Robert Collyer

(1823-1912 / USA)

Saxon Grit


Worn with the battle, by Stamford town,
Fighting the Norman by Hastings Bay,
Harold, the Saxon's sun went down,
While the acorns were falling one Autumn day.
Then the Norman said, 'I am Lord of the land;
By tenure of conquest here I sit;
I will rule you now with the iron hand'--
But he had not thought of the Saxon grit.

He took the land, and he took the men,
And burnt the homesteads from Trent to Tyne,
Made the freemen serfs by the stroke of the pen,
Eat up the corn, and drank the wine,
And said to the maiden pure and fair,
'Thou shalt be my leman, as is most fit;
Your Saxon churl may rot in his lair'--
But he had not measured the Saxon grit.

To the merry green wood went bold Robin Hood,
With his strong-hearted yeomanry ripe for the fray,
Driving the arrow into the marrow
Of all the proud Normans who came in his way;
Scorning the fetter, fearless and free,
Winning by valour or foiling by wit,
Dear to our Saxon folk ever is he,
This merry old rogue with the Saxon grit.

And Kent the tanner whipt out his knife,
And Watt the smith his hammer brought down
For ruth of the maid he loved better than life,
And by breaking a head made a hole in the Crown.
From the Saxon heart rose a mighty roar,
'Our life shall not be by the King's permit;
We will fight for the right; we want no more!'--
Then the Norman found out the Saxon grit.

For slow and sure as the oaks had grown
From the acorns falling that Autumn day,
So the Saxon manhood in thorpe and town
To a nobler stature grew alway.
Winning by inches, holding by clinches,
Standing by law and the human right,
Many times failing, never once quailing,
So the new day came out of the night.

Then rising afar in the Western sea
A new world stood in the morn of the day,
Ready to welcome the brave and the free
Who could wrench out the heart, and march away
From the narrow, contracted, dear old land,
Where the poor are held by a cruel bit,
To ampler spaces for heart and hand--
And here was a chance for the Saxon grit.

Steadily steering, eagerly peering,
Trusting in God, your fathers came,
Pilgrims and strangers, fronting all dangers,
Cool-headed Saxons with hearts aflame.
Bound by the letter, but free from the fetter,
And hiding their freedom in Holy Writ,
They gave Deuteronomy hints in economy,
And made a new Moses of Saxon grit.

They whittled, and waded, through forest and fen,
Fearless as ever of what might befall;
Pouring out life for the nature of men;
In the faith that by manhood the world wins all.
Inventing baked beans, and no end of machines;
Great with the rifle and great with the axe--
Sending their notions over the oceans,
To fill empty stomachs and straighten bent backs.

Swift to take chances that end in the dollar,
Yet open of hand when the dollar is made;
Maintaining the meet'n, exalting the scholar,
But a little too anxious about a good trade;
This is young Jonathan, son of old John,
Positive, peaceable, firm in the right;
Saxon men all of us, may we be one,
Steady for freedom, and strong in her might.

Then, slow and sure, as the oaks have grown
From the acorns that fell on that old dim day,
So this new manhood, in city and town,
To a nobler stature will grow alway;
Winning by inches, holding by clinches,
Slow to contention, and slower to quit,
Now and then failing, but never once quailing,
Let us thank God for the Saxon grit.

Submitted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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