It is recorded that when Napoleon I. was in the Isle of Elba he drank this toast – “Better times to France.”
Better times to England,
Is every good man’s prayer,
And may she reign, without a stain,
As happy as she’s fair!
Long may she lay her mighty hand
On ocean’s mane of waves;
Long may they guard her royal realm –
The gallant rifle-braves.
Better times to England,
‘Mid war’s far-brought alarms;
Their shields are bright with heaven’s own light
Who bear a Briton’s arms;
They spangle the historic page
With deeds of bright renown;
Their brows with fadeless glory-wreaths
Posterity will crown.
Better times to >England!
The Oak will guard the Rose,
[For] Freedom’s nest and Beauty’s crest
In her embrace repose.
Her vernal vales and vocal woods
By freemen bold are trod,
Whose courage consecrates her shrines
To Liberty and God.
Better times to England!
Old Herodom sublime!
Her pulse doth leap to memories deep
That in her brave heart chime.
The sea hath cradled in its arms
The men who crown her name,
And on those creamy billow-steeds
Our fathers rode to fame.
Better times to England!
She spurns ambition’s chart;
In freedom’s cause her banners blaze,
Her strength is in her heart.
But if her broadsides be invoked
The foe shall quail again;
She’ll kindle her heroic fire
And prove her sons are men.
Better times to England!
Whose sun shall ne’er grow dim,
This, be the toast all round the coast,
With cups filled to the brim.
Better times to England,
Be every good man’s prayer;
Long may she reign, without a stain,
As happy as she’s fair!

Title:Better Times to England

Author:Sheldon Chadwick

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:March 29th 1862

Keywords:freedom, nationalism, war


This poem by Sheldon Chadwick celebrates the British military, especially its naval force, in heroic terms with particular reference to the ideals of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’. In keeping with Victorian military patriotism conspicuous masculinity is valorised; for example Britain will ‘prove her sons are men’, and there is an oblique reference to empire in the line ‘sun shall ne’er grow dim’, which paraphrases the saying that ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’ (which was actually first coined in reference to the Spanish Empire in the seventeenth century). Published at a time of particular tension between the warring American sides and Britain, this poem possibly reflects a concern that the UK would be drawn into conflict with that country. Britain’s neutrality was dangerously unstable in the early years of the American Civil War and the Cotton Famine polarised opinion as to which side the population should sympathise with. – SR