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A SONG FOR MY FELLOWS, by             Poem Explanation         Poet's Biography
First Line: My brothers, in this great world of ours
Last Line: "or, failing, man-like will die!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): Brotherhood; Railroads; Railways; Trains

MY brothers, in this great world of ours
Our hearts have need to be strong,
And have in them, like shady nooks in a wood,
A shelter for stirring song.
So this snatch of wisdom from Goethe in mine
Is for ever speaking to me,
In the battle of life, from birth unto death—
"Thou must hammer or anvil be."

Hammer or anvil, so runs the rhyme,
To beat or be beaten upon—
Whether you stand in the first of the ranks,
Or be left in the rear alone.
But shame on that coward who, faint in his heart,
Would wish to slink from the fray,
Or could bend himself to each turn of the fight,
As a potter might fashion his clay.

Other way must this daily battle be fought,
With no craven heart in the breast,
But keeping keen eye on the colours ahead,
And shoulder and pace with the rest.
The bravest of all the fighters is he
Who, whatever chance may betide,
Can turn and fashion some battle-word
For his fellows on either side.

Then, brothers, let us rise up from our fears,
No anvils are we, but men
Who can wield the sledge-hammer, like mystic Thor,
For the daily battle again.
Let us strike, with an arm to the shoulder bare,
That the sinews may play in their might:
Let us strike for the manhood we feel within
And then we will strike for the right.

What truth in the fable we have from the Greek
(A fable is truth at white heat)
Of Hercules smiting the heads off the beast,
Till the monster lay dead at his feet.
It is still in this planet, wherever he tread,
God's own given mission to man,
That he watch for error uprearing her head
And strike wherever he can.

Then seize the sledge-hammer of mighty life,
Let the clanging blows resound;
He strikes the swiftest and surest of all
Who stands on no vantage-ground.
Let this earth of ours, then, from end to end,
Be the anvil steady and strong
Whereon we beat, in the sight of the gods,
The hundred heads of wrong.

What though others around thee turn from the fight
And chatter, a six-feet ape,
Heed them not, for they, too, stand on God's own earth,
But keep true to thyself and thy shape.
Life is earnest only to earnest men,
Sings the high pure Schiller, and so
Let them fashion the blocks of their own rough lives
To the models they worship below.

But he who can feel lying warm at his heart
The higher nature of man,
And can widen the link between us and the brute,
Let him boldly step to the van.
We will follow him on like a leader of old,
And echo his battle cry;
Make way for men that will work like men,
Or, failing, man-like will die.

Yes—the fight will be long, and the heart will droop,
For the ill will seem to win;
But look through the smoke to the goal ahead,
And fall back on the strength within.
Each point that you gain is a step in your life
To lift you nearer the throng
Who have fought and conquer'd, or hero-like died,
With their hands at the throat of some wrong.

Then, brothers, bring into this world's wide field
Firm heart and sure foot for the strife:
No anvils are we for each fool to beat out
His ape-like system of life.
We strive for a higher standard than his,
As we echo our battle cry—
"Here are men who will work at the tasks of men
Or, failing, man-like will die!"

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