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Poem by Alfred Austin
The Challenge Answered
So at length the word is uttered which the vain Gaul long hath muttered 'Twixt his teeth, by envy fluttered at another land being great; And the dogs of war are loosèd, and the carnagestream unsluicèd, That the might of France abusèd may torment the world like Fate. O thou nation, base, besotted, whose ambition cannons shotted, And huge mounds of corpses clotted with cold gore alone can sate! May the God of Battles shiver every arrow in thy quiver, And the nobly-flowing river thou dost covet drown thy hate! For 'tis writ on towering steeple, if ye sow ill ye shall reap ill; And a stern offended people swarm from city, hill, and plain, And with lips ne'er known to palter, swear by king and hearth and altar, Not to sheath the sword or falter till they flash it by the Seine! See! they come in dazzling masses from soft vales and frowning passes, Dense with blades as now the grass is that the summer sun doth shine, And proclaim with voice of thunder that French hordes athirst for plunder Not one single rood shall sunder from their Fatherland and Rhine. Swabian, Saxon, Frank, and Hessian, lo! they muster, form, and press on, Pledged to teach the Gaul the lesson he ne'er learns but through the sword, That the gay light-hearted glitter of the wicked, wanton hitter May be turned to wormwood bitter by the judgment of the Lord. To their maids no longer fickle, down whose cheeks the fond tears trickle, Leaving pruning-hook and sickle, yellow corn and purple grape, Do they vow, as long as shielded behind swords by Germans wielded, That their soil shall ne'er be yielded to the tiger and the ape. On, then! on, ye souls undaunted! let the flag of Right be flaunted, And your late-roused wrath be haunted by the outrages of old, When for empty Gallic glory were your hearths made black and gory, And the lone sire's head turned hoary by the slaughter of his fold. Nor with glorious defending to your ire be there an ending, But, still onwards ever wending, let your legions never halt, Till ye show to braggart Paris what at hand the edge of war is, How it desolates and harries, and then strew its streets with salt. For its lips are seared with lying, and its crimes to God are crying, And the Earth oppressed is sighing: Oh how long shall these things be? And a shout of exultation will go up from every nation, As your sword, the World's salvation, smites the insulter to his knee.
Alfred Austin's other poems:
English Poetry. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org