Friday, July 14, 2006

Poetic Power

Good poetry has a rhyme and rythm. Great poetry has raw, emotive power. This is one of the most powerful pieces I know of.

...Oh FREEDOM! thou art not, as poets dream,

A fair young girl, with light and delicate limbs,

And wavy tresses gushing from the cap

With which the Roman master crowned his slave

When he took of the gyves. A bearded man,

Armed to the teeth, art thou; one mailed hand

Grasps the broad shield, and one the sword; thy brow,

Glorious in beauty though it be, is scarred

With tokens of old wars; thy massive limbs

Are strong with struggling. Power at thee has launched

His bolts, and with his lightnings smitten thee;

They could not quench the life thou hast from heaven.

Merciless power has dug thy dungeon deep,

And his swart armorers, by a thousand fires,

Have forged thy chain; yet, while he deems thee bound,

The links are shivered, and the prison walls

Fall outward: terribly thou springest forth,

As springs the flame above a burning pile,

And shoutest to the nations, who return

Thy shoutings, while the pale oppressor flies.

Thy birthright was not given by human hands:

Thou wert twin-born with man. In pleasant fields,

While yet our race was few, thou sat’st with him,

To tend the quiet flock and watch the stars,

And teach the reed to utter simple airs.

Thou by his side, amid the tangled wood,

Didst war upon the panther and the wolf,

His only foes; and thou with him didst draw

The earliest furrows on the mountain side,

Soft with the deluge. Tyranny himself,

Thy enemy, although of reverend look,

Hoary with many years, and far obeyed,

Is later born than thou; and as he meets

The grave defiance of thine elder eye,

The usurper trembles in his fastness.

Thou shalt wax stronger with the lapse of years,

But he shall fade into a feebler age;

Feebler yet subtler. He shall weave his snares,

And spring them on thy careless steps, and clap

His withered hands, and from their ambush call

His hordes to fall upon thee. He shall send

Quaint maskers, forms of fair and gallant mien,

To catch thy gaze, and uttering graceful words

To charm thy ear; while his sly imps, by stealth,

Twine around thee threads of steel, light thread upon thread,

That grow to fetters; or bind down thy arms

With chains concealed in chaplets. Oh! Not yet

May’st thou unbrace thy corselet, nor lay by

Thy sword; nor yet, O Freedom! close thy lids

In slumber; for thine enemy never sleeps,

And thou must watch and combat till the day

Of the new earth and heaven. ...

From:The Antiquity of Freedom'

William Cullen Bryant.


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