Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Broken Rose

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?


MadMonarchist said...

I think it's great. It might be a little over-the-top but I'm all about being over-the-top!

May said...

It does capture the different facets of Albert's personality- youthful shyness and bashfulness, (Leopold II used to make fun of him for this, and also complained he was a "closed envelope"), as well as the great courage and determination hidden under this unassuming surface.

Le Barde Gaulois said...

A bit overdone, no doubt, but a great sign of confidence that Belgium had weathered the storm of the war on her own soil, and was, like Canada and Australia, finally a nation under no one's shadow, in her own right.

We often focus on the nations destroyed during the Great War, but forget about those nations then baptised in blood.

May said...

It's sad that so many Belgians seem bent on destroying their own country now, when they suffered so much together in the past.