Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Ode to Peace
By John Neal (1793–1876)
UP with thy banners! Out with all thy strength
  Rock-hearted country of the brave and wise!
Huge fortress of the North! unfurl at length
  All thy sharp streamers o’er the flashing skies
Thou that of old, if but a shadow fell—        5
  The shadow only of a coming foe,
Athwart thy bulwarks—heard the stormy swell
  Of countless armies gathering below
Thy deep foundations; all thy ancient woods
  Upwaking with a heavy solemn roar,        10
Thy rocks, thy rivers and thy solitudes,
  And the great sea that broke upon thy shore,
Out-thundering to the nations! with the noise
  Of strange artillery in the earth and sky,
Chariots and horsemen, such as God employs,        15
  When he would startle to new energy
The o’ertired Universe. Up with thee now!
  Child of the North—New England—Up and heave
Thy sumptuous drapery to the wind! Thy brow
  Begirt with adamant, lay bare; and leave        20
The lurid panoply of death; and go
  Forth like the mightiest and the best of them
Who, if they move to grapple with a foe,
  Put on a snowy robe—a diadem
Of triple stars. Up with thee, in thy grave        25
  And awful beauty! Let the nations hear
The language of endurance from the brave;
  The song of peace from such as know not fear.
Shall War prevail for ever? Must we be
  For ever and for ever bound to wage,        30
Like the devouring creatures of the sea,
  Unceasing battle for our heritage?
Are we to sleep in armor? To lie down
  With lighted thunderbolts, year after year,
Lest they who saw their monarch vail his crown        35
  At our approach of old, may venture near?
What though a fourth of thy brave empire now
  Is put upon the casting of a die?
The land our fathers bled for—that which Thou
  Regardest as a portion of the sky—        40
And justly too. What though thy outstretch’d hands
  Are vast and powerful? Thy rocky earth,
Rough though it be, more precious than the lands
  That burn with gold and gems? Of greater worth
To thy stout people, Country of the free!        45
  Than if thy waters rang o’er beds of pearls,
Flashing and sounding with the great high sea,—
  Or when their wrath was up—in drifts and whirls
Threw diamonds—rubies—lumps of light ashore;
  The wealth of India, or the glorious coil        50
Of shipwreck’d empires freighted with the store
  Of gone-by ages—founder’d with their spoil.
From the four quarters of our strength, are we
  To keep for ever thundering, night and day?
Will nothing do but warfare? Must we be        55
  Arm’d to the teeth for ever? arm’d to slay?
Are the proud creatures of our soil—our youth,
  Our fruitage and our hope—are they to go
Not reasoning as they ought with words of truth,
  Along the way of life, but arm’d as though        60
The brave and beauteous earth whereon they tread,
  Were fashion’d by the Builder of the Skies,
Not for his living Image, but the dead—
  A place for slaughter and for sacrifice;
The Golgotha of nations. Must they be        65
  Bred up to butchery from their earliest breath?
Made to believe that they are serving thee,
  Our Father! when they sweep a storm of death,
O’er portions of thy goodliest heritage,
  Tearing a path to empire—laying bare        70
The Vineyards of the world, age after age,
  Or clamoring with ten thousand trumpets where
The shadowy monsters of the Great Deep dwell,
  With star-drift—fire—and shapes magnificent,
Creatures that watch thy roaring citadel—        75
  The broad black sea—the sun-dropp’d firmament.
Father of men! Jehovah! What are they,
  The rulers of the earth, that they should dare,
To set aside thy law—to bid man slay
  Where thou, their God, hast told him to forbear?        80
New England rouse thee from thy heavy sleep!
  Storehouse of nations—Lighted of the sky—
Great northern hive—Long cherish’d of the deep—
  Mother of States! To thee we turn our eye!
Up with thy heart in prayer, and cry aloud        85
  Peace to the Nations; to our Borders peace!
Why roll your banners like a thunder-cloud,
  O’er sky and earth for ever? Let war cease!
Let our brave Country lift her arms and swear
  By Him that dwelleth in eternity,        90
That henceforth and for ever she will wear
  About her warrior brow, the flowering olive-tree!

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