The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 12 (March 1, 1940)
Sword & Umbrella
A simple black umbrella, rusty, quaintly furled,
Signals to British freemen, over all the world,
A foolish, homely cudgel, faced by shining blade,
But millions march toward it, strangely unafraid.
For we have seen it open, keeping endless guard
From Land's End to world's end, bedraggled, tempest-scarred.
We know its grime and tatters, for it is very old
But sturdy still, and standing; ours to fix and hold.
For where its ribs are arching, men can understand
That ancient fires of freedom light a pleasant land,
And Jews can laugh with Germans,
Russians joke with Finns.
Gracious old Umbrella! Trivial your sins.
They march; and steadily and hard the heavy beat
Thuds in the narrow canyon of the city street,
Through maze of coloured flags the far blue laughing skies,
Shine on the breaking lights of laughter in their eyes,
Sun in their blood and heads held high
This was their song as they went by …
They say you are old and ended, England
Languid and like to die,
You with your story splendid, England
Take us, to give the lie.
Enclosing our isles of wonder, England
Sunlit, the breakers fall
We hear their soft, slow thunder, England
Sounding the freemen's call.
The songs of long seas are golden, England
Rich are their gifts, and so
We heed the message olden, England
Only our own folk know.
We do not ask for guerdon, England
Ours is the younger part
We ask to share your burden, England,
Freely, and glad of heart.
They tread no road of glory, red with dust of dreams,
They have the sun for banner, no war emblem gleams,
And youthful are their faces, but oh!
They bear the glow
That flamed in Drake and Hampden,
long grey years ago.