Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

The Old Land And The Young Land - Poem by Alfred Austin

The Young Land said, ``I have borne it long,
But can suffer it now no more;
I must end this endless inhuman wrong
Within hail of my own free shore.
So fling out the war-flag's folds, and let the righteous cannons roar!''

'Twas a quick, rash word, for the strong Young Land
Is a Land whose ways are peace;
It weareth no mail, and its keels are manned
With cotton, and corn, and fleece,
While lands there are that live cased in steel, and whose war-hammers never cease.

And these, when they saw the Young Land gird
Its loins to redress the wrong,
Whispered one to the other, ``Its heart is stirred,
But its hosts are an undrilled throng,
And its bolts yet to forge, so quick let us strike before that it grows too strong.''

And they said to the Old Land, ``Surely you
Will help us to foil its claim?
It waxeth in strength, as striplings do,
And it girds at its parent's name.
Take heed lest its overweening growth overshadow your fading fame.''

Then the Old Land said, ``Youth is strong and quick,
And Wisdom is strong but mild;
And blood than water is yet more thick,
And this Young Land is my child.
I am proud, not jealous, to watch it grow.''
Thus the Old Land spake and smiled.

``And look you,'' it said, ``at the strong Young Land
Strike for Freedom and Freedom's growth;
Which makes 'twixt us twain, though unsigned by hand,
A bond strong as lovers' troth.
So 'ware what you do, for, if you strike, you will strike not one, but both.''

Then they fretted and chafed; for, though shod in steel,
Their war-tread stops at the shore,
While the Old Land's breath is the breath of the gale,
And its music the wave-wind's roar.
Then they hated the Young Land's youth and strength, but they hated the Old Land more.

Now the Old Land, in turn, for Freedom's Cause
Speeds her sons to the Southern zone,
They snarl, ``Let us clip the Lion's claws,
The Lion that stands alone;
And harry her lair, and spear her cubs, and sit on the Lion's throne.''

And the Young Land laughs: ``With her foamsteeds fleet,
I guess she's a match for you all.
She hath saddled the sea, and more firm her seat
Than yours, that would ride for a fall,
If you put all your fighting force afield, and charged at her watery wall.

``But if ever, hemmed in by a world of foes,
Her sinews were sorely tried,
By the self-same blood in our veins that flows,
You would find me at her side,
So long as she strikes for the Cause for which her sons and my sons have died.''

And thus let it be until wrong shall end,
This bond strong as lovers' troth,
'Twixt Old Land and Young Land, to defend
Man's freedom and freedom's growth,
So if any should band against either now, they must meet, not one, but both!


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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