Strike Hands, Young Men!

A poem by George Parsons Lathrop

Strike hands, young men!
We know not when
Death or disaster comes,
Mightier than battle-drums
To summon us away.
Death bids us say farewell
To all we love, nor stay
For tears; - and who can tell
How soon misfortune's hand
May smite us where we stand,
Dragging us down, aloof,
Under the swift world's hoof?

Strike hands for faith, and power
To gladden the passing hour;
To wield the sword, or raise a song; -
To press the grape; or crush out wrong.
And strengthen right.
Give me the man of sturdy palm
And vigorous brain;
Hearty, companionable, sane,
'Mid all commotions calm,
Yet filled with quick, enthusiastic fire; -
Give me the man
Whose impulses aspire,
And all his features seem to say, "I can!"

Strike hands, young men!
'Tis yours to help rebuild the State,
And keep the Nation great.
With act and speech and pen
'Tis yours to spread
The morning-red
That ushers in a grander day:
To scatter prejudice that blinds,
And hail fresh thoughts in noble minds;
To overthrow bland tyrannies
That cheat the people, and with slow disease
Change the Republic to a mockery.
Your words can teach that liberty
Means more than just to cry "We're free"
While bending to some new-found yoke.
So shall each unjust bond be broke,
Each toiler gain his meet reward,
And life sound forth a truer chord.

Ah, if we so have striven,
And mutually the grasp have given
Of brotherhood,
To work each other and the whole race good;
What matter if the dream
Come only partly true,
And all the things accomplished seem
Feeble and few?
At least, when summer's flame burns low
And on our heads the drifting snow
Settles and stays,
We shall rejoice that in our earlier days
We boldly then
Struck hands, young men!

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