The New Zealand Reader
Hark! 'tis the clang of the bell!
And the fireman springs to his feet
(Like a faithful hound at his master's word),
The very moment the stroke is heard,
In jacket and belt complete.
He speeds, like the rush of the wind,
With ladder and rope and reel,
'Mid the shriek of the whistle and hurrying beat
Of sparkling hoofs, through the ruddy street,
And the ring of brass and steel.
Up, now, through the raging fire
He clambers with panting breath—
Through the stifling smoke and the furnace glow,
And falters his foot for an instant?—no!
What terror for him has Death?
Flashes the axe in his hand,
And his blows fall fast and true;
In a second the shattered wall gives way,
And, quick as a tiger after its prey,
With a bound he dashes through.
But, oh! from the clamouring crowd
What shrieks would rise at his doom,
Should he fall, 'mid the horrid crackle and glare,
With them that he seeks to save, and share
Their fate of a fiery tomb!
Fireman! give me your hand,
You with the iron breast,
With the iron arm and the sinews of steel,
And the big bold heart that the world shall feel
Is manliest heart and best!
I have scanned the roll of men,
The records of human strife;
And where is the hand with a prouder claim
To the grasp of a king and the kiss of Fame
Than the hand that saves a life?
—Charles Umbers.Dunedin, 23rd Nov., 1894.