“Rolling Her Home” [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]

“Rolling Her Home”

Clawing the miles with her space-spurning pistons,
Shaking the earth with tyrannical tread ;
Sinking her fangs in the heart of the distance —
Sleepers a-jump in the “permanent” bed !
Stars glowing red in the zenith above her,
Towns lying dim in the distance behind ;
Heeding the voice of the captains who love her —
Thinking herself with a logical mind !

Urging her, surging her, making her rattle,
Punching the gradients straight in the eye ;
Cohorts of cars rushing forward to battle —
Trail of our smoke hanging over the sky!
Grabbing her, jabbing her, making her hustle,
Roaring through cuttings with steep sides of chrome ;
Steam hurtling strength through each shining muscle,
Lo ! we go thundering — Rolling Her Home !

Firebars half-molten and coal swinging doorward,
Fishplates complaining to quivering rails ;
Rushing her, pushing her, hurling her forward —
Flogging the earth with her merciless flails !
Freight at the back of us — every man Jack of us
Gripping her close with a lover’s regard ;
Lo ! the mechanic now thunders Titanic now,
And all the high heavens wax wondrously starred !

Aiming her, flaming her : while the stars gleam at us,
Bringing her up to the crest of each hill ;
Slinging her down with a roaring, red impetus —
Ramming her, jamming her, cramming her still !
Goading her, loading her, making her shiver,
Notching her up till she shakes her steam-dome ;
Flying grey bridges o’er valley and river,
Lo ! we go clamouring — Rolling Her Home !

Back to the hives again — home to our wives again —
Ho ! the blue shirts in the railway-man’s yard ;
Back to the coast again, proving our boast again —
Running our trip by the literal card !
On time to the second, and bearings all rhythmical,
Chanting a rune in their rolling delight ;
Spectres may beckon, and Satan’s own kith may call —
Triumphant we flash through the thicket of night !

Lashing her, crashing her ; footplates a-clatter —
Cranks swinging forward in maniac haste ;
Leaving the darkness and silence a-shatter —
The former in twain and the latter effaced !
Gigantic and frantic, she sways in her agony,
Her cars all a-beat like a vast metronome :
Driving her on in her mighty protagony,
Lo ! we go gallantly — Rolling Her Home !

Greasy old “blues” hanging limply upon us,
Faces embellished with coal-dust and sweat ;
With lip-curls and sneerings the swell-folk may con us,
But we hold dominion o’er all the world yet !
Majestic we march on the footplates in glory,
Our sceptre the age-gripping Westinghouse brake ;
And where is the song, the romance, and the story
To better the song that we leave in our wake ?

Flinging her, swinging her — hark ! how she thunders ! —
Tearing exultantly down the long grade;
Machine-god incarnate) and chiefest of wonders
That man with his brain and his muscle hath made !
Lifting her, shifting her — lo ! we go roaring —
Embankment a-quiver through gravel and loam ;
Controlling her, rolling her, sending her soaring,
Spurning space, churning space — Rolling Her Home !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 235-238

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