The Strength To Be [poem by Grant Hervey]

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

The Strength To Be

I heard the march of a Nation’s feet as Australia’s pride went by,
And my heart was thrilled with a stronger beat, and a glad tear dimmed each eye ;
For this was the dream of my younger days, my vision of strength to be,
And my soul-chords sang like a harp of praise, with an anthem brave and free !
As the Young Guard passed with a martial tread, that challenged the base and mean,
I cried “All Hail !” and I bared my head to Australia’s war machine.
And it seemed to me that the Nation’s soul rang forth in a major key —
“We have turned our face to a nobler goal ; we are marching, God, with Thee !”

Then planet and star and the farthest sun blazed out in an echoing hymn —
“Ye have turned your backs on the creeds fore-done, and the crutch-faithed gospels dim !
Ye have raised the flag of a nation just — ye have spurned with a strong man’s heel
This niddering crew with its feckless trust ! Ye have girded tempered steel !
Now this is the law of the ages all, that life for a land begins
When it grasps the steel at the danger call and turns from its faithless sins !
And this is the law of our Captain, God, that only the strong shall thrive —
In the days when the bolts are lightning-shod, ye shall save your land alive !”

Then the Nation’s voice, in a stronger key, pealed forth to the farthest star —
“We have turned our face to our destiny from the racecourse revel far !
We have gripped our Steel with a Strong Man’s trust in the work that is ours to do —
We have grasped our Task as a nation must, for the girding years be few.
We have wasted years of our grasping-time — with fingers slackened and slow,
We have toyed with life and its tasks sublime — hark now how the bugles blow !
For this is the proof of our stronger zeal, and trebled the proof shall be
When our shipyards clamour with turret and keel, and the rail joins sea with sea !”

From planet and star and the farthest sun came echoing forth “All hail !
And ye are the kith of the breed once spun from each English shire and dale !
Yea, ye are the kin of the pauper breed that whines at the name of steel.
Whilst our kinsmen cringe in the hour of need, ye are arming the Commonweal !
Lo, this is the law of the ages all, that the seed such Empires sow
Is reaped in tears when the bugles call and the brazen trumpets blow !
Yea, that is the law of our Captain, God — that only the Strong Lands thrive,
And only the weak shall kiss the rod and bow ’neath fetter and gyve !”

I heard the drums of Australia beat. As they echo around this sphere ;
I would weave a psalm of my faith complete that our crutch-faithed kin may hear !
I would hail my dream of the Younger Days, ere the Prodigal’s course was run,
Ere this land had turned from its husk-strewn ways (I, too, was a Prodigal Son !)
Shall the Young Guard pass with its martial tread, that challenges all things mean ? —
Shall England hearken ? — her faith is dead, and vain is her war-machine !
Has she turned her back on the noblest goal ? Is she marching, God, with Thee ?
I only know that MY Nation’s Soul is endowed with Thy Strength to Be !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 223-226

Editor’s notes:
gyve = a U-shaped piece of metal secured with a metal pin or bolt across the opening, usually used to shackle the leg of a prisoner or slave

niddering = (archaic) coward, a wretch

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