Tennyson’s Suppressed Poems


Britons, Guard your Own

Published in The Examiner, January 31, 1852. Verses 1 (considerably altered), 7, 8 and 10, are reprinted in Life, vol. I, p. 344.

Alfred Tennyson

RISE, Britons, rise, if manhood be not dead;
The world’s last tempest darkens overhead;
                The Pope has bless’d him;
                The Church caress’d him;
He triumphs; maybe, we shall stand alone:
                Britons, guard your own.

His ruthless host is bought with plunder’d gold,
By lying priest’s the peasant’s votes controlled.
                All freedom vanish’d,
                The true men banished,
He triumphs; maybe, we shall stand alone.
                Britons, guard your own.

Peace-lovers we—sweet Peace we all desire—
Peace-lovers we—but who can trust a liar?—
             Peace-lovers, haters
             Of shameless traitors,
We hate not France, but this man’s heart of stone.
                Britons, guard your own.

We hate not France, but France has lost her voice
This man is France, the man they call her choice.
                By tricks and spying,
                By craft and lying,
And murder was her freedom overthrown.
                Britons, guard your own.

‘Vive l’Empereur’ may follow by and bye;
‘God save the Queen’ is here a truer cry.
                God save the Nation,
                The toleration,
And the free speech that makes a Briton known.
                Britons, guard your own.

Rome’s dearest daughter now is captive France,
The Jesuit laughs, and reckoning on his chance,
                Would, unrelenting,
                Kill all dissenting,
Till we were left to fight for truth alone.
                Britons, guard your own.

Call home your ships across Biscayan tides,
To blow the battle from their oaken sides.
                Why waste they yonder
                Their idle thunder?
Why stay they there to guard a foreign throne?
                Seamen, guard your own.

We were the best of marksmen long ago,
We won old battles with our strength, the bow.
                Now practise, yeomen,
                Like those bowmen,
Till your balls fly as their true shafts have flown.
                Yeomen, guard your own.

His soldier-ridden Highness might incline
To take Sardinia, Belgium, or the Rhine:
             Shall we stand idle,
             Nor seek to bridle
His vile aggressions, till we stand alone?
                Make their cause your own.

Should he land here, and for one hour prevail,
There must no man go back to bear the tale:
                No man to bear it—
                Swear it! We swear it!
Although we fought the banded world alone,
                We swear to guard our own.

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