Morning Land by George Essex Evans is a short four stanza poem first published in the book, The Secret Key and Other Verses, in 1906. The poem has a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GHGH and throughout the piece, there are a number of internal rhymes, such as “air” and “fair” in line four, that adds to the flow and rhythm of the piece.
This piece begins by describing the world that the men in the poem are going to be attempting to leave. The world is “dull grey mist” and the “sullen roar of the sea.” There is nothing there but the reminders of all the tragedies and failures of the past. All are seeking to rise above it. Also described is, “Morning Land.” A metaphorical utopia that is the breeding ground for “rest and love” and “hope for brain and hand.” This world represents the grass that is always greener on the other side and the human desire to improve one’s circumstances.
The poem continues and the reader gets additional detail about how difficult this climb up the mountainside is. Many fall to their deaths, only to be replaced by others just as eager. No one is deterred by critics and cowards, they climb onward. Additionally, these men climbing are forging a path for others to follow so that all may reach this utopia out of the reach of strife.
Analysis of Morning Land
Around and beneath, the dull grey mist and the sullen roar of the sea,
Scant footing-place on the sheer cliffs face—with death for a penalty;
But afar and above there is rest and love, there is hope for brain and hand,
The valleys fair and the crystal air and the peaks of Morning Land.
The first stanza of this piece begins with a description of an area surrounding a mountain, one that will be defined throughout the poem. “Around and beneath” this mountain floats a “dull grey mist” as well as the “sullen” sounds of the sea. Immediately it is clear that the poem is hoping to create an uninviting environment. One that is not only obscured in mist, but sullen and grey. This is a place that no one is going to choose to be.
The mountain itself is said to have “Scant” place for footholds for those that may choose to climb it. The cliffs are “sheer” and if one were to attempt a climb and fall, it would mean certain death. The “penalty” of this wretched cliff face is death.
In the second two lines of this stanza, the speaker gives the reader a brief glimpse of what is above the mist and the treacherous climb. If one was to surmount the challenging climb they would reach, “…afar and above,” a world that is filled with “rest and love,” and “hope for brain and hand.” There is, in this world that is soon to be defined as, “Morning Land,” emotional happiness, and well as hopeful purpose. There are activities and simulations for both the hand and brain.
The last lines speak of this land as being full of “valleys fair and crystal air.” There are peaks all around and the world is called, “Morning Land.”
Around and beneath are the mists of toil and the sullen roar of the world,
And the sneer of scorn for a foothold gone and a climber backward hurled;
But afar and above are the hopes of men with the heart and will to stand
On the thin rift’s edge and the slippery ledge that lead to Morning Land.
The second stanza begins by taking the reader back to all of the wretchedness that is below “Morning Land.” There are once more mists, but this time they are those of “toil.” The troubles of the ground world have solidified, become a physical substance— a mist that covers everything. Once more there is a roar, this time it is of the world as everyone grapples with their own problems.
Additionally, the “sneer of scorn” for the loss of “footholds” can be heard, made by those that have fallen off the mountain and lost their chance to ascend to “Morning Land.”
Once more the second two lines of this stanza focus on the land above. In this much happier place exist the men who were able to ascend those footholds. They are existing, along with their hopes, in “Morning Land.”
They slip and fall from the sheer cliffs face; ah, God! they are falling still!
But another leaps for the vacant place, and another his place will fill.
’Tis little they fear the coward’s sneer, or the scorn of a selfish band,
Whose eyes are set on the parapet and the heights of Morning Land.
The third stanza focuses entirely on those that are attempting to ascend and fail, as well as those who are currently climbing and “Whose eyes are set…on “Morning Land.”
The speaker describes how when one falls from the heights of the mountain they fall forever, but without hesitation, another takes their place. There are an endless number willing to try their strength on the cliff face.
The brave who face dangerous cliffs does not listen to the words of “cowards” or those that tell them they will fail. They are completely focused on the task ahead, reaching a new land where their hopes may be realized.
Hark to the ring as their rock picks swing, and bite for a foothold there!
Grip by grip they are straining up that others may travel fair.
The world will follow them all some day, the men it has shunned and banned,
The gallant hearts that hewed the way that leads to Morning Land.
This poem concludes by stating that men who are traveling this path are doing so in an attempt to make the passage easier for those that follow. They are creating trails, footholds, and grips so that, “others may travel fair.”
The speaker states that one day, “The world” may follow them. All those that shunned and looked down on the pursuits of these explorers will now make use of their trailblazing.
The last line of the poem speaks to the hearts of the men who first came to “Morning Land. They are said to be “gallant,” having bravely and confidently led the way to this new land. Even though they were made fun of by “cowards” and “selfish” groups, they do not deny them the right to follow them to “Morning Land.”
About George Essex Evans
George Essex Evans was born in June of 1863 in Regents Park, London. His father, a parliamentarian, died in 1864, forcing the family to move to Whales. While there Evans attended Haverfordwest Grammar School, and later, after moving to Jersey, St. James’ College.
In 1881, Evans and three siblings migrated to Queensland and purchased a farm. Evans would work as a teacher and reporter, as well as a public clerk. Throughout this time period, Evans pursued his literary interests and wrote a number of poems and essays that were published in the Australian and British press. His first collection was published in London in 1891, his second, Loraine and Other Verses, in Melbourne in 1898, and his last in Sydney in 1906. Evans died in 1909 in the city of Toowoomba in Australia.