An Ode To Britannia, The Arbitress Of Nations.

While pride hath cursed her fairest lands,
Columbia’s weeping genius stands
In horror and dismay,
That man should man of life deprive,
And brother with his brother strive
In battle’s dread array.
Beneath her banner’s sacred fold,
Ruin riots uncontrolled,
O’er all the wide domain;
Where lately Commerce plied the oar,
Reverberating cannons roar,
Exulting o’er the slain.
In vain she mourns the mighty dead,
Who in the cause of freedom bled,
And now forgotten sleep;
No more she hears the battle cry,
United stand, united die,
Echoing o’er the deep.
From where Ontario’s placid wave
The bounds of British freedom lave,
Is heard the din of war,
To where the Mississippi pours
Its sluggish waters on the Mexique shores,
Outspreading wide and far,
Red fields of carnage mar the scene
Where late prosperity hath been;
And richest harvest stores,
That make the wheel and shuttle fly,
Lie rotting ‘neath a Southern sky,
Or bonded on her shores.
See, where the Alleghanies rise
In solemn grandeur to the skies,
Contending armies meet,
And scatter death at every blow,
While desolation, famine, woe,
Tread on their wild retreat.
There Freedom sits, a widow’d bride,
While Pity, weeping at her side,
Keeps mournful watch around,
She sees the nursling of her care,
Her country, struggling in despair,
In chains of slavery bound.
Oppression o’er the Western main
Defiant looks, with high disdain,
And grasps his blood-stained lance,
He hears the impatient thunder sound
Of war’s alarm, on British ground,
O’er ocean’s wide expanse.
Britannia, guardian of the brave,
A kindred nation deign to save,
Stretch forth thy mighty arm,
Uplift thy truth-protecting shield,
The peace commanding trident wield,
And silence war’s alarm.
Unloose the bands that Commerce bind,
Breath in her sails a happy wind,
And peace again restore,
And all the lands that kiss the sea,
With one loud burst of jubilee,
Shall bless thee evermore.

Title:An Ode To Britannia, The Arbitress Of Nations.

Author:Daniel Mac Vicar

Publication:The Bradford Observer

Published in:Bradford

Date:May 8th 1862

Keywords:politics, trade, war


Typical of patriotic puffing at this point in history, this poem imagines Britain’s geopolitical role to be to arbitrate between the warring factions in America during the Civil War. This poem clearly favours the Union, however, and could only have been written after relations between the two countries had thawed a little after the disastrous Trent Affair of the year before. There is no specific mention of cotton, but famine is referred to in the sixth stanza, and it is telling that the final stanza looks forward to the resumption of free commerce, and sees Britain as the sensible party, ready to lead the world back to prosperous normality. – SR