Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
Song of Earth’s Meaning
By Richard Burton
“WHAT does it matter,” you say,
“When the wilderness lies tame to the hand of man?
It can last but a day,
It is part of the primal plan
For the best of mortal endeavor to pass away.”        5
Nay, not so.
Man must conquer, the soul of him win,
Leash the lightning, burrow the plumbless sea,
Level the mountains, make him a place within
Dank-aired mines, build him cities where he        10
Shall walk alert and free
Nor trample on want and woe.
’Tis the spirit of man to fight
For the ultimate prizes, won
By the sweat of his brow, the light        15
That is in him; by star and sun,
To plant and plan and die in the quest,
Till the tortured world, by east and west,
Yield him a largess of tilth and joy and rest.
Haggard, beat-down, beset        20
By a myriad opposing things,
He shall labor in faith, to get
The glory that gives him wings;
To see the desert bloom like the rose,
And the crooked paths made straight,        25
The miracle wrought in the face of foes
That menace him, soon and late.
Since something within him dares, and his deep heart knows.
’Tis the romance of daedal days
In this latest birth of Time,        30
And better than all the lays
Of legends that ring in rhyme;
’Tis the victor-song sublime
Of the pigmy that first began
Up toward the stars to climb,        35
When he quoth to himself, “I can!”
He cannot but live his life
Pricked by this wonder-thought:
To use the hammer and knife,
Till out of the stress is wrought,        40
Out of the sorrow and strife,
A world a-smile in an after age;
Even as God in his counsels sage,
Struck from chaos our heritage.
Then hail to the master work,        45
To the romance of matter, hail!
Never a chance to shirk,
Never the will to fail,
Till the planet, conquered and cleansed, shall shine
As fire, and swing to the song divine        50
Of the cosmic choir,—brother, your song and mine!

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