Hands All Round

The following is a guest post Dr. Timothy Tomkinson. 

The other day I stumbled across this poem by Tennyson. Written a hundred and thirty two years ago and although a little garish, it is remarkably relevant to the present day. Of course there can be many interpretations but beyond the slightly grating overtones it is high-minded and enduring. At its core it calls for individual freedom, and discerns where balances of power lie.

It is a splendid tribute to an enduring outlook, as he correctly states the priority that the UK and Anglosphere have traditionally put on freedom. To paraphrase Disraeli, I prefer the liberties we now enjoy to the liberalism they profess, and find something better than the Rights of Man in the Rights of Englishmen”. That is the sentiment echoed in the poem and borne out today. The fact that in the UK one may prefer the freedoms and liberties that we have been gifted, more than the illusory rights professed by more authoritarian regimes (although the times are changing).

It echoes, in subsequent verses, the tendency for continental Europe to view rights as granted from leaders, rather than freedoms and responsibilities being innate. It even has the prescience to touch on one present misdirection: namely that of seeking to over-legislate.

I may not agree with the extent of the patriotic vitriol, nor some of the imagery about speaking with guns, but that does not change the sentiment of the poem: the paramount importance of freedom, democracy and individual liberty. Those values being safeguarded by the Anglosphere. After every verse he drinks a toast either to ourselves or to less fortunate jurisdictions – a call to the fact that we are all united as humans in a struggle to better or societies.

The poem reads thus:

FIRST drink a health, this solemn night,
A health to England, every guest;
That man’s the best cosmopolite
    Who loves his native country best.
May Freedom’s oak for ever live
    With stronger life from day to day;
That man’s the best Conservative
    Who lops the mouldered branch away.
                Hands all round!
    God the tyrant’s hope confound!
To this great cause of Freedom drink, my friends,
    And the great name of England round and round.

A health to Europe’s honest men!
    Heaven guard them from her tyrants’ jails!
From wronged Poerio’s noisome den,
    From iron limbs and tortured nails!
We curse the crimes of Southern kings,
    The Russian whips and Austrian rods—
We likewise have our evil things;
    Too much we make our Ledgers, Gods.
                Yet hands all round!
    God the tyrant’s cause confound!
To Europe’s better health we drink, my friends,
    And the great name of England round and round.

What health to France, if France be she
    Whom martial progress only charms?
Yet tell her—better to be free

    Than vanquish all the world in arms.
Her frantic city’s flashing heats
    But fire, to blast the hopes of men.
Why change the titles of your streets?
    You fools, you’ll want them all again.
                Hands all round!
    God the tyrant’s cause confound!
To France, the wiser France, we drink, my friends,
    And the great name of England round and round.

Gigantic daughter of the West,
    We drink to thee across the flood,
We know thee most, we love thee best,
    For art thou not of British blood?
Should war’s mad blast again be blown,
    Permit not thou the tyrant powers
To fight thy mother here alone,
    But let thy broadsides roar with ours.
                Hands all round!
    God the tyrant’s cause confound!
To our great kinsmen of the West, my friends,
    And the great name of England round and round.

O rise, our strong Atlantic sons,
    When war against our freedom springs!
O speak to Europe through your guns!
They can be understood by kings.
You must not mix our Queen with those
    That wish to keep their people fools;
Our freedom’s foemen are her foes,
    She comprehends the race she rules.
                Hands all round!
    God the tyrant’s cause confound!
To our dear kinsmen of the West, my friends,
    And the great name of England round and round.

 

All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.

 

 

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