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China Speaks (1938)

By "Den"

In his recent Reichstag speech Herr Hitler is reported to have said that China was not strong enough mentally to exist in a modern world.

I WAS here when the world was young, as men count young.
Watched nation after nation rise in pride,
Seen pearl on pearl of patting centuries strung
Upon Time's abacus and pushed aside,
Heard thro' the ages many a conqueror
Thunder in arrogance upon my door,
Marked his pride pass as lotus petals fold.
I should be here still when the world grows old.

CALMLY I slept, awakened, slept again,
Counting the aeons as the day and night,
Seen Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome and Spain,
The Western peoples rise up in their might.
Dreaming, I marked the clamour, heard their boasts;
Tartar and Manchu, Genghis Khan's vast hosts
Have clouded for an hour this placid brow,
Raging against me; yet where are they now?

GONE with the yellowed leaves of yesteryear.
I, who have watched a world work out its fate,
Heard all the tales of triumph, hate, and fear,
Have learned the gift of patience; I can wait.
Wait as I waited to see young lands plot
To rediscover arts I'd long forgot;
These who bowed down before barbarian kings
When my art, literature, were ancient things.

STORMED by an Eastern upstart whose queer pride
Seeks to subdue and bend me to his will,
Mocked by a Western tyrant who'd deride
My ancient wisdom; so I dream on still.
Gadflies, exulting for one summer's day
Disturb my dreams; but these shall drift away
With olden echoes sounding down the past.
China, unconquered, lives on, ageless, vast.


From the Brisbane Newspaper the Queenslander 9 Mar 1938 p. 3.

This poem was published the same year that the wharfies of Port Kembla in Wollongong refused to load BHP pig iron on to the British owned Dalfram bound for Japan.
The Dalfram dispute was part of a growing movement in Australia against the Japanese brutal invasion of China. Hence the line "an Eastern upstart whose queer pride" in the final verse.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory