Decades for the Queen

I

Vow of Dedication, 1947

 She saw through darkness the white flame of glory

And followed, steadfast, blessing the sacred hour;

Though skies rained death, she stood erect, a tower

Of English stones cut from an ancient quarry.

Tender of years, of spirit old in story,

The flag of confidence she could not lower,

To men of flesh and fear she would not cower;

But made the world’s despair her oratory.

The sun come back at last, she did not swerve,

And told us all we know of her: “I serve.”

 

II

Ascension

Monarchs of time’s grey shroud! Your regal line

Upon the ceasing of a father’s heart,

Blossomed in hers so young. Aside, apart,

She drank death’s fatal news like sorrow’s wine,

But knew in her the people would enshrine

Remembrance of their kings, thence to depart

Upon a voyage only love could chart,

Her destiny with ours to intertwine.

Elizabeth! Thy life thou yet dost give

That these, thy realms, in peace and freedom live.

 

III

Coronation Bouquet

Lilly of the valley, for England’s bride;

White jasmine of Scotland, “fit-for-a-crown”;1

Orchid of Wales, for thy sweet praises grown;

Carnation of Erin,2 that good betide!

Yet even these, though in their spring of pride,

Could not surpass the beauty thou dost own,

Nor rival thee in virtue or renown.

Where they have withered, thou alone abide.

Wherefore thy subjects keep this joyful hour,

To honour thee, these islands’ fairest flower.

 

1. fit-for-a-crown : translation of stephanotis, the latinized Greek term for the flower.

2. Erin : poetic name of Ireland. 

 

IV

Procession

Slow, as the long procession of the years,

Where kings have paced upon this holy ground,

Since thy first sires, long ages past, were crowned,

Didst thou go forth amidst thy nation’s peers.

By what alignment of celestial spheres

Wert thou, good Princess, to thy people bound

By solemn rites that to thy fame redound,

Thy mourning heart yet hiding grief’s warm tears!

We knew that this was by the will of God

That thou hadst come to rule this cherished sod…

 

V

Chair of the Confessor

The air is cold where the Confessor lies,

As frigid as our empty world’s dead soul;

What once burned bright now darkens black as coal;

And every form of social kindness dies.

How many others, wise or not so wise,

Upon this chair yet played their destined role

To keep the faith of Peter1 pure and whole,

And win from heaven heaven’s promised prize,

Lest, like a limb cut off the tree of grace,

Should England wilt and fade, without a trace.

 

  1. During his exile in Normandy, Edward had sworn a solemn oath that, if he should become King of England, he would make a holy pilgrimage of thanksgiving to venerate the tomb of St. Peter in Rome. Upon his ascension to the throne, however, circumstances would not allow him to leave, whereupon Pope Leo IX released him from his vow on condition that he rebuild the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter, which he did. The church we know today as “Westminster Abbey” was consecrated to St. Peter, December 28 , 1065. 

 

VI

Coronation

Upon thy brow descends the wreath of time,

Beneath a proud assembly’s watchful gaze,

Thus end the years of worry and malaise,

Thus come the years of Britain in her prime.

A people’s cheers now echo through my rhyme;

The lustre of thy crown breaks through the haze

Of that lost day to stir our present praise

That flies to thee from every distant clime.

For lo these seven decades thou hast reigned:

Through each we loved thee well, with love unfeigned.

 

VII

The Allegiance of Philip

The crown of Edward resting on thy head,

Before thee kneels thy liege of life and limb,

To thee thy prince, thyself his queen to him

Who by a kiss his love to duty wed.

Alas, the days of eglantine have fled;

And time has made fair youth’s escutcheon dim;

How few remain to chant the ancient hymn

Of chivalry forgotten with the dead!

Yet we had seen what we most hoped to see:

The valour of our kings renewed in thee.

© Joseph Charles MacKenzie. All rights reserved.