The World's Best Poetry, Volume 8 National Spirit online

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The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled.
So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory's thrill is o'er,
And hearts that once beat high for praise
Now feel that pulse no more!

No more to chiefs and ladies bright
The harp of Tara swells;
The chord alone that breaks at night
Its tale of ruin tells.
Thus Freedom now so seldom wakes,
The only throb she gives
Is when some heart indignant breaks,
To show that still she lives.


* * * * *


As by the shore, at break of day,
A vanquished chief expiring lay,
Upon the sands, with broken sword,
He traced his farewell to the free;
And there the last unfinished word
He dying wrote, was "Liberty!"

At night a sea-bird shrieked the knell
Of him who thus for freedom fell:
The words he wrote, ere evening came,
Were covered by the sounding sea; -
So pass away the cause and name
Of him who dies for liberty!


* * * * *


When freedom from her home was driven,
'Mid vine-clad vales of Switzerland,
She sought the glorious Alps of heaven,
And there, 'mid cliffs by lightnings riven,
Gathered her hero-band.

And still outrings her freedom-song,
Amid the glaciers sparkling there,
At Sabbath bell, as peasants throng
Their mountain fastnesses along,
Happy, and free as air.

The hills were made for freedom; they
Break at a breath the tyrant's rod;
Chains clank in valleys; there the prey
Writhes 'neath Oppression's heel alway:
Hills bow to none but God!


* * * * *



Once Switzerland was free! With what a pride
I used to walk these hills, - look up to heaven,
And bless God that it was so! It was free
From end to end, from cliff to lake 'twas free!
Free as our torrents are, that leap our rocks,
And plough our valleys, without asking leave;
Or as our peaks, that wear their caps of snow
In very presence of the regal sun!
How happy was I in it then! I loved
Its very storms. Ay, often have I sat
In my boat at night, when, midway o'er the lake,
The stars went out, and down the mountain gorge
The wind came roaring, - I have sat and eyed
The thunder breaking from his cloud, and smiled
To see him shake his lightnings o'er my head,
And think - I had no master save his own!


* * * * *


[Battle of Sempach, fourteenth century.]

"Make way for Liberty!" - he cried;
Made way for Liberty, and died!
In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,
A living wall, a human wood!
A wall, where every conscious stone
Seemed to its kindred thousands grown;
A rampart all assaults to bear,
Till time to dust their frames should wear;
A wood like that enchanted grove
In which with fiends Rinaldo strove,
Where every silent tree possessed
A spirit prisoned in its breast,
Which the first stroke of coming strife
Would startle into hideous life:
So dense, so still, the Austrians stood,
A living wall, a human wood!
Impregnable their front appears,
All horrent with projected spears,
Whose polished points before them shine,
From flank to flank, one brilliant line,
Bright as the breakers' splendors run
Along the billows to the sun.

Opposed to these, a hovering band
Contended for their native land:
Peasants, whose new-found strength had broke
From manly necks the ignoble yoke,
And forged their fetters into swords,
On equal terms to fight their lords,
And what insurgent rage had gained
In many a mortal fray maintained:
Marshalled once more at Freedom's call,
They came to conquer or to fall,
Where he who conquered, he who fell,
Was deemed a dead, or living, Tell!
Such virtues had that patriot breathed,
So to the soil his soul bequeathed,
That wheresoe'er his arrows flew
Heroes in his own likeness grew,
And warriors sprang from every sod
Which his awakening footstep trod.

And now the work of life and death
Hung on the passing of a breath;
The fire of conflict burned within,
The battle trembled to begin:
Yet, while the Austrians held their ground,
Point for attack was nowhere found;
Where'er the impatient Switzers gazed,
The unbroken line of lances blazed:
That line 'twere suicide to meet,
And perish at their tyrants' feet, -
How could they rest within their graves,
And leave their homes the homes of slaves?
Would they not feel their children tread
With clanging chains above their head?

It must not be: this day, this hour,
Annihilates the oppressor's power;
All Switzerland is in the field,
She will not fly, she cannot yield, -
She must not fall; her better fate
Here gives her an immortal date.
Few were the numbers she could boast;
But every freeman was a host,
And felt as though himself were he
On whose sole arm hung victory.

It did depend on _one_ indeed;
Behold him, - Arnold Winkelried!
There sounds not to the trump of fame
The echo of a nobler name.

Unmarked he stood amid the throng,
In rumination deep and long,
Till you might see, with sudden grace,
The very thought come o'er his face,
And by the motion of his form
Anticipate the bursting storm,
And by the uplifting of his brow
Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.

But ' twas no sooner thought than done,
The field was in a moment won: -

"Make way for Liberty!" he cried,
Then ran, with arms extended wide,
As if his dearest friend to clasp;
Ten spears he swept within his grasp.

"Make way for Liberty!" he cried;
Their keen points met from side to side;
He bowed amongst them like a tree,
And thus made way for Liberty.

Swift to the breach his comrades fly;
"Make way for Liberty!" they cry,
And through the Austrian phalanx dart,
As rushed the spears through Arnold's heart;
While, instantaneous as his fall,
Rout, ruin, panic, scattered all:
An earthquake could not overthrow
A city with a surer blow.

Thus Switzerland again was free;
Thus Death made way for Liberty!


* * * * *



O sacred Truth! thy triumph ceased awhile,
And Hope, thy sister, ceased with thee to smile,
When leagued Oppression poured to Northern wars
Her whiskered pandours and her fierce hussars,
Waved her dread standard to the breeze of morn,
Pealed her loud drum, and twanged her trumpet horn;
Tumultuous horror brooded o'er her van,
Presaging wrath to Poland - and to man!
Warsaw's last champion from her height surveyed,
Wide o'er the fields, a waste of ruin laid;
"O Heaven!" he cried, "my bleeding country save! -
Is there no hand on high to shield the brave?
Yet, though destruction sweep these lovely plains,
Rise, fellow-men! our country yet remains!
By that dread name, we wave the sword on high,
And swear for her to live - with her to die!"
He said, and on the rampart-heights arrayed
His trusty warriors, few, but undismayed;
Firm-paced and slow, a horrid front they form,
Still as the breeze, but dreadful as the storm;
Low murmuring sounds along their banners fly,
Revenge, or death, - the watchword and reply;
Then pealed the notes, omnipotent to charm,
And the loud tocsin tolled their last alarm! -
In vain, alas! in vain, ye gallant few!
From rank to rank your volleyed thunder flew: -
O, bloodiest picture in the book of Time!
Sarmatia fell, unwept, without a crime;
Found not a generous friend, a pitying foe,
Strength in her arms, nor mercy in her woe!
Dropped from her nerveless grasp the shattered spear,
Closed her bright eye, and curbed her high career;
Hope, for a season, bade the world farewell,
And Freedom shrieked - as Kosciusko fell!


* * * * *


Ye sons of freedom, wake to glory!
Hark! hark! what myriads bid you rise!
Your children, wives, and grandsires hoary,
Behold their tears and hear their cries!
Shall hateful tyrants, mischiefs breeding,
With hireling hosts, a ruffian band,
Affright and desolate the land,
While peace and liberty lie bleeding?
To arms! to arms! ye brave!
The avenging sword unsheathe;
March on! march on! all hearts resolved
On victory or death.

Now, now the dangerous storm is rolling,
Which treacherous kings confederate raise;
The dogs of war, let loose, are howling,
And lo! our fields and cities blaze;
And shall we basely view the ruin,
While lawless force, with guilty stride,
Spreads desolation far and wide,
With crimes and blood his hands imbruing?
To arms! to arms! ye brave, etc.

O Liberty! can man resign thee,
Once having felt thy generous flame?
Can dungeons, bolts, or bars confine thee?
Or whips thy noble spirit tame?
Too long the world has wept, bewailing
That falsehood's dagger tyrants wield,
But freedom is our sword and shield,
And all their arts are unavailing.
To arms! to arms! ye brave, etc.


* * * * *


Her hair was tawny with gold, her eyes with purple were dark,
Her cheeks' pale opal burnt with a red and restless spark.

Never was lady of Milan nobler in name and in race;
Never was lady of Italy fairer to see in the face.

Never was lady on earth more true as woman and wife,
Larger in judgment and instinct, prouder in manners and life.

She stood in the early morning, and said to her maidens, "Bring
That silken robe made ready to wear at the court of the king.

"Bring me the clasps of diamonds, lucid, clear of the mote,
Clasp me the large at the waist, and clasp me the small at the throat.

"Diamonds to fasten the hair, and diamonds to fasten the sleeves,
Laces to drop from their rays, like a powder of snow from the eaves."

Gorgeous she entered the sunlight which gathered her up in a flame,
While straight, in her open carriage, she to the hospital came.

In she went at the door, and gazing, from end to end,
"Many and low are the pallets, but each is the place of a friend."

Up she passed through the wards, and stood at a young man's bed:
Bloody the band on his brow, and livid the droop of his head.

"Art thou a Lombard, my brother? Happy art thou!" she cried,
And smiled like Italy on him: he dreamed in her face and died.

Pale with his passing soul, she went on still to a second:
_He_ was a grave, hard man, whose years by dungeons were reckoned.

Wounds in his body were sore, wounds in his life were sorer.
"Art thou a Romagnole?" Her eyes drove lightnings before her.

"Austrian and priest had joined to double and tighten the cord
Able to bind thee, O strong one, - free by the stroke of a sword.

"Now be grave for the rest of us, using the life overcast
To ripen our wine of the present (too new) in glooms of the past."

Down she stepped to a pallet where lay a face like a girl's,
Young, pathetic with dying, - a deep black hole in the curls.

"Art thou from Tuscany, brother? and seest thou, dreaming in pain,
Thy mother stand in the piazza, searching the list of the slain?"

Kind as a mother herself, she touched his cheeks with her hands:
"Blessèd is she who has borne thee, although she should weep as she

On she passed to a Frenchman, his arm carried off by a ball:
Kneeling,... "O more than my brother! how shall I thank thee for all?

"Each of the heroes round us has fought for his land and line,
But _thou_ hast fought for a stranger, in hate of a wrong not thine.

"Happy are all free peoples, too strong to be dispossessed;
But blessèd are those among nations who dare to be strong for the

Ever she passed on her way, and came to a couch where pined
One with a face from Venetia, white with a hope out of mind.

Long she stood and gazed, and twice she tried at the name,
But two great crystal tears were all that faltered and came.

Only a tear for Venice? - she turned as in passion and loss,
And stooped to his forehead and kissed it, as if she were kissing
the cross.

Faint with that strain of heart, she moved on then to another,
Stern and strong in his death. "And dost thou suffer, my brother?"

Holding his hands in hers: - "Out of the Piedmont lion
Cometh the sweetness of freedom! sweetest to live or to die on."

Holding his cold, rough hands, - "Well, O, well have ye done
In noble, noble Piedmont, who would not be noble alone."

Back he fell while she spoke. She rose to her feet with a spring, -
"That was a Piedmontese! and this is the Court of the King."


* * * * *


The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed;

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame:

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear; -
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared, -
This was their welcome home.

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim-band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of the seas, the spoils of war? -
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found, -
Freedom to worship God.


* * * * *


When Freedom, from her mountain height,
Unfurled her standard to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night,
And set the stars of glory there!
She mingled with its gorgeous dyes
The milky baldric of the skies,
And striped its pure, celestial white
With streakings of the morning light;
Then, from his mansion in the sun,
She called her eagle-bearer down,
And gave into his mighty hand
The symbol of her chosen land!

Majestic monarch of the cloud!
Who rear'st aloft thy regal form,
To hear the tempest trumping loud,
And see the lightning lances driven,
When strive the warriors of the storm,
And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven, -
Child of the Sun! to thee 'tis given
To guard the banner of the free,
To hover in the sulphur smoke,
To ward away the battle-stroke,
And bid its blendings shine afar,
Like rainbows on the cloud of war,
The harbingers of victory!

Flag of the brave! thy folds shall fly,
The sign of hope and triumph high!
When speaks the signal-trumpet tone,
And the long line comes gleaming on,
Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,
Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,
Each soldier's eye shall brightly turn
To where thy sky-born glories burn,
And, as his springing steps advance,
Catch war and vengeance from the glance.

And when the cannon-mouthings loud
Heave in wild wreaths the battle shroud,
And gory sabres rise and fall
Like shoots of flame on midnight's pall,
Then shall thy meteor glances glow,
And cowering foes shall shrink beneath
Each gallant arm that strikes below
That lovely messenger of death.

Flag of the seas! on ocean wave
Thy stars shall glitter o'er the brave;
When death, careering on the gale,
Sweeps darkly round the bellied sail,
And frighted waves rush wildly back
Before the broadside's reeling rack,
Each dying wanderer of the sea
Shall look at once to heaven and thee,
And smile to see thy splendors fly
In triumph o'er his closing eye.

Flag of the free heart's hope and home,
By angel hands to valor given!
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,
And all thy hues were born in heaven.
Forever float that standard sheet!
Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
With Freedom's soil beneath our feet,
And Freedom's banner streaming o'er us!


* * * * *


[Footnote A: Begun during the attack on Fort McHenry, by a British
fleet, which on the night of Sept. 13, 1814, unsuccessfully bombarded
that fort from the river Chesapeake; the author, an envoy from the
city of Baltimore, having been detained as a prisoner on the fleet.]

O, say, can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? -
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the clouds of the fight
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On that shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto. "_In God is our trust_:"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.


* * * * *


New England's dead! New England's dead!
On every hill they lie;
On every field of strife, made red
By bloody victory.
Each valley, where the battle poured
Its red and awful tide,
Beheld the brave New England sword
With slaughter deeply dyed.
Their bones are on the northern hill,
And on the southern plain,
By brook and river, lake and rill,
And by the roaring main.

The land is holy where they fought,
And holy where they fell;
For by their blood that land was bought,
The land they loved so well,
Then glory to that valiant band,
The honored saviours of the land!

O, few and weak their numbers were, -
A handful of brave men;
But to their God they gave their prayer,
And rushed to battle then.
The God of battles heard their cry,
And sent to them the victory.

They left the ploughshare in the mold,
Their flocks and herds without a fold,
The sickle in the unshorn grain,
The corn, half-garnered, on the plain,
And mustered, in their simple dress,
For wrongs to seek a stern redress,
To right those wrongs, come weal, come woe,
To perish, or o'ercome their foe.

And where are ye, O fearless men?
And where are ye to-day?
I call: - the hills reply again
That ye have passed away;
That on old Bunker's lonely height,
In Trenton, and in Monmouth ground,
The grass grows green, the harvest bright
Above each soldier's mound.
The bugle's wild and warlike blast
Shall muster them no more;
An army now might thunder past,
And they heed not its roar.
The starry flag, 'neath which they fought
In many a bloody day,
From their old graves shall rouse them not,
For they have passed away.


* * * * *


All grim and soiled and brown and tan,
I saw a Strong One, in his wrath,
Smiting the godless shrines of man
Along his path.

The Church beneath her trembling dome
Essayed in vain her ghostly charm:
Wealth shook within his gilded home
With strange alarm.

Fraud from his secret chambers fled
Before the sunlight bursting in:
Sloth drew her pillow o'er her head
To drown the din.

"Spare," Art implored, "yon holy pile;
That grand old time-worn turret spare:"
Meek Reverence, kneeling in the aisle
Cried out, "Forbear!"

Gray-bearded Use, who, deaf and blind,
Groped for his old accustomed stone,
Leaned on his staff, and wept to find
His seat o'erthrown.

Young Romance raised his dreamy eyes,
O'erhung with paly locks of gold, -
"Why smite," he asked in sad surprise,
"The fair, the old?"

Yet louder rang the Strong One's stroke,
Yet nearer flashed his axe's gleam;
Shuddering and sick of heart I woke,
As from a dream.

I looked: aside the dust-cloud rolled, -
The Waster seemed the Builder too;
Upspringing from the ruined Old
I saw the New.

'Twas but the ruin of the bad, -
The wasting of the wrong and ill;
Whate'er of good the old time had
Was living still.

Calm grew the brows of him I feared,
The frown which awed me passed away,
And left behind a smile which cheered
Like breaking day.

The grain grew green on battle-plains,
O'er swarded war-mounds grazed the cow;
The slave stood forging from his chains
The spade and plough.

Where frowned the fort, pavilions gay
And cottage windows, flower-entwined,
Looked out upon the peaceful bay
And hills behind.

Through vine-wreathed cups with wine once red.
The lights on brimming crystal fell,
Drawn, sparkling, from the rivulet head
And mossy well.

Through prison-walls, like Heaven-sent hope,
Fresh breezes blew, and sunbeams strayed,
And with the idle gallows-rope
The young child played.

Where the doomed victim in his cell
Had counted o'er the weary hours,
Glad school-girls, answering to the bell,
Came crowned with flowers.

Grown wiser for the lesson given,
I fear no longer, for I know
That where the share is deepest driven
The best fruits grow.

The outworn rite, the old abuse,
The pious fraud transparent grown,
The good held captive in the use
Of wrong alone, -

These wait their doom, from that great law
Which makes the past time serve to-day;
And fresher life the world shall draw
From their decay.

O backward-looking son of time!
The new is old, the old is new,
The cycle of a change sublime
Still sweeping through.

So wisely taught the Indian seer;
Destroying Seva, forming Brahm,
Who wake by turn Earth's love and fear,
Are one, the same.

Idly as thou, in that old day
Thou mournest, did thy sire repine;
So, in his time, thy child grown gray
Shall sigh for thine.

But life shall on and upward go;

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Online LibraryVariousThe World's Best Poetry, Volume 8 National Spirit → online text (page 8 of 21)