Henry Lawson

Here you will find the Long Poem Queen Hilda of Virland of poet Henry Lawson

Queen Hilda of Virland

Queen Hilda rode along the lines, 
And she was young and fair; 
And forward on her shoulders fell 
The heavy braids of hair: 
No gold was ever dug from earth 
Like that burnished there ? 
No sky so blue as were her eyes 
Had man seen anywhere. 

'Twas so her gay court poets sang, 
And we believed it true. 
But men must fight for golden hair 
And die for eyes of blue! 
Cheer after cheer, the long half mile 
(It has been ever thus), 
And evermore her winsome smile 
She turned and turned on us. 

The Spring-burst over wood and sea, 
The day was warm and bright ? 
Young Clarence stood on my left hand, 
Old Withen on the right. 
With fifteen thousand men, or more, 
With plumes and banners gay, 
To sail that day to foreign war, 
And our ships swarmed on the bay. 

Old Withen muttered in his beard I listened with a sigh ? 
"Good Faith! for such a chit as that 
Strong men must kill and die. 
She'll back to her embroideree, 
And fools that bow and smirk, 
And we must sail across the sea 
And go to other work. 

"And wherefore? Wherefore," Withen said, 
"Is this red quarrel sought? 
Because of clacking painted hags 
And foreign fops at Court! 
Because 'tis said a drunken king, 
In lands we've never seen, 
Said something foolish in his cups 
Of our young silly queen! 

"Good faith! in her old great-aunt's time 
'Twere different, I vow: 
If old Dame Ruth were here, she'd get 
Some sharp advising now!" 
(At this a grim smile went about 
For men could say in sooth 
That none who'd seen her face could doubt 
The fair fame of Dame Ruth.) 

If Clarence heard, he said no word; 
His soul was fresh and clean; 
The glory in his boyish eyes 
Was shining for his Queen! 
And as she passed, he gazed as one 
An angel might regard. 
(Old Withen looked as if he'd like 
To take and smack her hard.) 

We only smiled at anything 
That good old Withen said, 
For he, half blind, through smoke and flame 
Had borne her grandsire dead; 
And he, in Virland's danger time, 
Where both her brothers died, 
Had ridden to red victory 
By her brave father's side. 

Queen Hilda rode along the lines 
'Mid thundering cheers the while, 
And each man sought ? and seemed to get ? 
Her proud and happy smile. 
Queen Hilda little dreamed ? Ah, me! ? 
On what dark miry plain, 
And what blood-blinded eyes would see 
Her girlish smile again! 

Queen Hilda rode on through the crowd, 
We heard the distant roar; 
We heard the clack of gear and plank, 
The sailors on the shore. 
Queen Hilda sought her "bower" to rest, 
(For her day's work was done), 
We kissed our wives ? or others' wives ? 
And sailed ere set of sun. 

(Some sail because they're married men, 
And some because they're free ? 
To come or not come back agen, 
And such of old were we. 
Some sail for fame and some for loot 
And some for love ? or lust ? 
And some to fish and some to shoot 
And some because they must. 

(Some sail who know not why they roam 
When they are come aboard, 
And some for wives and loves at home, 
And some for those abroad. 
Some sail because the path is plain, 
And some because they choose, 
And some with nothing left to gain 
And nothing left to lose. 

(And we have sailed from Virland, we, 
For a woman's right or wrong, 
And we are One, and One, and Three, 
And Fifteen Thousand strong. 
For Right or Wrong and Virland's fame ? 
You dared us and we come 
To write in blood a woman's name 
And take a letter home.) 

King Death came riding down the lines 
And broken lines were they, 
With scarce a soldier who could tell 
Where friend or foeman lay: 
The storm cloud looming over all, 
Save where the west was red, 
And on the field, of friend and foe, 
Ten thousand men lay dead. 

Boy Clarence lay in slush and blood 
With his face deathly white; 
Old Withen lay by his left side 
And I knelt at his right. 
And Clarence ever whispered, 
Though with dying eyes serene: 
"I loved her for her girlhood,. 
Will someone tell the Queen?" 

And this old Withen's message, 
When his time shortly came: 
"I loved her for her father's sake 
But I fought for Virland's fame: 
Go, take you this, a message 
From me," Old Withen said, 
"Who knelt beside her father, 
And his when they were dead: 

"I who in sport or council, 
I who as boy and man, 
Would aye speak plainly to them 
Were it Court, or battle's van ? 
(Nay! fear not, she will listen 
And my words be understood, 
And she will heed my message, 
For I know her father's blood.) 

"If shame there was ? (I judge not 
As I'd not be judged above: 
The Royal blood of Virla