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Spacious Times, The

[On Drake's return from his filibustering expedition of 1580 the Queen went on board his ship at Deptford, and after partaking of a banquet conferred on him the honour of knighthood, at the same time declaring herself mightily pleased with all that he had done.]

I wish that I had flourished then,
When ruffs and raids were in the fashion,
When Shakespeare's art and Raleigh's pen
Encouraged patriotic passion;
For though I draw my happy breath
Beneath a Queen as good and gracious,
The times of Great Elizabeth
Were more conveniently spacious.
Large-hearted age of cakes and ale!
When, undeterred by nice conditions,
Good Master Drake would lightly sail
On little privateer commissions;
Careering round with sword and flame
And no pretence of polished manners,
He planted out in England's name
A most refreshing lot of banners.
Blest era, when the reckless tar,
Elated by a sense of duty,
Feared not to face his country's Bar
But freely helped himself to booty;
Returning home with bulging hold
The Queen would meet him, much excited,
Pronounce him worth his weight in gold
And promptly have the hero knighted.
No Extra Special, piping hot,
Broke out in unexpected Pyrrhics;
No Poet Laureate on the spot
Composed apologetic lyrics;
Transpiring slowly by-and-by,
The act was voted one of loyalty;
The nation winked the other eye,
And pocketed the usual royalty.
Ere Reuter yet had found his range,
These trifles done across the ocean
Produced upon the Stock Exchange
No preternatural emotion;
Not yet the Kaiserlich I AM
Made winged words and then repented;
He wrote as yet no telegram,
Nor was, in fact, himself invented.
No Justice Hawkins gauged the fault
Of irresponsible incursions;
The early Hawkins, gallant salt,
Knew well the charm of such diversions;
Men never saw that moving sight
When legal luminaries muster,
And very solemnly indict
A well-conducted filibuster.
No Member had the hardy nerve
To criticise our depredations
As unadapted to preserve
The perfect comity of nations;
No High Commissioner would doubt
If brigandage was quite judicial;
Indeed we mostly did without
This rather eminent Official.
No Ministry would care a rap
For theoretic arbitration;
They simply modified the map
To meet the latest annexation;
And so without appeal to law,
Or other needless waste of tissue,
The Lion, where he put his paw,
Remained and propagated issue.
To-day we wax exceeding fat
On lands our roving fathers raided;
And blush with holy horror at
Their lawless sons who do as they did;
No doubt the age improves a lot,
It grows more honest, more veracious;
But, as I said, the times are not
Quite so conveniently spacious.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Owen Seaman

Sir Owen Seaman, 1st Baronet was a British writer, journalist and poet. He is best known as editor of Punch, from 1906 to 1932. more…

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