John Boyle O Reilly Poems >>
Liberty Lighting The World

MAJESTIC warder by the Nation's gate,
Spike-crowned, flame-armed like Agony or Glory,
Holding the tablets of some unknown law,
With gesture eloquent and mute as Fate,-
We stand about thy feet in solemn awe,
Like desert-tribes who seek their Sphinx's story,
And question thee in spirit and in speech:
What art thou? Whence? What comest thou to teach?
What vision hold those introverted eyes
Of Revolutions framed in centuries?
Thy flame - what threat, or guide for sacred way?
Thy tablet - what commandment? What Sinai?
Lo! as the waves make murmur at thy base,
We watch the somber grandeur of thy face,
And ask thee-what thou art.

I am Liberty,-God's daughter!
My symbols-a law and a torch;
Not a sword to threaten slaughter,
Nor a flame to dazzle or scorch;
But a light that the world may see,
And a truth that shall make men free.

I am the sister of Duty,
And I am the sister of Faith;
To-day, adored for my beauty,
To-morrow, led forth to death.
I am she whom ages prayed for;
Heroes suffered undismayed for;
Whom the martyrs were betrayed for!

I am a herald republican from a land grown free under feet of kings;
My radiance, lighting a century's span, a sister's love to Columbia brings.
I am a beacon to ships at sea, and a warning to watchers ashore;
In palace and prairie and street, through me, shall be heard the ominous ocean-roar.
I am a threat to oppression's sin, and a pharos-light to the weak endeavor;
Mine is the love that men may win, but lost-it is lost forever!
Mine are the lovers who deepest pain, with weapon and word still wounding sore;
With sanguined hands they caress and chain, and crown and trample-and still adore!
Cities have flamed in my name, and Death has reaped wild harvest of joy and peace,
Till mine is a voice that stills the breath, my advent an omen that love shall cease!
In My name, timid ones crazed with terror! In My name, Law with a scourging rod!
In My name, Anarchy, Cruelty, Error! I, who am Liberty,-daughter of God!-

Peace! Be still! See my torch uplifted,-
Heedless of Passion or Mammon's cause!
Round my feet are the ages drifted,
Under mine eyes are the rulers sifted,-
Ever, forever, my changeless laws!

I am Liberty! Fame of nation or praise of statute is naught to me;
Freedom is growth and not creation: one man suffers, one man is free.
One brain forges a constitution; but how shall the million souls be won?
Freedom is more than a resolution-he is not free who is free alone.

Justice is mine, and it grows by loving, changing the world like the circling sun;
Evil recedes from the spirit's proving as mist from the hollows when night is done.
I am the test, O silent toilers, holding the scales of error and truth;
Proving the heritage held by spoilers from hard hands empty, and wasted youth.
Hither, ye blind, from your futile banding; know the rights, and the rights are won;
Wrong shall die with the understanding-one truth clear and the work is done.
Nature is higher than Progress or Knowledge, whose need is ninety enslaved for ten;
My word shall stand against mart and college: THE PLANET BELONGS TO ITS LIVING MEN!
And hither, ye weary ones and breathless, searching the seas for a kindly shore,
I am Liberty! patient, deathless-set by Love at the Nation's door.