Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Americas
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX.  1876–79.
 
South America: Colombia (New Granada)
The Sword of Bolivar
John Townsend Trowbridge (1827–1916)
 
(Excerpt)

WITH the steadfast stars above us,
  And the molten stars below,
We sailed through the Southern midnight,
  By the coast of Mexico.
 
Alone, on the desolate, dark-ringed,        5
  Rolling and flashing sea,
A grim old Venezuelan
  Kept the deck with me,
 
And talked to me of his country,
  And the long Spanish war,        10
And told how a young Republic
  Forged the sword of Bolivar.
 
Of no base mundane metal
  Was the wondrous weapon made,
And in no earth-born fire        15
  Was fashioned the sacred blade.
 
But that it might shine the symbol
  Of law and light in the land,
Dropped down as a star from heaven,
  To flame in a hero’s hand,        20
 
And be to the world a portent
  Of eternal might and right,
They chose for the steel a splinter
  From a fallen aerolite.
 
Then a virgin forge they builded        25
  By the city, and kindled it
With flame from a shattered palm-tree,
  Which the lightning’s torch had lit,—
 
That no fire of earthly passion
  Might taint the holy sword,        30
And no ancient error tarnish
  The falchion of the Lord.
 
For Quito and New Granada
  And Venezuela they pour
From three crucibles the dazzling        35
  White meteoric ore.
 
In three ingots it is moulded,
  And welded into one,
For an emblem of Colombia,
  Bright daughter of the sun!        40
 
It is drawn on a virgin anvil,
  It is heated and hammered and rolled,
It is shaped and tempered and burnished,
  And set in a hilt of gold;
 
For thus by the fire and the hammer        45
  Of war a nation is built,
And ever the sword of its power
  Is swayed by a golden hilt.
 
Then with pomp and oratory
  The mustachioed señores brought        50
To the house of the Liberator
  The weapon they had wrought;
 
And they said, in their stately phrases,
  “O mighty in peace and war!
No mortal blade we bring you,        55
  But a flaming meteor.
 
“The sword of the Spaniard is broken,
  And to you in its stead is given,
To lead and redeem a nation,
  This ray of light from heaven.”        60
 
The gaunt-faced Liberator
  From their hands the symbol took,
And waved it aloft in the sunlight,
  With a high, heroic look;
 
And he called the saints to witness:        65
  “May these lips turn into dust,
And this right hand fail, if ever
  It prove recreant to its trust!
 
“Never the sigh of a bondman
  Shall cloud this gleaming steel,        70
But only the foe and the traitor
  Its vengeful edge shall feel.
 
“Never a tear of my country
  Its purity shall stain,
Till into your hands, who gave it,        75
  I render it again.”
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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