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Musings in Maoriland

The Timaru Wrecks. — (1882.)

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The Timaru Wrecks.

Who are Earth's heroes? Who are they that claim
   A shrine immortal in their country's breast,
A niche within the citadel of fame,
  Or, higher still, a home among the blest?
One answers: "They are those who in the fight
  Win heav'n's approval and the world's applause;
The men who die for justice and for right—
  The men who bleed for freedom's holy cause."

Another answers: "Heroes lead the van
  Of Peace and Progress in the march of mind,
And spread God's treasures at the feet of man,
  And shed the rays of knowledge o'er their kind."
Ay, these and those are heroes, true and brave,
  Whose deeds and words are treasured fond and fast—

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Whose memories are untarnished by the grave;
  Heroes who build the future on the past,
And raise a stately edifice above
  The Gulf of Ages, filled with blood and tears,
A human temple round whose shrine of love
  All men shall gather in the coming years.
But there are other heroes on the earth—
  Heroes who often sow, but seldom reap
The seed of glory till the Second Birth;
  Heroes who often sink and fall asleep
In duty's arms, unnoticed and unknown—
  Heroes who for their fellows nobly die,
Heroes whose dirge is ocean's' solemn moan,
  Mingled with orphan's sob and widow's sigh.
Such are the heroes whom we honour here,
  Men who have passed on to the light beyond,
And those they held in life most true and dear
  Appeal to us for aid—shall we respond?
What were their deeds? We open up the scene—
  Behold a spreading city by the sea,
Belted by sunny slopes and plains of green,
  And skirted by the foam of breakers free,
That leap and dance for joy along the shore,
  Racing like white-haired children on the sand,
Babbling their mother ocean's mystic lore,
  Whisp'ring her secrets to the silent land.
A Sabbath calm is resting o'er the place,
  And souls are soaring upward from their clay;
Celestial smiles gild Nature's tranquil face,

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  And Thought flies far above life's little day.
Out on the sleeping waves tall vessels ride
  At anchor: all is calm. Ah! will it last?
"Look yonder, look! here comes a storm-spent tide;
  The murmuring fury of the distant blast
Sweeps in upon us. God! we're lost, we're lost!
  The boats! the boats! Now pull for land and life!"
They're off! they're safe! they land! though billows tossed,
  And breakers dashed around them in the strife.
But lo! along the shore the cry is raised,
  "Man, man the life-boat!"—and a willing band
Rush forward at the call. The crowd, amazed,
  Behold the gallant fellows leave the land,
And plunge through seething surf and furious foam.
  "Hurrah! hurrah! God speed ye, gallant hearts!"
Ah! well might they exclaim, "God speed ye home!"
  God took them home: the tear of pity starts,
But not for those who went, but those who weep
  For husbands vanished and for fathers gone;
Be ours the task to honour them that sleep,
  By helping those they loved, now left alone;
Be ours the task—nay, friends, 'tis not a task,
  It is a debt of duty we've to pay;
God speaks to us when babes and widows ask;
  We hear His voice in theirs, and we obey.