Poem: ‘Homage From British Expats’

Thou noble, purest British race!
Thy children we,
Inheriting thy every trace;
From thy straight back, unmoving face,
We learn the truest social grace,

To thee the new is never good,
’Tis duty shirked.
Thou’dst never think, and much less brood;
Thou duty-bound eatst wooden food;
Thou ever ramrod-straight hast stood,
And never worked.

Britain! Served on a silver tray
Thine Empire’s tea –
Respectfully we beg to say
We praise thee, but we cannot stay,
We have our duty far away,
Escaping thee.


This is the third of the poems recently published by Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, and I’m pleased at how different the three of them are. ‘Ultimate Control’ is a Science Fiction sonnet, ‘Ticking Away’ is a meditation on time, life and death, and this one was written almost 50 years ago in reaction against (some aspects of) being sent to boarding school in England.

A little personal context: I was raised as an expat in the Bahamas by my Danish father and English mother. After five years of Church of England primary boarding school in Jamaica (when at least I came home three times a year) I went to England for five more years of boarding school, and came home rarely. The countryside setting of Stowe was delightful, and I got a good education with a lot of poetry, and I learned sarcasm. It all uprooted me from being fully Bahamian, but failed to make me fully English. In the 1970s the Bahamas didn’t want me and I didn’t want England. So… Denmark, then Canada, then the US, and finally the Bahamas again as a foreign resident. I have been an expat all my life – and frequently sarcastic about it.

The poem is a nonce form – I used to produce them easily in my 20s, I wish I still did. It’s in iambics rhyming ABAAAB, with four feet to the A lines and only two to the B lines – the last line of each verse being a punch line and the shortness of the line helping strengthen that effect.

Image” by spock-ola is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


2 thoughts on “Poem: ‘Homage From British Expats’

  1. Alan

    It sounds like you have traveled around a lot. What did you think of your time in the US? I am interested in your poetry studies in England. Which poets did you study? Were you required to write many poems? Did you read or translate any poems in other languages? About a year ago, I found an old book published in about 1890 called “The Victorian Anthology.” It has some interesting poems, including one about the British Empire by Oscar Wilde.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robin Helweg-Larsen Post author

    Lots of travels, Alan – 50 or 60 countries, worked or studied in 8 of them. Poetry was part of my childhood; my last two years of high school in England were focused on only three subjects for ‘A’ Levels: English, French and Spanish language and literature – so Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Racine, Corneille, Lope de Vega, Calderon (playwrights used to use verse for ease of memorization), Arnold, Verlaine, Eliot, Cummings, Lorca, Frost, Prevert, Dylan Thomas and many more.

    Liked by 2 people


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