Saxon Grit (1880?)

by Robert Collyer (1823-1912)

[variants marked in brackets]

Worn with the battle, by Stamford town,
Fighting the Norman[s] 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 [Humber to Tyne],
Made the freemen serfs by the stroke of the pen [of his 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 [yeomen] 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,
That [This] jolly old rogue with the Saxon grit.

And Kent the tanner whip’t out his knife,
And Wat the Tyler [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 this [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 pen,
Fearless as ever of what might befall,
Poring out life for the nature of men
In the faith that by manhood the world views all.
Inventing baked beans and no end of machines,
Great with the rifle and great with the axe.
Sounding their motions 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 the 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.

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