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Short poem

Edmund Waller (1606-1687)

To the King on his Navy

              1Where'er thy navy spreads her canvas wings,
              2Homage to thee, and peace to all, she brings:
              3The French and Spaniard, when thy flags appear,
              4Forget their hatred, and consent to fear.
              5So Jove from Ida did both hosts survey,
              6And when he pleas'd to thunder, part the fray.
              7Ships heretofore in seas like fishes sped,
              8The mightiest still upon the smallest fed:
              9Thou on the deep imposest nobler laws,
            10And by that justice hast remov'd the cause
            11Of those rude tempests, which, for rapine sent,
            12Too oft, alas, involv'd the innocent.
            13Now shall the ocean, as thy Thames, be free
            14From both those fates, of storms and piracy.
            15But we most happy, who can fear no force
            16But winged troops, or Pegasean horse:
            17'Tis not so hard for greedy foes to spoil
            18Another nation, as to touch our soil.
            19Should Nature's self invade the world again,
            20And o'er the centre spread the liquid main,
            21Thy power were safe; and her destructive hand
            22Would but enlarge the bounds of thy command:
            23Thy dreadful fleet would style thee lord of all,
            24And ride in triumph o'er the drowned ball:
            25Those towers of oak o'er fertile plains might go,
            26And visit mountains, where they once did grow.

            27      The world's restorer once could not endure,
            28That finish'd Babel should those men secure,
            29Whose pride design'd that fabric to have stood
            30Above the reach of any second flood:
            31To thee His chosen, more indulgent, He
            32Dares trust such power with so much piety.


1] The 1645 edition came out unauthorized while Waller was in exile on the Continent. At the beginning of his reign, Charles I greatly increased and strengthened the Royal Navy.

4] consent to fear: together fear.

16] Pegasean: like Pegasus; able to fly.

20] centre: the earth, the supposed centre of the universe.

25] towers of oak: ships.

28-30] See Genesis xi.1-9.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Edmund Waller, Poems (1645); facs. edn., Poems, 1645, together with poems from Bodleian MS Dond. 55 (Menston: Scolar Press, 1971). PR 3750 A1 1645 AB Robarts Library
First publication date: 1645
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.442; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/14

Form: couplets

Other poems by Edmund Waller