Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘My Country’
By George Edward Woodberry (1855–1930)
O DESTINED Land, unto thy citadel,
What founding fates even now doth peace compel,
That through the world thy name is sweet to tell!
O thronèd Freedom, unto thee is brought
  Empire,—nor falsehood nor blood-payment asked;        5
Who never through deceit thy ends hast sought,
  Nor toiling millions for ambition tasked;—
      Unlike the fools who build the throne
        On fraud, and wrong, and woe;
      For man at last will take his own,        10
        Nor count the overthrow;—
But far from these is set thy continent,
  Nor fears the Revolution in man’s rise;
On laws that with the weal of all consent,
  And saving truths that make the people wise.        15
For thou art founded in the eternal fact
That every man doth greaten with the act
Of freedom; and doth strengthen with the weight
Of duty; and diviner molds his fate,
By sharp experience taught the thing he lacked,        20
God’s pupil: thy large maxim framed, though late,
Who masters best himself best serves the State.
This wisdom is thy Corner; next the stone
  Of Bounty: thou hast given all; thy store
Free as the air, and broadcast as the light,        25
Thou flingest: and the fair and gracious sight,
  More rich, doth teach thy sons this happy lore,—
That no man lives who takes not priceless gifts
  Both of thy substance and thy laws, whereto
He may not plead desert, but holds of thee        30
  A childhood title, shared with all who grew—
His brethren of the hearth: whence no man lifts
Above the common right his claim; nor dares
  To fence his pastures of the common good:
    For common are thy fields; common the toil,        35
Common the charter of prosperity,
That gives to each that all may blessèd be.
    This is the very counsel of thy soil.
Therefore if any thrive mean-souled, he spares
  The alms he took: let him not think subdued        40
The State’s first law, that civic rights are strong
But while the fruits of all to all belong;
Although he heir the fortune of the earth,
Let him not hoard, nor spend it for his mirth,
But match his private means with public worth.        45
That man in whom the people’s riches lie
Is the great citizen, in his country’s eye.
Justice the third great base, that shall secure
To each his earnings, howsoever poor,
    From each his duties, howsoever great;        50
She bids the future for the past atone.
Behold her symbols on the hoary stone,—
The awful scales, and that war-hammered beam
Which whoso thinks to break doth fondly dream,
    Or Czars who tyrannize or mobs that rage;        55
These are her charge, and heaven’s eternal law.
She from old fountains doth new judgment draw,
  Till, word by word, the ancient order swerves
    To the true course more nigh; in every age
  A little she creates, but more preserves.        60
    Hope stands the last, a mighty prop of fate.
    These thy foundations are, O firm-set State!
        And strength is unto thee
        More than this masonry
          Of common thought;        65
Beyond the stars, from the Far City brought.
          Pillar and tower
        Declare the shaping power,
        Massive, severe, sublime,
        Of the stern, righteous time,        70
From sire to son bequeathed, thy eldest dower.
    Large-limbed they were, the pioneers,
Cast in the iron mold that fate reveres;
They could not help but frame the fabric well,
Who squared the stones for Heaven’s eye to tell;        75
Who knew from eld and taught posterity,
      That the true workman’s only he
      Who builds of God’s necessity.
Nor yet hath failed the seed of righteousness;
Still doth the work the awe divine confess,—        80
Conscience within, duty without, express.
Well may thy sons rejoice thee, O proud Land:
  No weakling race of mighty loins is thine,
    No spendthrifts of the fathers; lo, the Arch,
    The loyal keystone glorying o’er the march        85
Of millioned peoples freed! on every hand
  Grows the vast work, and boundless the design.
So in thy children shall thy empire stand,
As in her Cæsars fell Rome’s majesty—
O Desolation, be it far from thee!        90
  Forgetting sires and sons, to whom were given
The seals of glory and the keys of fate,
From Him whom well they knew the Rock of State,
Thy centre, and on thy doorposts blazed his name
Whose plaudit is the substance of all fame,        95
  The sweetness of all hope—forbid it, Heaven!
Shrink not, O Land, beneath that holy fear!
          Thou art not mocked of God;
    His kingdom is thy conquering sphere,
          His will thy ruling rod!        100
        O Harbor of the sea-tossed fates,
          The last great mortal bound;
        Cybele, with a hundred States,
          A hundred turrets, crowned;
        Mother, whose heart divinely holds        105
          Earth’s poor within her breast;
        World-Shelterer, in whose open folds
          The wandering races rest:
        Advance! the hour supreme arrives;
        O’er ocean’s edge the chariot drives;        110
              The past is done;
              Thy orb begun;
  Upon the forehead of the world to blaze,
Lighting all times to be, with thy own golden days.
              O Land beloved!        115
          My Country, dear, my own!
          May the young heart that moved
            For the weak words atone;
The mighty lyre not mine, nor the full breath of song!
        To happier sons shall these belong.        120
        Yet doth the first and lonely voice
        Of the dark dawn the heart rejoice,
  While still the loud choir sleeps upon the bough;
  And never greater love salutes thy brow
            Than his, who seeks thee now.        125
        Alien the sea and salt the foam
        Where’er it bears him from his home:
            And when he leaps to land,
            A lover treads the strand;
            Precious is every stone;        130
  No little inch of all the broad domain
  But he would stoop to kiss, and end his pain,
  Feeling thy lips make merry with his own;
        But oh, his trembling reed too frail
            To bear thee Time’s All-Hail!        135
Faint is my heart, and ebbing with the passion of thy praise!
        The poets come who cannot fail;
  Happy are they who sing thy perfect days!
  Happy am I who see the long night ended,
  In the shadows of the age that bore me,        140
        All the hopes of mankind blending,
        Earth awaking, heaven descending,
          While the new day steadfastly
          Domes the blue deeps over thee!
        Happy am I who see the Vision splendid        145
        In the glowing of the dawn before me,
        All the grace of heaven blending,
        Man arising, Christ descending,
          While God’s hand in secrecy
          Builds thy bright eternity.        150

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