ODE ON THE BURIAL OF KING GEORGE THE FIFTH
BY GEORGE HERBERT CLARKE
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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]
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,
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]