The Song of the Younger Men by C.J. Dennis

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The Old men sit at the Council, craft and wise with years
Mouthing the Old Men's proverbs, filled with the Old Men's fears;
And they tell of a young land's folly, of a nation mad with haste,
   As they hark back to an ancient day
When that land was named a waste.
And the grey heads nod together, as they speak of a strange unrest --
To the Old Man, done with striving, peace ever seems the best --
And they seek to stay with a precept, with the stroke of a futile pen,
   With a sounding phrase from the olden days
The march of the Younger Men.

Son of a Scottish crofter, son of an English hind,
Son of an Irish rebel - seed of the venturing kind -
Here is a tie to bind us; here is a bond shall hold:
This is the land we know and love, scorning the things of old!
Naught of an old land calls us - highland, or meadow, or fen.
Ours is the voice of the Nation!  Way for Younger Men!

For ye of the older order let there be fitting praise.
We pay our meed to our fathers and the labor of their days.
They ventured, as brave men venture, out of a Northern clime
   In a goodly cause; and they lived by laws
Wrought in an olden time.
But we are the country's children; we are the Nation's own;
And the hope of our hearts is ever with the land where we have grown.
Ye have fashioned and planned and figured by an ancient rule o' thumb;
   Ye have cleared the way; ye have served your day;
Now have the Builders come!

Out of the Isles of Britain, Germany, Finland, France,
They came - yet half regretting, with many a backward glance;
They carved them a place for their children by the work of their strong, brave hands;
   Toiled with a will and a manly skill
Learned in the older lands.
But ever their hearts were yearning for a scene of the olden kind;
And ever their eyes were turning to the land that they left behind;
And ever a vague hope held them that once, ere they went to rest,
   They would journey again to the valley, the plain,
In the land they loved the best.

And all that they fashioned and builded, all that they planned and wrought
Was after the ancient model, in the way that their fathers taught.
And the Old World's modes and customs, and the Old World's feuds and spites
   Have they fostered here full many a year;
But the Young Men claim their rights.
For the Young Men wait impatient while the Old Men linger yet
Maundering still at the Council of the things they will not forget.
We are tired of their brawls and wrangles, tired of their percepts sage;
   But the knell is toiled of the order old
When the Young Man comes of age.

For their vision, so dulled and blunted by the bounds of the older land,
Saw naught of the new land's vastness, naught of its promise grand.
Cooped in their crowded cities built by the ocean's rim,
   Naught cared they for lands away
Back in the distance dim.
But we of the clearer vision, we of the broader view
Chafe at the Old World's shackles, longing to build anew.
Out o'er the rolling spaces, there is our young gaze bent.
   And our eyes are wide with a brave young pride -
Viewing a continent.

Still do the greybeards linger, mouthing their platitudes,
Clinging to dead traditions, cherishing old-time feuds;
And the bland, unfaithful statesman, seeking their cause to guard,
   With a sophist's tongue would cheat the young....
Oh, the ways of the old die hard!
And the grey heads wag their warning, and the old heads shake with fear,
And the old tongues con the wisdom of a sage of yester-year.
But the hearts of the Young are gladdened with a vision beyond their ken;
   And the land around shall a slogan sound --
'Tis the chant of the Younger Men!

We have winnowed your ancient wisdom, marking each fault and flaw,
We have noted the evil borrowed from the dregs of an olden law;
And we pledge our youth to the building in our great and glorious land,
   And the senile rage of a bygone age
Shall never delay our hand!
Had our fathers lagged in the old land, fearing the strange and new,
We had been hinds and peasants, helots and rebels too.
But we found in our own loved country, space for our souls to grow.
   Yield ye then to the Younger Men!
For the things of the old must go!

The Old Men sit at the Council, weary and sick with years,
Mouthing the Old Men's proverbs, filled with the Old Men's fears.
But the Young Men wait at the portal, and their cries shall never cease
   Nor the stress! the storm!  Oh, their veins run warm....
But the Old Men long for peace.
Way for the Nation Builders!  Way for the Younger men!
For our eyes have seen a vision that is far beyond your ken.
We are the New Land's children, proud of a nation's birth!
   And the New, White Race shall take her place
'Mid the Peoples of the Earth!

Son of a Scottish crofter, son of an English hind,
Son of an Irish rebel - here is a tie shall bind:
We are the Land's own people: we of the native born!
Here is a land we know and love; and the feuds of old we scorn!
Naught of the Old World calls us - highland, or meadow, or fen.
Ours is the Voice of the Nation!  Way for the Younger Men!

First published in The Bulletin, 2 July 1914

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 2, 2013 6:22 AM.

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