pearl aside?

Is it not more to us than all things are?

Nay, peace is precious as the world is wide,

But England’s honor is more precious far

Than all the heavens and earth.

Were honor outcast from her supreme place

Our pearl of peace no more a pearl would shine,

But, trampled under foot of dogs and swine,

Rot in the mire of a deserved disgrace.

So, for our Mother’s honor, since it must,

Let peace be lost, but lost the worthier way,

Not trampled down, but given, for her sake,

Who forged of many an iron yesterday

The golden song that gold-tongued Fame shall wake

When we are dust, in dust;

For life and love and death and praise and blame,

And all the world, even to our very land,

Weighed in the balance are as a grain of sand

Against the honor of the English name!

~ Edith Nesbit, “A Song of Peace and Honor”


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