In a collection of poems of the Great War, I came across Annie Vivanti Chartres' fervid tribute to the Belgian king and people, entitled The Broken Rose. Despite my love and admiration for Albert, I have to say I never feel very comfortable with this sort of tribute and I suspect he would have been embarrassed by it, too. Nonetheless, it is a good example of the kind of hero-worship he received during the war, and I wanted to include it as part of my series on popular representations of the Belgian monarchy.
Shy, youthful, silent — and misunderstood
In the white glare of Kinghood thou didst stand.
The sceptre in thy hand
Seemed but a flower the Fates had tossed to thee,
And thou wert called, perchance half-scornfully,
Albert the Good.
To-day thou standest on a blackened grave,
Thy broken sword still lifted to the skies.
Thy pure and fearless eyes
Gaze into Death's grim visage unappalled
And by the storm-swept nations thou art called
Albert the Brave.
Tossed on a blood-red sea of rage and hate
The frenzied world rolls forward to its doom.
But high above the gloom
Flashes the fulgent beacon of thy fame,
The nations thou hast saved exalt thy name —
Albert the Great!
Albert the good, the brave, the great, thy land
Lies at thy feet, a crushed and morient rose
Trampled and desecrated by thy foes.
One day a greater Belgium will be born,
But what of this dead Belgium wracked and torn ?
What of this rose flung out upon the sand ? . . .
Behold ! Afar where sky and waters meet
A white-robed Figure walketh on the sea.
(Peace goes before Him and her face is sweet.)
As once He trod the waves of Galilee
He comes again — the tumult sinks to rest,
The stormy waters shine beneath His feet.
He sees the dead rose lying in the sand,
He lifts the dead rose in His holy hand
And lays it at His breast.
O broken rose of Belgium, thou art blest!
What do you think of the poem? Touching? Overdone?