John Boyle O'Reilly

(28 June 1844 - 10 August 1890 / Dowth Castle, County Meath)

Bone And Sinew And Brain - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly

YE white-maned waves of the Western Sea,
That ride and roll to the strand,
Ye strong-winged birds, never forced a-lee
By the gales that sweep toward land,
Ye are symbols of death, and of hope that saves,
As ye swoop in your strength and grace,
As ye roll to the land like the billowed graves
Of a past and puerile race.

Cry, 'Presto, change!' and the lout is lord,
With his vulgar blood turned blue;
Go dub your knight with a slap of a sword,
As the kings in Europe do;
Go grade the lines of your social mode
As you grade the palace wall,—
The people forever to bear the load,
And the gilded vanes o'er all.

But the human blocks will not lie as still
As the dull foundation stones,
But will rise, like a sea, with an awful will,
And ingulf the golden thrones;
For the days are gone when a special race
Took the place of the gilded vane;
And the merit that mounts to the highest place
Must have bone and sinew and brain.

Let the cant of ' the march of mind ' be heard,
Of the time to come, when man
Shall lose the mark of his brawn and beard
In the future's leveling plan:
'Tis the dream of a mind effeminate,
The whine for an easy crown;
There is no meed for the good and great
In the weakling's leveling down.

A nation's boast is a nation's bone,
As well as its might of mind;
And the culture of either of these alone
Is the doom of a nation signed.
But the cant of the ultra-suasion school
Unsinews the hand and thigh,
And preaches the creed of the weak to rule,
And the strong to struggle and die.

Our schools are spurred to the fatal race,
As if health were the nation's sin,
Till the head grows large, and the vampire face
Is gorged on the limbs so thin.
Our women have entered the abstract fields,
And avaunt with the child and home:
While the rind of science a pleasure yields
Shall they care for the lives to come?
And they ape the manners of manly times
In their sterile and worthless life,
Till the man of the future augments his crimes
With a raid for a Sabine wife.

Ho, white-maned waves of the Western Sea,
That ride and roll to the strand!
Ho, strong-winged birds, never blown a-lee
By the gales that sweep toward land!
Ye are symbols both of a hope that saves,
As ye swoop in your strength and grace,
As ye roll to the land like the billowed graves
Of a suicidal race.
Ye have hoarded your strength in equal parts;
For the men of the future reign
Must have faithful souls and kindly hearts,
And bone and sinew and brain.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 21, 2012



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