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Song of the Bridge (1907)

By Henry Chadwick.

Tested and true I stand,
Fit for the mogul's wheel ;
Monarch of strength and span,
I am a Bridge of Steel.

Wrung from the soil of the northern States that border the Great Fresh Seas,
Shoveled and chuted to cavernous boats that carry their tons with with ease,
Hurried and harried from ship unto train, the ore came thundering down,--
Thus they brought my members in embryo to smoke-soiled Pittsburg town.

I hear the wrath of the river's voice as it bursts its sheath in the Spring
Then the logs are linked in the jam of the ice where the rapids rage and fling,
While, piercing the opening, endless sky, the north-bound geese go honking high.
And over the forest's dun expanse falls the first faint veil of green.

Born of the furnace, my billets and blooms were shaped by the rumbling rolls,
My bars were forged from the fiercest flame and annealed on the dying coals,
My posts and chords were punched and sheared, were trued in the jaws of the press,
And thousands of rivets were heated and homed to fashion me firm for the stress.

Now falls the heat of the summer sun, and I stretch my gaunt steel limbs,
I hear the wind awake in the night composing rude forest hymns.
The thunder voices the lightning's lore to the hushed and waiting land
And I see the sloping ranks of the storm, and the raiudow's seven barred band.

Matched and marked from the paper plans, and approved by the engineers,
I was sorted and shipped on a hundred cars, to the place where the granite piers
loomed gray 'mid the maze of the false-work spans, whose timbered towers were stayed
To bear the weight of my massive chords till my braces and floors were laid.

I span a river of indigo waves, all crested with lines of white,
While the forest, is lit by the flames of the Fall from shore to mountain height :
But soon the leaf-legions will rustle to rest, at the call of the elves of cold,
And the notes of the north will be heard in the wind when the frost has tightened the mold.

Then derricks were rigged with four fold falls and booms of Oregon pine ;
Their heel-blocks creaked under wearying weights till my trusses stood true to the line.
My splices Were made, red rivets driven, and my pins were piloted home--
The ties wore clamped and the rails were laid that the Coursers of Commerce might come.

Now the sun sweeps low on his southern arc and the shadows at noon are long ;
Now Sirius swings his radiant torch, the guard of Orion's throng.
The Great White Wars are waged in the air, their hosts have rushed o'er the pastures bare--
They have chained the waters and pierced my frame with a sword of icy sheen.

Tuned to the earth I stand-- O'er me the heavens reel ;
They smite my bars with a song--I am a Harp of Steel.

--From "Putnam's Monthly" (April).


From the Western Australian Newspaper the Westralian Worker 26 Jul 1907 p. 8.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory