James Thomson’s “Rule, Britannia!” is a patriotic poem now better known as a song. The poem praises Britain and its role as a colonial power.
The poem has the form of a song, with six four-line stanzas or verses, each followed by a repeated two-line chorus. Internally, it follows a simple linear composition, listing various ways in which Britain is supposedly superior to other nations.
In its original context as part of a musical play, the poem has a third person collective speaker: a chorus of British citizens praising their nation. The setting of the original play is the reign of King Alfred the Great in 878 AD, but the poem also clearly refers to the actions of the British empire around the time of the poem’s composition in 1740.
The language of the poem is written in a formal and patriotic style. The speaker uses a variety of poetic devices to express a message about the greatness of the British nation, including personification, metaphor, and hyperbole.