What Say the Reeds at Runnymede?

Rudyard Kipling  (1865-1936)

A poem commemorating the signing of Magna Carta Runnymede, Surrey, June 15, 1215



At Runnymede, at Runnymede,

What say the reeds at Runnymede?

The lissom reeds that give and take,

That bend so far, but never break,

They keep the sleepy Thames awake

With tales of John at Runnymede.


At Runnymede, at Runnymede,

Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:

'You musn't sell, delay, deny,

A freeman's right or liberty.

It wakes the stubborn Englishry,

We saw 'em roused at Runnymede!


When through our ranks the Barons came,

With little thought of praise or blame,

But resolute to play the game,

They lumbered up to Runnymede;

And there they launched in solid line

The first attack on Right Divine,

The curt uncompromising "Sign!'

They settled John at Runnymede.


At Runnymede, at Runnymede,

Your rights were won at Runnymede!

No freeman shall be fined or bound,

Or dispossessed of freehold ground,

Except by lawful judgment found

And passed upon him by his peers.

Forget not, after all these years,

The Charter signed at Runnymede.'


And still when mob or Monarch lays

Too rude a hand on English ways,

The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,

Across the reeds at Runnymede.

And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,

And crowds and priests and suchlike things,

Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings

Their warning down from Runnymede!



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