The Night Of The Lion

'_And that a reply be received before midnight._'
_British Ultimatum_.


Their Day was at twelve of the night,
When the graves give up their dead.
And still, from the City, no light
Yellows the clouds overhead.
Where the Admiral stands there's a star,
But his column is lost in the gloom;
For the brazen doors are ajar,
And the Lion awakes, and the doom.

_He is not of a chosen race.
His strength is the strength of the skies,
In whose glory all nations have place,
In whose downfall Liberty dies.
He is mighty, but he is just.
He shall live to the end of years.
He shall bring the proud to the dust.
He shall raise the weak to the spheres._

It is night on the world's great mart,
But the brooding hush is awake
With the march of a steady heart
That calls like the drum of Drake,
_Come!_ And a muttering deep
As the pulse of the distant guns,
Or the thunder before the leap
Thro' the rolling thoroughfare runs.

And the wounded men go by
Like thoughts in the Lion's brain.
And the clouds lift on high
Like the slow waves of his mane
And the narrowing lids conceal
The furnaces of his eyes.
Their gold is gone out. They reveal
Only two search-lights of steel
Steadily sweeping the skies.

And we hoped he had peace in his lair
Where the bones of old tyrannies lay,
And the skulls that his cubs have stripped bare,
The old skulls they still toss in their play.
But the tyrants are risen again,
And the last light dies from their path;
For the midnight of his mane
Lifts to the stars with his wrath.

From the East to the West he is crouching.
He snuffs at the North-East wind.
His breast upon Britain is couching.
His haunches quiver on Ind.
It is night, black night, where he lies;
But a kingdom and a fleet
Shall burn in his terrible eyes
When he leaps, and the darkness dies
With the War-gods under his feet.

_Till the day when a little child,
Shall lay but a hand on his mane,
And his eyes grow golden and mild
And he stands in the heavens again;
Till the day of the seventh seal,
Which the Lion alone shall rend,
When the stars from their courses reel,
His Freedom shall not end._

by Alfred Noyes

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