Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Russia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX.  1876–79.
Emancipation of the Serfs
Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905)
AGAIN, sweet bells of the Russias,
  Your voice on the March air fling!
Ring, bells, on the Volga and Dwina,
  Ring, bells, on the Caspian, ring!
O Tzar of the North, Alexander,        5
  Thy justice to those that were least
Now girds thee with strength of the victor,
  And makes thee the lord of the East!
It was midnight on the Finland,
  And, o’er the wastes of snow,        10
From the crystal sky of winter
  The lamps of God hung low.
A sea of ice was the Neva,
  In the white light of the stars,
And it locked its arms in silence        15
  Round the city of the Tzars.
The palace was mantled in shadow,
  And, dark in the starlit space,
The monolith rose before it
  From its battle-trophied base.        20
And the cross that crowned the column
  Seemed reaching to the stars,
O’er the white streets, wrapped in silence,
  Round the palace of the Tzars.
The chapel’s mullioned windows        25
  Are flushed with a sullen light;
Who comes to the sacred altar
  In the silence of the night?
What prince with a deep heart-burden
  Approaches the altar’s stair,        30
To take the wine and the wafer,
  And bow for the help of prayer?
’T is the Tzar, whose word in the morning
  Shall make the Russias free
From the Neva to the Ural,        35
  From the Steppe to the winter sea;
Who speaks, and a thousand steeples
  Ring freedom to every man,—
From the serf on the white Ladoga
  To the fisher of Astrakhan.        40
O, faith in Eternal Power!
  O, faith in Eternal Love!
O, faith that looked up to heaven
  The promise of ages to prove!
The cross and the crown gleam above him;        45
  He raises his brow from prayer,
The cross of humanity’s martyr
  Or crown of the hero to wear.
Slept the serf on the Neva and Volga,
  Slept the fisher of Astrakhan,        50
Nor dreamed that the bells of the morning
  Would ring in his rights as a man.
He saw not night’s crystal gates open
  To hosts singing carols on high,
He knew not a Bethlehem glory        55
  Would break with the morn in the sky!
The morn set its jewels of rubies
  In the snows of the turret and spire,
And shone the far sea of the Finland
  A sea of glass mingled with fire.        60
The Old Guard encircled the palace
  With questioning look on each cheek,
And waited the word that the ukase
  To the zone-girded empire should speak.
The voice of the Russias has spoken;        65
  Each serf in the Russias is free!
Ring, bells, on the Neva and Volga,
  Ring, bells, on the Caspian Sea!
O Tzar of the North, Alexander,
  Thy justice to those that were least        70
Shall gird thee with strength of the victor,
  Shall make thee the lord of the East.
Again, sweet bells of the Russias,
  Your voice on the March air fling!
Ring, bells, on the Volga and Dwina,        75
  Ring, bells, on the Caspian, ring!
Thy triumphs of peace, Alexander,
  Outshine all thy triumphs of war,
And thou at God’s altar wert grander
  Than throned as the conquering Tzar!        80

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