Io ! [poem by Grant Hervey, 11 January 1903]

[Editor: A poem by Grant Hervey, published in his “Cuts and Carvings” column in The Sunday Times (Perth, WA).]

Io !

The Romans had a Feast Day —
A day they called Io !
It was no solemn priest-day,
No time of holy woe.
It was a time of laughing —
No day of psalters wan ;
It was a day for quaffing
The rich Falernian !
It was a day of waving
The red wine-bowl on high ;
It was no time for slaving
By altar-rail or knaving —
Their temple was the sky !

It was a day of riot —
A day of Lips and Love ;
When gods abashed and quiet
Leant o’er the clouds above,
To watch the Roman people
Hold their great holiday,
Hid not ’neath roof nor steeple,
But ’mid sweet vines and hay !
It was a day of singing —
A time of gladsome song !
It was a day of clinging —
Of lips and arms a-stinging —
A time of happy wrong !

The Romans had no morals,
And made their godless mirth ;
They sang their sinful chorals —
And went and won the earth !
They ate and drank and passioned,
They clutched and kissed aflame ;
They sang their song old-fashioned,
And Io was its name !
Oh. Io ! Io ! Io !
O, Romans dead and gone !
O, swarthy men of Scio,
Ye did not cringe nor cry — O !
Ye were no psalmsters wan !

Your nation was your glory,
By Tiber and by Po ! —
On hill and promontory ?
Ye sang your song Io !
Your eyes upon your galleys
Ye drank with souls a-shine ! —
Sing O the ringing valleys
Sing O the splashing wine !
Sing of the sturdy yeomen,
And sing the happy maids !
Your great full-breasted women —
Your routed, screaming foemen
A-fly before your blades !

It was their yearly outing —
Their banquet of the spring !
It was their time of shouting —
Their time to dance and sing !
When Io-song grew quiet
The Romans went to war !

Each man a grim patriot,
His country’s fame his star !
With jaws shut hard, a-clenching,
To battle they did go !
No faces pale or blenching —
No human hope of quenching
The hearts that sang Io !

The Romans had a feast day —
Ye Australs want one, too ;
No sombre, slaving priest-day —
A Day to Drink and Do !
Ye want a day for braving,
Your red-wine bowl on high ;
Ye need a day for waving
Your Own Flag ’gainst the sky !
Ye want a day for singing —
A day to shout Io !
Ye need a day for flinging
All creeds to wind a-winging,
Then War-ward, Australs, Go !

Ye have a war before you —
Work’s hard and long campaign !
Fight, Australs, fight ! — and o’er you
The gods will snide again !
I pray you rise and humble
The desert’s rebel heart ;
I long to hear the rumble
Of mid-Australian mart !
I long to hear the thunder
Blown from the guns of trade !
To hear the earth shake under
When ye shall rise and plunder
Your lands per steel and spade !

I long to see you fighting
In field and factory ;
I yearn to see you lighting
With ships the dark night sea !
I yearn to see ye victors —
To see Trade’s banners wave,
Like grim Australian lictors
Above dead Britains grave !
I bring you, then, this ballad
To set your heart’s aglow !
Your present song rings pallid —
Its notes are falsely allied —
It’s title is, “I — OWE !”

The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 11 January 1903, page 12

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