Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Ode on the Burial of King George the Fifth

ODE ON THE BURIAL OF KING GEORGE THE FIFTH

BY GEORGE HERBERT CLARKE

———

I

Through the long avenues of silent people

Let the King pass!

(Full silent he, alas!)—

Only the dolorous bells from every steeple

Moment by moment toll, and muffled drums

And muted flutes and trumpets slow vibrate

A worldwide sigh, a dirge more intimate,

While in profound farewell and ancient state

England to England comes.

II

Mariners, men of his ships, it is meet and right

That you bring him to burial, care for him. He cared

For you, sailing the whale-path, and gladly shared

Rigour and toil; the salt strength of the sea;

Its manifold beauty—the vast of the middle night:

The multitudinous stars illumining

The noble dome of the world; the flame that flared

Up from the smoky East as the sun prepared

The golden arc of his ascendancy;

The gale crouching and springing; the answering spring

In the cruiser’s cut and thrust

Through warring waters. He knew to steady the helm,

To scan the card, the chart,

The signals of spacious heaven, the endless whelm

And welter of seas that plunge and flow and part:

All these things he regarded, and these things must

Be writ in your hearts, as in that royal heart. [unnumbered page]

QVEEN’S QVARTERLY

III

Unto that Shrine where Britain, with bowed head,

Commemorates her Dead

Their King draws nigh, with all his mournful train,—

Their King, in whose heart they were hallowéd.

He who knew well their weariness and pain

And walked among them as a comrade fain

To comfort them, to be their rod and staff,

Hath portion now in their high Cenotaph,

Is one with them again.

Steadfast, compassionate,

Fearless before all fears,

Thou didst endure the thunder-riven years.

When in the trench a sentry touched his mate

And spoke, but nought replied

The warm clay at his side;

When choking fume or searing flame convulsed

Their victims; when the sky’s wide highways pulsed

With pitiless hawks that veered and struck and fled,

Unheeding the rigid stare of innocent dead,—

Then peril marked thee great,

And all men felt thine instant knightlihood,

Honoured thee, understood

Thy spirit, greatly good.

Deep peace enfolds thee now whose faith was stayed

Upon the triumph of her loving-kindness

That shall enlighten our long, stubborn blindness

Until the primal jungle-lust shall fade.

Ay, when the foregleams focus to one gleam

In that determined dawn, new luminous

Liberal fountains shall flood our troubled globe

With unexampled radiance—the robe [page 380]

ODE ON BURIAL OF KING GEORGE

Of the Spirit of Peace—and we shall seem

Incredibly healed, no more the prey of sorrow,

No more self-traitorous—

All men for all men in the coming morrow.

IV

Kingship is kinglier through thee. Thy voice—

A father’s to his folk—

Over the seas and plains and mountains spoke,

And all thy realms as one realm did rejoice

In thee, their friend benign.

Wisdom inspired and worth confirmed thy word

Far hailed, intently heard—

That unforgotten eloquence of thine

At whose calm, earnest tones our hearts within us stirred.

When the bugles blew for the peace that is yet to be,

When bells and banners joyed in thy Jubilee,

In all time of thanksgiving thy people came

And waited within thy gates and made acclaim;

And thou stoodest forth to them, looking upon thine own,

And their love shaped for thee an ever broader throne.

Likewise in grief they came, but silently,

When the shadow of death passed by, and again when it passed not by.

V

It is time to rest now, to dispose thyself for sleep;

Thy sires have slumbered long: even so shalt thou.

Sleep, while the pipes make wail, and the people bow

Lower, that they may weep!

Sleep, while thy loved companion followeth

Thy reign’s recessional;

While monarchs, princes, lords imperial,

Move to the measure and the mood of Death! [page 381]

QVEEN’S QVARTERLY

Within this burial-place of kings, a king

Illustrious art thou come

To dwell in thy long home.

The benisons of faith are chanted clear;

Thou art content thy heritor shall hear,

And strew the dust upon thy downgoing.

The peace of God!” Even now the holy rites

Are done, and through the Chapel of the Knights,

Past fluted columns up the high-vaulted nave,

Above thy grave

The Dead March rolls dilating wave on wave.

Slow move the mourners to the familiar sun,

Remembering

This good man’s life, how soon the longest course is run.

The dying echoes of the organ fall

Inaudibly. From tombs marmoreal

In crypt or choir

Not a frail breath takes wing,

No faintest sighs suspire;

The kings, the knights and our so knightly king

Unbroken silence keep,

Motionless, trancéd deep

Within the ghostly galleries of sleep. [page 382]

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