"Be British" Titanic poem


MFarry

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Aug 21, 2012
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Hello, I'm researching poems in newspapers in Sligo, Ireland 1912-1923 and found one entitled "Be British" by Fidelis in Sept 1912 re the Titanic. These newspapers include poems written by locals but also poems taken from other sources, newspapers etc, often not mentioning the source. I suspect this is one of the latter but I've googled but can't find any reference to the poem online. Anyone know anything about it? Five verses only.

I.
Proudly the great ship night and day
Swept on, with a conqueror’s pride,
Fearing nought that could check her way,
Unheeding of wind or tide.
But, slow and cold, from the ice-bound shores
Moves the berg, in its silent might,
Till its sword strikes through to the good ship core,
In the calm of the April night.

III.
“Be British!”￾ the call with its mystic spell,
Thrills the hearts so brave and true;
To honour the name they love so well,
How much would they dare and do!
Now, ’tis theirs to die—in that dear name—
And His—Who died to save,
The helpless and weak. They own the claim,
And yield Him the life He gave.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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You might be confusing it with a song. The chorus begins " Be British was the cry as the ship went down."

Stand To Your Post / Be British

I've never seen this other verse.
 

MFarry

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Aug 21, 2012
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Thanks. It doesn't read like a music hall song and there's no chorus.
Here is the full poem as it was printed in the newspaper.


“BE BRITISH.”

Captain Smith called through his megaphone, “Be British,” and that became the rallying cry of officers and men.

I.
Proudly the great ship night and day
Swept on, with a conqueror’s pride,
Fearing nought that could check her way,
Unheeding of wind or tide.
But, slow and cold, from the ice-bound shores
Moves the berg, in its silent might,
Till its sword strikes through to the good ship core,
In the calm of the April night.

II.
And a thousand, and more, in manhood’s flower,
Gallant and strong and brave,
Yield their chances of life in that awful hour,
To the weak they must help and save!
Braver than fiercest battle cry
The Captain’s voice rings clear:
“Be British!” and silent acts reply,
Better than answering cheer.

III.
“Be British!” the call with its mystic spell,
Thrills the hearts so brave and true;
To honour the name they love so well,
How much would they dare and do!
Now, ’tis theirs to die–in that dear name–
And His–Who died to save,
The helpless and weak. They own the claim,
And yield Him the life He gave.

IV.
Round the wide world the tale is told–
How duty is no dream–
How British courage ne’er grows cold
In the stress of a need supreme!
How a glory nobler than that of strife
Lights our banners undefiled,
When the rich and the poor alike give life
For the woman and the child!

V.
“Be British!” ’mid the changing hopes and fears
The words keep their passion still,
That God hath wrought through the storied years,
His mission to fulfil;
And never–when passing from thought to lip–
May their impulse lower fall
Than that which breathed through their stricken ship,
In the Captain’s midnight call.

–Fidelis.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
If the poem is not by Lawrence Wright, or indeed any other (relatively) well known poet or music hall performer, I would suggest that the "Be British" poem could well have emanated from the County Sligo area. There would be no contradiction, in 1912, in a citizen of undivided, 32-county Ireland celebrating (if that is the word) his or her British citizenship, and indeed there are several examples of Irish poets writing patriotic British songs or poems - an obvious example being "The Burial of Sir John Moore" by the Reverend Charles Wolfe, although there are other examples, such as "The Forging of the Anchor" by Samuel Ferguson.
 

MFarry

Member
Aug 21, 2012
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Indeed yes, Stanley. It was published in the Sligo Independent which would have regarded itself as a unionist newspaper reflecting a non-Nationalist, anti-Home Rule point of view. The same newspaper was reporting a strong anti-Home Rule campaign by the unionists of county Sligo at the time. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary I will have to assume that it was locally composed.
 

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