Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
October 14
Saxon Grit
By Robert Collyer (1823–1912)
 
          The one battle fought in the Norman conquest of England. The English under Harold were defeated on Oct. 14, 1066, by William Duke of Normandy who became William I. of England.

WORN with the battle, by Stamford town,
  Fighting the Norman, 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:        5
  By tenor of conquest here I sit;
I will rule you now with the iron hand;”
  But he had no thought of the Saxon grit.
 
He took the land, and he took the men,
  And burnt the homesteads from Trent to Tyne,        10
Made the freemen serfs by a stroke of the pen,
  Ate up the corn and drank the wine,
And said to the maiden, pure and fair,
  “You shall be my leman, as is most fit,
Your Saxon churl may rot in his lair;”        15
  But he had not measured the Saxon grit.
 
To the merry green-wood went bold Robin Hood,
  With his strong-hearted yeomanry ripe for the fray,
Driving the arrow into the marrow,
  Of all the proud Normans that came in his way;        20
Scorning the fetter, fearless and free,
  Winning by valor, or foiling by wit,
Dear to our Saxon folk ever is he,
  This merry old rogue with the Saxon grit.
 
And Kett the tanner whipped out his knife,        25
  And 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;        30
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 the Saxon manhood in thorpe and town        35
  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.
*        *        *        *        *
        40
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,        45
  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,        50
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,        55
  And made a new Moses of Saxon grit.
 
They whittled and waded through forest and fen,
  Fearless as ever of what might befall;
Pouring out life for the nurture of men;
  In faith that by manhood the world wins all.        60
Inventing baked beans and no end of machines;
  Great with the rifle and great with the axe—
Sending their notions over the oceans,
  To fill empty stomachs and straighten bent backs.
 
Swift to take chances that end in the dollar,        65
  Yet open of hand when the dollar is made,
Maintaining the meetin’, 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;        70
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 that autumn day,
So this new manhood in city and town,        75
  To a nobler stature will grow alway;
Winning by inches, holding by clinches,
  Slow to contention, and slower to quit,
Now and then failing, never once quailing,
  Let us thank God for the Saxon grit.        80
 
 
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