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Poem by Owen Seaman


To Mr. William Watson



[On writing the first instalment of The Purple East, a fine sonnet which it is our privilege to publish.Westminster Gazette, Dec. 16, 1895.]

Dear Mr. Watson, we have heard with wonder,
Not all unmingled with a sad regret,
That little penny blast of purple thunder,
You issued in the Westminster Gazette;
The Editor describes it as a sonnet;
I wish to make a few remarks upon it.

Never, O craven England, nevermore
Prate thou of generous effort, righteous aim!
So ran the lines, and left me very sore,
For you may guess my heart was hot with shame:
Even thus early in your ample song
I felt that something must be really wrong.

But when I learned that our ignoble nation
Lay sleeping like a log, and lay alone,
Propping, according to your information,
Abdul the Damned on his infernal throne,
O then I scattered to the wind my fears,
And nearly went and joined the Volunteers.

But just in time the thought occurred to me
That England commonly commits her course
To men as good at heart as even we
And possibly much richer in resource;
That we had better mind our own affairs
And leave these gentlemen to manage theirs.

It further seemed a work uncommon light
For one like you, a casual civilian,
To order half a hemisphere to fight
And slaughter one another by the million,
While you yourself, a paper Galahad,
Spilt ink for blood upon a blotting-pad.

The days are gone when sword and poets pen
One gallant gifted hand was wont to wield;
When Taillefer in face of Harolds men
Rode foremost on to Senlacs fatal field,
And tossed his sword in air, and sang a spell
Of Rolands battle-song, and, singing, fell.

The days are gone when troubadours by dozens
Polished their steel and joined the stout crusade,
Strumming, in memory of pretty cousins,
The Girl I left behind Me, on parade;
They often used to rattle off a ballad in
The intervals of punishing the Saladin.

In later times, of course I know theres Byron,
Who by his own report could play the man;
I seem to see him with his Lesbian lyre on,
And brandishing a useful yataghan;
Though never going altogether strong, he
Managed at least to die at Missolonghi.

No more the trades of lute and lance are linked,
Though doubtless under many martial bonnets
Brave heads there be that harbour the distinct
Belief that they can manufacture sonnets;
But on the other hand a bard is not
Supposed to run the risk of being shot.

Then since your courage lacks a crucial test,
And politics were never your profession,
Dear Mr. Watson, wont you find it best
To temper valour with a due discretion?
That so, despite the fond Spectators booming,
Above your brow the bays may yet be blooming.



Owen Seaman


Owen Seaman's other poems:
  1. For the Red Cross
  2. Tactless Tactics
  3. To Belgium in Exile
  4. Fashions for Men
  5. The Wayside Calvary


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