The Joy of Life [poem by Grant Hervey]

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

The Joy of Life

I have starved my day, and have known bad luck ;
I have drudged as the meanest drudge ;
But I set my face to the Forward Path, and from it I did not budge !
I have spilt my sweat in the rolling-mill ; I have toiled at the flaming forge ;
And my axe has made the great gums thrill ere they crashed in the mountain-gorge.
In the red-screened shade of the fever-ward I have fought my fights with Death,
But I cried, “Good luck to the rolling world !” with my faintest, dearest breath.
I knew that the man with a steadfast heart need not go down in the race,
So I fought my fight with a constant smile and never a sullen face.
Aye, I did not whine in my poverty, and I did not quit the strife ;
For my heart vibrated with the chords of the Song of the Joy of Life !

In the toil and sweat of my younger days I knew that a time would come
When I’d press the throat of the thing called Fate with a master’s despot thumb.
And to-day I say, in a ringing line of proud, exultant truth,
That success is sure for the heart that throbs with the spirit of living youth !
Ha ! the Joy of Life is a splendid thing, and blest is the heart that beats
With the rolling lilt of its melody in the bush or the city’s streets.
I have hewn my way as a man must hew, and my gaze goes forward still,
And I want all the world to march with me and to work with a rigid will !
Aye, I want to march with a standard fresh, and the music of drum and fife,
And to lead a legion whose battle-hymn is the Song of the Joy of Life !

For the girls are good to a man, I find, if a genuine Man he be,
And I kiss now the hands of womankind as a pledge of my fealty.
For no man lives but a woman’s love may better his talents yet —
Aye, may help him on to the distant star where his heart’s desire is set.
They may sneer at Love in the smoking-rooms where the sapless cynics dwell,
But the man who knows not the sweets of Love is a monk in a dead man’s cell.
The weft of dreams is the golden hair that shines on a woman’s head,
And I know no joy like a girl’s glad kiss when the sun is sinking red.
By that mother of mine who gave me birth, by my sister and some one’s wife,
I say that a woman’s far-reaching love makes much of the Joy of Life !

And this is the message I bring to you — you may heed it or leave it alone —
Lo, the man with a steadfast goal in view, that man is a king on a throne !
If the gods have given him health and strength — let the sails of Ambition fill ! —
He is bound to drive to success at last by the force of his own strong will !
If he does not sink in the ditch of Drink — if he scorns to complain at Fate,
He will win his way to the top, I say — and will earn each failure’s hate.
They will sneer and jeer as he passes by — as I trust they will sneer at me —
There was never a sneer I cared for yet, and contempt is gratis and free.
So disdain the tribe, young painter or scribe, and push on while your brain is rife ;
You will reach success in the end, I guess — so have faith in the Joy of Life !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 78-81

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