A Ballad of the Flag [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Ways of Many Waters (1899).]


A Ballad of the Flag.

The Lord hath loosed his thunder
And let his lightnings free,
And in a red robe walketh
With Death upon the Sea.

Then “Clear your decks for action!”
Ye will not fight alone:
Your quarter-decks are crowded
With Shades of high renown.

The blood-and-iron heroes
Come out from South and West
By roaring guns reveilled
From their immortal rest.

And from the Dark Sea sailing
The fighting English lads
Range up in phantom silence
Before the ironclads.

The Deeper Deep hath hearkened:
The sleeping Vikings wake;
And Nelson hails “Good morning”
To Captain Francis Drake.

Now Blake has left the Dutchman
All broken, out of line;
Now Rodney comes a-roving
With Rupert of the Rhine.

Now brave old Benbow chuckles,
Now Anson’s laughter flows, —
Lord Howard boweth courtly
To Grenville as he goes.

Brave Frobisher hath taken
Bold Hawkins by the hand:
Tom Cavendish is toasting
My Lord of Cumberland.

Now Jervis, stern and silent,
Comes scudding from the Nore,
With Troubridge hard behind him,
And half-a-hundred more.

From out the silted wreckage
In wide Aboukir Bay,
From off the shallow Sandheads,
From Trinidad away;

From where the galleons’ bones lie
Along the Spanish Main,
A sound of ghostly cheering
Is echoed out again.

They come in silken doublets,
They come in braid and gold,
The builders of an Empire,
In derring days of old.

They come in Bristol galleys,
With mighty sweep of oars;
They come in wooden frigates
To guard the Devon shores.

And some have iron ordnance
Be-named of English maids,
And some have saucy swivels
And burnished carronades.

And some are scant of powder,
And some are scarce of food,
But none have lack of relish
For fighting By the Rood!

How can your hearts be craven?
How can your courage fail
When twice ten thousand heroes
Sail with you when you sail?

For when you serve your Armstrongs
And sight them at the mile
You’ll think how close they gathered
At sunset on the Nile.

For when the bow-gun crashes,
And when the broadside roars,
You’ll bear in mind how Nelson
Once fought his Forty-fours.

The flag that floats above you —
The flag that Nelson flew —
He nailed it to his topmast
In heritage to you!

The Lord may loose his thunder
And let His lightnings free,
The flag of Drake and Nelson
Shall wave triumphantly.

Then “Clear your decks for action!”
The fighting English lads
Will lay their guns in silence
’Longside the ironclads.

And He shall leash His thunders
And home His lightnings call,
And leave the old flag flaunting
Still bravely o’er them all.

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 139-142

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