Editor’s note: The following is extracted from Heroic Ballads (published 1890).
by William Cowper
When the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Sought, with an indignant mien,
Counsel of her country’s gods,
Sage beneath the spreading oak
Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Every burning word he spoke
Full of rage and full of grief:
Princess! if our aged eyes
Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,
Tis because resentment ties
All the terrors of our tongues.
Rome shall perish – write that word
In the blood that she has spilt;
Perish, hopeless and abhorred,
Deep in ruin as in guilt.
Rome, for empire far renowned,
Tramples on a thousand states;
Soon her pride shall kiss the ground –
Hark! the Gaul is at her gates!
Other Romans shall arise,
Heedless of a soldier’s name;
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize,
Harmony the path to fame.
Then the progeny that springs
From the forests of our land,
Armed with thunder, clad with wings,
Shall a wider world command.
Regions Caesar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway;
Where his eagles never flew,
None invincible as they.
Such the bard’s prophetic words,
Pregnant with celestial fire,
Bending as he swept the chords
Of his sweet but awful lyre.
She, with all a monarch’s pride,
Felt them in her bosom glow:
Rushed to battle, fought, and died;
Dying, hurled them at the foe.
Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Heaven awards the vengeance due;
Empire is on us bestowed,
Shame and ruin wait for you.