Rule Britannia

By James Thomson 1700–1748 James Thomson
When Britain first, at heaven's command,
    Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
    And guardian angels sung this strain—
       "Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
       Britons never will be slaves."

The nations, not so blest as thee,
    Must in their turns to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
    The dread and envy of them all.
       "Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
       Britons never will be slaves."

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
    More dreadful from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies
    Serves but to root thy native oak.
       "Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
       Britons never will be slaves."

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame;
    All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouse thy generous flame,
    But work their woe and thy renown.
       "Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
       Britons never will be slaves."

To thee belongs the rural reign;
    Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main,
    And every shore it circles thine.
       "Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
       Britons never will be slaves."

The Muses, still with freedom found,
    Shall to thy happy coast repair:
Blest isle! with matchless beauty crowned,
    And manly hearts to guard the fair.
       "Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
       Britons never will be slaves."

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (2006)

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Poet James Thomson 1700–1748

POET’S REGION Scotland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

Biography

Because the long, reflective landscape poem The Seasons (1730) commanded so much attention and affection for at least a hundred years after James Thomson wrote it, his achievement has been identified with it. Thomson, however, was also a political figure through other poems and through some of his plays, standing strongly for a kind of republican ideal against what he saw as the vulpine individualism and oligarchic government of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION Scotland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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