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For our Love Letters to London competition, we asked various friends of The London Society to write something for us, to provide inspiration for your own efforts.

This is Resurgam, or ‘London Rebounds In Rhyming Couplets’, by Matt Brown, editor at large of

When London burned (so it is said),
The streets were filled with molten lead.
The roof of Old St Paul’s decanted,
Through the nave, and there implanted.

Baked within this plumbum tide,
A stone was found, upon its side.
Its sole inscription, clear and plain:
“RESURGAM”: I shall rise again!

And so it did, with thanks to Wren,
The city was made whole again.
For London takes each purge and lysis,
A phoenix rising from each crisis.

Through every age, in diverse ways,
London feared the end of days.
A fire, a plague, a civil rot,
It’s been the story from year dot.

Cast back to when, aged just eighteen,
Our youthful town met vengeful queen.
Boudicca, with bold bloodlust,
Ground the Romans into dust.

The city was so roundly beat,
Its ash still lies beneath our feet.
But London built back broad and tall,
Engirdled by a city wall.

And so it stood, for years three hundred,
Prone to fire and often plundered.
But still, a most enduring home,
Until the legions fled to Rome.

Those left moved on, to safer land,
Rebuilt upstream in Aldwych, Strand.
The Roman town was left alone,
Londinium: a corpse of stone.

And so it skulked, for years four hundred,
Once-proud city walls were sundered.
Hogweed grew where, antemortem,
Rose the mighty Roman forum.

Until King Alfred, fresh from cake,
Urged his men, “Rebuild, remake!”.
The walls were patched with might and main,
“RESURGAM”: I shall rise again!

The city grew; a rock of ages,
Yet still fresh hells fall off the pages.
Viking raids, the clash of pennants;
Civil wars, revolting peasants.

Through it all, the town held fast,
Londoners are built to last.
This breed apart, resilient bunch,
Were now hit with a double punch.

First came plague, in ‘65,
Three in four were left alive.
Then came fire, in ‘66,
Londoners built back in bricks.

And so we reach the age of coal,
When steam usurped the human soul.
And foetid waters caused a stink,
There’s cholera in what you drink.

This noisome challenge was well met,
With help from Mr Bazalgette.
His sewers showed their excellence,
By fixing flows of feculence.  

The town refreshed, but then came war,
A threat above, not seen before.
First the Zeppelins, then the plane,
Then doodlebugs and rockets rain.

The streets are scoured, the buildings tumble,
Harmonic fear accords each rumble.
But old St Paul’s, it rises proud,
That mighty church will not be cowed.
What makes London yet rebound,
As Wren’s tomb tells us, “look around”.
With every bomb, with every pain,
“RESURGAM”: we shall rise again!

Twas ever thus, twill ever be,
We stretch again from buckled knee.
And so the confident refrain:
“RESURGAM”: we shall rise again!

Matt Brown is editor-at-large of, and author of several books including Everything You Know About London Is Wrong and the recently published Atlas of Imagined Places.

Write your own Love Letter to London - in poetry or prose - and you could win a share of £4,000. It's free to enter and you have until 30 November to get your entries in. Full details here.