James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

June 20

The Young Queen

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

  • This awful responsibility is imposed upon me so suddenly and at so early a period of my life, that I should feel myself utterly oppressed by the burden, were I not sustained by the hope that Divine Providence, which has called me to this work, will give me strength for the performance of it.—The Queen’s Declaration in Council on her accession to the throne of England, June 20, 1837.

  • THE SHROUD is yet unspread

    To wrap our crowned dead;

    His soul hath scarcely hearkened for the thrilling word of doom;

    And Death that makes serene

    Ev’n brows where crowns have been,

    Hath scarcely time to meeten his, for silence of the tomb.

    St. Paul’s king-dirging note

    The city’s heart hath smote—

    The city’s heart is struck with thought more solemn than the tone!

    A shadow sweeps apace

    Before the nation’s face,

    Confusing in a shapeless blot, the sepulchre and throne.

    The palace sounds with wail—

    The courtly dames are pale—

    A widow o’er the purple bows, and weeps its splendor dim:

    And we who hold the boon,

    A king for freedom won,

    Do feel eternity rise up between our thanks and him.

    And while all things express

    All glory’s nothingness,

    A royal maiden treadeth firm where that departed trod!

    The deathly scented crown

    Weighs her shining ringlets down;

    But calm she lifts her trusting face, and calleth upon God.

    Her thoughts are deep within her:

    No outward pageants win her

    From memories that in her soul are rolling wave on wave—

    Her palace walls enring

    The dust that was a king—

    And very cold beneath her feet she feels her father’s grave.

    And One, as fair as she,

    Can scarce forgotten be,—

    Who clasped a little infant dead, for all a kingdom’s worth!

    The mourned, blessed One,

    Who views Jehovah’s throne,

    Aye smiling to the angels that she lost a throne on earth.

    Perhaps our youthful Queen

    Remembers what has been—

    Her childhood’s rest by loving heart, and sport on grassy sod—

    Alas! can others wear

    A mother’s heart for her?

    But calm she lifts her trusting face, and calleth upon God.

    Yea! on God, thou maiden

    Of spirit nobly laden,

    And leave such happy days behind, for happy-making years!

    A nation looks to thee

    For steadfast sympathy:

    Make room within thy bright clear eyes, for all its gathered tears.

    And so the grateful isles

    Shall give thee back their smiles,

    And as thy mother joys in thee, in them shalt thou rejoice;

    Rejoice to meekly bow

    A somewhat paler brow,

    While the King of Kings shall bless thee by the British people’s voice!