Thomas Arne
(1710 - 1778)

Arne : The Wooden Walls of England : illustration

The Wooden Walls of England
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Arne's glee (published posthumously in 1780) used the text, slightly adapted, of the poem written and first published by Henry Green whilst purser of HMS Ramillies.
Lyrics: Henry Green

When Britain, on her sea-girt shore,
Her ancient druids erst address'd;
"What aid" she cry'd "shall I implore,
What best defence, by numbers press'd?"
"Tho' hostile nations round thee rise,"
The mystic oracles reply'd
"And view thine isle with envious eyes;
Their threats defy, their rage deride,
Nor fear invasions from your adverse Gauls:
Britain's best bulwarks are her wooden walls."

"Thine oaks descending to the main,
With floating forts shall stem the tides,
Asserting Britain's liquid reign
Where'er her thundering navy rides:
Nor less to peaceful arts inclin'd,
Where commerce opens all her stores,
In social bands will league mankind,
And join the sea-divided shores:
Spread then thy sails where naval glory calls:
Britain's best bulwarks are her wooden walls."

"Hail, happy isle! what tho' thy vales
No vine-impurpled tribute yield,
Nor fann'd with odour-breathing gales,
Nor crops spontaneous glad the field:
Yet liberty rewards the toil
Of industry, to labour prone,
Who jocund ploughs the grateful soil,
And reaps the harvest she has sown.
While other realms tyrannic sway enthralls,
Britain's best bulwarks are her wooden walls."