When the world of waters was parted by the stroke of a mighty rod,
Her eyes were first of the lands of earth to look on the face of God;
The white mists robed and throned her, and the sun in his orbit wide
Bent down from his ultimate pathway and claimed her his chosen bride;
And he who had formed and dowered her with the dower of a royal queen,
Decreed her the strength of mighty hills, the peace of the plains between;
The silence of utmost desert, and canyons rifted and riven,
And the music of wide-flung forests were strong winds shout to heaven.
Then high and apart he set her and bade the gray seas guard,
And the lean sands clutching her garments’ hem keep stern and solemn ward.
What dreams she knew as she waited! What strange keels touched her shore!
And feet went into the stillness and returned to the sea no more.
They passed through her dream like shadows — till she woke one pregnant morn
And watched Magellan’s white-winged ships swing round the ice-bound Horn;
She thrilled to their masterful presage, those dauntless sails from afar,
And laughed as she leaned to the ocean till her face shone out like a star.
And men who toiled in the drudging hives of a world as flat as a floor
Thrilled in their souls to her laughter and turned with face to the door;
And creeds as hoary as Adam, and feuds as old as Cain,
Fell deaf on the ear that harkened and caught that far refrain;
Into dungeons by light forgotten, and prisons of grim despair,
Hope came with pale reflection of her star on the swooning air;
And the old, hedged, human whirlpool, with its seething misery,
Broke bound, as a pent-up river breaks through to the healing sun.
Calling, calling, calling; resistless, imperative, strong;
Soldier and priest and dreamer — she drew them, a mighty throng.
The unmapped seas took tribute of many a dauntless band,
And many a brave hope measured but bleaching bones in the sand;
Yet for one that fell, a hundred sprang out to fill his place,
For death at her call was sweeter than life in a tamer race.
Sinew and bone she drew them; steel-thewed—and the weaklings shrank;
Grim-wrought of granite and iron were the men of her foremost rank.
Stern as the land before them, and strong as the waters crossed;
Men who had looked on the face of defeat nor counted the battle lost;
Uncrowned rulers and statesmen, shaping their daily need
To the law of brother with brother, till the world stood by to heed;
The sills of a greater empire they hewed and hammered and turned
And the torch of a larger freedom from their blazing hilltops burned;
Till the old ideals that had led them grew dim as a childhood’s dream,
And Caste went down in the balance, and Manhood stood supreme.
The wanderers of earth turned to her, outcast of the older lands;
With a promise and hope in their pleading, and she reached them pitying hands;
And she cried to the Old World cities that drowse by the Eastern main:
“Send me your weary, house-worn broods and I’ll send you men again!
Lo, here in my wind-swept reaches, by my marshalled peaks of snow,
Is room for a larger reaping than your o’er-tilled fields can grow;
Seed of the Man-seed springing to stature and strength in my sun,
Free, with a limitless freedom no battles of men, have won.”
For men, like the grain of the cornfields, grow small in the huddled crowd;
And weak for the breath of spaces where a soul may speak aloud;
For hills like stairways to heaven, shaming the level track;
And sick with the clang of pavements, and the marts of the trafficking pack;
Greatness is born of greatness, and breadth of a breadth profound;
The old Antaean fable of strength renewed from the ground
Was a human truth for the ages; since the hour of Eden-birth,
That man among men was the strongest who stood with his feet on the earth.
Featured Photo by Jeff R Clow