England In Egypt

FROM the dusty jaded sunlight of the careless Cairo streets,
Through the open bedroom window where the pale blue held the
palms,
There came a sound of music, thrilling cries and rattling beats,
That startled me from slumber with a shock of sweet alarms
For beneath this rainless heaven with this music in my ears
I was born, and all my boyhood with its joy was glorified,
And for me the ranging Red-coats hold a passion of bright tears,
And the glancing of the bayonets lights a hell of savage pride.
So I leaped and ran, and looked,
And I stood, and listened there,
Till I heard the fifes and drums,
Till I heard the fifes and drums,
The fifes and drums of England
Thrilling all the alien air! —
And 'England, England, England,'
I heard the wild fifes cry,
'We are here to rob for England,
And to throttle liberty!'
And 'England, England, England,'
I heard the fierce drums roar,
'We are tools for pious swindlers
And brute bullies evermore!'
And the silent Arabs crowded, half-defiant, half-dismayed.
And the jaunty fifers fifing flung their challenge to the breeze,
And the drummers kneed their drums up as the reckless drumsticks
played,
And the Tommies all came trooping, tripping, slouching at their ease.
Ah Christ, the love I bore them for their brave hearts and strong
Ah! Christ, the hate that smote me for their stupid dull conceits
I know not which was greater, as I watched their conquering bands
In the dusty jaded sunlight of the sullen Cairo streets.
And my dream of love and hate
Surged, and broke, and gathered there,
As I heard the fifes and drums,
As I heard the fifes and drums,
The fifes and drums of England
Thrilling all the alien air! —
And 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy,'
I heard the wild fifes cry,
'Will you never know the England
For which men, not fools, should die?'
And 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy,'
I heard the fierce drums roar,
'Will you always be a cut-throat
And a slave for evermore?'
No, I shall never see it with these weary death-dim eyes,
The hour of Retribution, the hour of Fate's desire,
When before the outraged millions, as at last — at last they rise,
The rogues and thieves of England are as stubble to the fire!
When the gentlemen of England, eaten out with lust and sin,
When the shop-keepers of England, sick with godly greed as well,
Face the Red-coats and the Red-shirts, as the steel-ring closes in
And hurls them, howling madly, down the precipice of hell!
But O, I knew, that hour,
Standing sick and dying there,
As I heard the fifes and drums,
As I heard the fifes and drums,
The fifes and drums of England
Thrilling all the alien air!
And 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy,'
I heard the wild fifes cry,
'It is time to cease your fooling;
It is time to do or die!'
And 'Johnnie, Johnnie, Johnnie,'
I heard the fierce drums roar,
'It is time to break your fetters
And be free for evermore!'

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"England In Egypt" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 16 Sep. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/14009/england-in-egypt>.

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