Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
The Breath of Avon
 
Theodore Watts-Dunton (1832–1914)
 
 
To the Pilgrims of Greater Britain on Shakespeare’s Birthday
 
 
I
WHATE’ER of woe the Dark may hide in womb
For England, mother of kings of battle and song—
Be it rapine, racial hates, mysterious wrong,
Blizzard of Chance, or fiery dart of Doom—
Let breath of Avon, rich of meadow-bloom,        5
Bind her to that great daughter sever’d long—
To near and far-off children young and strong—
With fetters woven of Avon’s flower perfume.
Welcome, ye English-speaking pilgrims, ye
Whose hands around the world are join’d by him,        10
Who make his speech the language of the sea,
Till winds of Ocean waft from rim to rim
The breath of Avon: let this great day be
A Feast of Race no power shall ever dim.
 
II
From where the steeds of Earth’s twin oceans toss
        15
Their manes along Columbia’s chariot-way—
From where Australia’s long blue billows play—
From where the morn, quenching the Southern Cross,
Startling the frigate-bird and albatross        20
Asleep in air, breaks over Table Bay—
Come hither, Pilgrims, where these rushes sway
’Tween grassy banks of Avon soft as moss!
For, if ye found the breath of Ocean sweet,
Sweeter is Avon’s earthy, flowery smell,        25
Distill’d from roots that feel the coming spell
Of May, who bids all flowers that lov’d him meet
In meadows that, remembering Shakespeare’s feet,
Hold still a dream of music where they fell.
 

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