A Trilogy for This Time

by John Vance Cheney

John Vance Cheney



Freedom! have we won it yet?

To win it did our fathers set

Their strength, and build the home, the State,

 That, faithful, we

Should have the mastery over fate,

 Forever free.

Yon flag, no hand dare tear it down;

This proud, this high is our renown:

The nations look on us, and cry,—

 "Stanchly they hold

The heritage of liberty,

 The faith of old!"

The flattering nations look from far.

Freemen we seem, yet slaves we are,

Ironed with hateful gyves of greed;

 We cramp the place

Of him our brother, in his need,

 We grind his face.

On freemen's ground the gold unearned

Is gold unowned; be justice spurned,

Freedom holds off from low and high:

 On freemen's sod

Whoso oppresses poverty

 Reproaches God.

Freedom! won not yet, not yet.

Freemen deal truly, nor forget

That, now and in all days to be,

 Throughout the earth

Only one power can make men free,—

 Unselfish worth.



If reign you will in Havilah,

 That land of plenty is your own;

But while you gather into bags

 The gold, the banded onyx stone,

Masters, beware

The high words there,

The black space writ across with fire,—

The laborer is worthy of his hire.

Yellow the gold in Havilah,

 The gold is yellow and is good;

Lo, you may build of it your house,

 May give of it for roof and food;

But take you care

He has his share,

Hungry in body and in soul,

Outworn with digging for you in the hole.

Mad, phantom kings! strive you to stand

 As bywords and as things for mirth?

Your kingdom 's broken and plucked up;

 Long since He portioned out the earth,

And heaven too.

What would you do?

Not all your gold can buy that trust,—

He raiseth up the poor from out the dust.



You 'd be a taller thing,

 You shrubs who grow not to the goodly tree.

Wherefore? In low leaves, as in high, birds sing

 Their summer melody.

Never since time began

 A stalk yet for the impartial light too low.

June greens the meanest bush; the humblest man,

 Her warm winds on him blow.

Shrubs be, and there be trees,

 But this stands fast: shine down the sun and star

On these and those. What matter, those or these,

 Since all God's plants they are?

You that would cast more shade,

 Remember who it was that wrought you small;

He, and no other, He the cedar made,

 The hyssop in the wall.

Blame not him at your side,

 Him with the braver root and prouder limb;

Lift your bold mouths to heaven, and call awide;

 The pattern is from Him.

Call, but first know that ills

 Are every man's, as marrow in his bone;

That the Hand from one cup the measure spills,

 Be it of bread or stone;

Know that all's poured for all;

 Alike for sweetest tree of field or wood

And you, the bitter hyssop in the wall,—

 The evil and the good.

This learned, it may draw nigher

 To mortals then, the trustful prophet's morn

When shall come up the myrtle from the brier,

 The fir-tree for the thorn.

Last updated September 07, 2017