19th Century

Welcome to the Refugees (1851) | W.L. Costine

During the nineteenth century the United Kingdom became home to a number of European refugees who fled political persecution. Although the history of British imperialism might seem to imply that all Victorians were racist and xenophobic (and Victorians have been wrongly characterised as such on occasion), this was certainly not the case—especially amongst the British working classes, many of whom, engaged in their own campaign for political rights (Chartism), welcomed these refugees. One working-class poet’s welcoming attitude is apparent in this poem, written by W.L. Costine in 1850, was originally published in George Julian Harney’s left wing magazine Friend of the People (renamed from the Red Republican).[1]

Welcome to the Refugees

Freedom’s Soldiers! welcome! come,

               And share with us Britannia‘s home;

No further from your country roam,

               Pursued by heartless tyranny.

Your daring deeds, in freedom’s cause,

               Have won or you the world’s applause,

And from our hearts, approving draws

               The greetings of fraternity.

And Britain’s sons, with generous heart,

               Shall act a true and faithful part,

And all the plans of tyrants thwart,

               And save you from their enmity.

And claim for you the Exile’s right,

               And foster here your strength and might,

Again to the glorious fight,

               For fatherland and liberty.

And like those men who fought of yore,

               On Bannockburn and Leman’s shore,

And liberty in triumph bore

               From off the field of victory.

So, yet, success shall crown your aim,

               And freedom’s pure and sacred flame

Will shine a halo round your name,

               And light you to posterity.

[1] W.L. Costine, ‘Welcome to the Refugees’, Friend of the People, 17 May 1851, 204.