From the "Commemoration Ode"

by Harriet Monroe

Harriet Monroe

WHEN dreaming kings, at odds with swift paced time,
Would strike that banner down,
A nobler knight than ever writ or rhyme
With fame's bright wreath did crown
Through armed hosts bore it till it floated high
Beyond the clouds, a light that cannot die!
Ah, hero of our younger race!
Great builder of a temple new!
Ruler, who sought no lordly place!
Warrior, who sheathed the sword he drew!
Lover of men, who saw afar
A world unmarred by want or war,
Who knew the path, and yet forbore
To tread, till all men should implore;
Who saw the light, and led the way
Where the gray would might greet the day;
Father and leader, prophet sure,
Whose will in vast works shall endure,
How shall we praise him on this day of days,
Great son of fame who has no need of praise?
How shall we praise him? Open wide the doors
Of the fair temple whose broad base he laid.
Through its white halls a shadowy cavalcade
Of heroes moves o'er unresounding floors-
Men whose brawned arms upraised these columns high,
And reared the towers that vanish in the sky,-
The strong who, having wrought, can never die.
AND, lo! leading a blessed host comes one
Who held a warring nation in his heart;
Who knew love's agony, but had no part
In love's delight; whose mightly task was done
Through blood and tears that we might walk in joy,
And this day's rapture own no sad alloy.
Around him heirs of bliss, whose bright brows wear
Palm-leaves amid their laurels ever fair.
Gaily they come, as though the drum
Beat out the call their glad hearts knew so well:
Brothers once more, dear as of yore,
Who in a noble conflict nobly fell.
Their blood washed pure you banner in the sky,
And quenched the brands laid 'neath these arches high-
The brave who, having fought, can never die.
Then surging through the vastness rise once more
The aureoled heirs of light, who onward bore
Through darksome times and trackless realms of ruth
The flag of beauty and the torch of truth.
They tore the mask from the foul face of wrong;
Even to God's mysteries they dared aspire;
High in the choir they built yon altar-fire,
And filled these aisles with color and with song:
The ever-young, the unfallen, wreathing for time
Fresh garlands of the seeming-vanished years;
Faces long luminous, remote, sublime,
And shining brows still dewy with our tears.
Back with the old glad smile comes one we knew-
We bade him rear our house of joy today.
But Beauty opened wide her starry way,
And he passed on. Bright champions of the true,
Soldiers of peace, seers, singers ever blest,-
From the wide ether of a loftier quest
Their winged souls throng our rites to glorify,-
The wise who, having known, can never die.
FOR, lo! the living God doth bare his arm.
No more he makes his house of clouds and gloom.
Lightly the shuttles move within his loom;
Unveiled his thunder leaps to meet the storm.
From God's right hand man takes the powers that sway
A universe of stars.
He bows them down; he bids them go or stay;
He tames them for his wars.
He scans the burning paces of the sun,
And names the invisible orbs whose courses run
Through the dim deeps of space.
He sees in dew upon a rose impearled
The swarming legions of a monad world
Begin life's upward race.
Voices of hope he hears
Long dumb to his despair,
And dreams of golden years
Meet for a world so fair.
For now Democracy doth wake and rise
From the sweet sloth of youth.
By storms made strong, by many dreams made wise,
He clasps the hand of Truth.
Through the armed nations lies his path of peace,
The open book of knowledge in his hand.
Food to the starving, to the oppressed release,
And love to all he bears from land to land.
Before his march the barriers fall,
The laws grow gentle at his call.
His glowing breath blows far away
The fogs that veil the coming day,-
That wondrous day
When earth shall sing as through the blue she rolls
Laden with joy for all her thronging souls.
Then shall want's call to sin resound no more
Across her teeming fields. And pain shall sleep,
Soothed by brave science with her magic lore;
And war no more shall bid the nations weep.
Then the worn chains shall slip from man's desire,
And ever higher and higher
His swift foot shall aspire;
Still deeper and more deep
His soul its watch shall keep,
Till love shall make the world a holy place,
Where knowledge dare unveil God's very face.
Not yet the angels hear life's last sweet song.
Music unutterably pure and strong
From earth shall rise to haunt the peopled skies,
When the long march of time,
Patient in birth and death, in growth and blight,
Shall lead man up through happy realms of light
Unto his goal sublime.

Last updated January 14, 2019