"An Ode [Rule, Britannia]"
By James Thomson and Thomas Arne

Correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Students and Staff of Marymount University, Tonya Howe
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Sources

London : A. Millar, 1740This song was originally included in the three-act masque, Alfred, by James Thomson and David Mallet, published by A. Millar. It was set to music by Thomas Arne. The musical score was first printed in 1741, as a supplement to The Music in the Judgement of Paris, in London, by Henry Waylett. The score can be viewed via the IMSLP Petrucchi Music Archive at http://vmirror.imslp.org/files/imglnks/usimg/9/96/IMSLP284937-PMLP146712-Arne_Rule_Britannia.pdf.Page images are drawn from the libretto, available on Google Books at https://www.google.com/books/edition/Alfred_a_Masque/OR3haEgISR8C.For more information on the 1740 text, see the English Short Title Catalog at http://estc.bl.uk/T21215.Oxford, UK: Oxford Text Archive, Thomson, James, 1700-1748. and Mallet, David, 1705?-1765., 2007, Alfred: a masque: Represented before Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, at Cliffden, on the first of August, 1740., Oxford Text Archive, http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12024/K030406.000.

Editorial Statements

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Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section.


Citation

Thomson, James. "An Ode [Rule, Britannia]". Alfred: A Masque, A. Millar, 1740 , pp 42-43 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Thomson/thomson-rule. Accessed: 2024-04-18T00:27:04.362Z

Linked Data: Places related to this work.

[TP for Alfred: A Masque] 42 An ODE. [Rule, Britannia] 1. 1When Britain first, at heaven's command, 2Arose from out the azure mainmain; mainAccording to the OED (main, n.5a), the "main" is the open sea--the azure or blue sea, in this case. - [TH] 3This was the chartercharter of the land, charterA charter is a founding document, but more specifically, a document from a sovereign source "granting privileges to, or recognizing the rights of,...certain classes" or groups of people (OED, n.1a). What entity grants these rights in the poem? - [TH] 4And guardian Angels sung this strain: 5"Rule Britanniabritannia, rule the waves; britanniaOil painting of 'The East Offering Its Riches to Britannia' (1778)Source: Spridone, 'The East Offering Its Riches to Britannia' (1778)Britannia is a figurative, allegorical representation of Britain as a female warrior carrying a trident and a sheild, often accompanied by a lion. The trident is the weapon of Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea, and in the 19th century, she became a vivid symbol of empire. We might keep in mind the role that white femininity might play in "civilizing" others. In the 1778 painting shown here, we see an unhelmeted Britannia accepting offerings from "the East" (The East Offering its Richest to Britannia, via Wikipedia). - [TH] 6"Britons never will be slaves." 2. 7The nations, not so blest as thee, 8Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall: 9While thou shalt flourish great and free, 10The dread and envy of them all. 11"Rule, &c. 3. 12Still more majestic shalt thou rise, 13More dreadful, from each foreign stroke: 14As the loud blast that tears the skies, 15Serves but to root thy native oakoak.oakThe native English oak tree (quercus robur) has long been a symbol of strength and justice ("Oak Symbolism in the Light of Genomics"). - [TH] 16"Rule, &c. 4. 17Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame: 18All their attempts to bend thee down, 19Will but arrouse thy generous flame; 20But work their woe, and thy renown. 21"Rule, &c. 43 5. 22To thee belongs the rural reign; 23Thy cities shall with commerce shine: 24All thine shall be the subject main, 25And every shore it circles thine. 26"Rule, &c. 6. 27The Muses, still with freedom found, 28Shall to thy happy coast repair: 29Blest isle! with matchless beauty crown'd, 30And manly hearts to guard the fair. 31"Rule, Britannia, rule the waves: 32"Britons never will be slaves.

Footnotes

main_According to the OED (main, n.5a), the "main" is the open sea--the azure or blue sea, in this case.
charter_A charter is a founding document, but more specifically, a document from a sovereign source "granting privileges to, or recognizing the rights of,...certain classes" or groups of people (OED, n.1a). What entity grants these rights in the poem?
britannia_Oil painting of 'The East Offering Its Riches to Britannia' (1778)Source: Spridone, 'The East Offering Its Riches to Britannia' (1778)Britannia is a figurative, allegorical representation of Britain as a female warrior carrying a trident and a sheild, often accompanied by a lion. The trident is the weapon of Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea, and in the 19th century, she became a vivid symbol of empire. We might keep in mind the role that white femininity might play in "civilizing" others. In the 1778 painting shown here, we see an unhelmeted Britannia accepting offerings from "the East" (The East Offering its Richest to Britannia, via Wikipedia).
oak_The native English oak tree (quercus robur) has long been a symbol of strength and justice ("Oak Symbolism in the Light of Genomics").