Known to Vikings, Romans, Normans and the rest,
A landing ground before Jesus and Mohammed,
And the many medieval English kings were born,
Old England was by the settlement of Hastings bless’d,
With its ancient beach-launched fishing fleet,
With other ports for the defence of the realm allied.
Threats from foreign ships to meet,
And shield us from our enemies upon ‘the other side’,
Of that great channel which we bold defended,
In past times from Spanish, French and Dutch,
All of whom from time to time we sore offended,
By our kingdom’s colonialism and piracy, as such.
Who trod the streets and worked and worshipped,
In the ancient churches of what is now our Old Town?
For popular it was in those far-off days when,
Britannia under Stuart, Orange and Hanover ruled,
Seas and lands a world away from Marine Parade,
Rock-Nore, High Street, All Saints, (with its many shops), Winding Street, Tackleway and Bourne.
A frightening, long and uncomfortable journey,
In the postcoach from the Swan Inn to London -
Or a still more dangerous voyage down the Thames,
And round the coast as did the merchants’ ships,
Like the Cutter and London Trader that supplied the town, albeit known to highwaymen, the Hawkhurst gang,
And sundry smugglers, robbers and other desperados
Keen to do the innocent traveller harm or worse...
Illustrious names, known throughout the civilized world,
As the scene of the pivotal Battle of Hastings,
Blessed by the Holy Becket,
Loved by Logie-Baird,
Charmed by Churchill,
Adopted by Ashburnham,
Despised by Defoe (1722),
Beloved of Belloc, Lamb and Byron,
Visited by Victoria and Albert,
Excited by Empress Eugenie,
Lived in by Louis Napoleon,
Frequented by Faraday,
Cursed by Crowley,
Enjoyed by Eliot and Spencer,
Mortified by Morley (1643),
Deceived by Dawson and De Chardin,
Reached by a Romanov,
Renowned for Ranier and Rosetti,
Proud of Potter and her Mice,
Grateful to Grey Owl,
Watched over by Wellesley-Wellington,
And Cloudsley Shovell’s mother,
Long before the days when Fish and Ships
Became Fish and Chips…
Bruce Nicol BA
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