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John Hay

(8 October 1838 – 1 July 1905 / Salem, Indiana)

Centennial


A hundred times the bells of Brown
Have rung to sleep the idle summers,
And still to-day clangs clamoring down
A greeting to the welcome comers.

And far, like waves of morning, pours
Her call, in airy ripples breaking,
And wanders to the farthest shores,
Her children's drowsy hearts awaking.

The wild vibration floats along,
O'er heart-strings tense its magic plying,
And wakes in every breast its song
Of love and gratitude undying.

My heart to meet the summons leaps
At limit of its straining tether,
Where the fresh western sunlight steeps
In golden flame the prairie heather.

And others, happier, rise and fare
To pass within the hallowed portal,
And see the glory shining there
Shrined in her steadfast eyes immortal.

What though their eyes be dim and dull,
Their heads be white in reverend blossom;
Our mother's smile is beautiful
As when she bore them on her bosom!

Her heavenly forehead bears no line
Of Time's iconoclastic fingers,
But o'er her form the grace divine
Of deathless youth and wisdom lingers.

We fade and pass, grow faint and old,
Till youth and joy and hope are banished,
And still her beauty seems to fold
The sum of all the glory vanished.

As while Tithonus faltered on
The threshold of the Olympian dawnings,
Aurora's front eternal shone
With lustre of the myriad mornings.

So joys that slip like dead leaves down,
And hopes burnt out that die in ashes,
Rise restless from their graves to crown
Our mother's brow with fadeless flashes.

And lives wrapped in tradition's mist
These honored halls to-day are haunting,
And lips by lips long withered kissed
The sagas of the past are chanting.

Scornful of absence's envious bar
Brown smiles upon the mystic meeting
Of those her sons, who, sundered far,
In brotherhood of heart are greeting;

Her wayward children wandering on
Where setting stars are lowly burning,
But still in worship toward the dawn
That gilds their souls' dear Mecca turning;

Or those who, armed for God's own fight,
Stand by his word through fire and slaughter,
Or bear our banner's starry light
Far-flashing through the Gulf's blue water.

For where one strikes for light and truth
The right to aid, the wrong redressing,
The mother of his spirit's youth
Sheds o'er his soul her silent blessing.

She gained her crown a gem of flame
When Kneass fell dead in victory gory;
New splendor blazed upon her name
When Ives' young life went out in glory!

Thus bright forever may she keep
Her fires of tolerant Freedom burning,
Till War's red eyes are charmed to sleep
And bells ring home the boys returning.

And may she shed her radiant truth
In largess on ingenuous comers,
And hold the bloom of gracious youth
Through many a hundred tranquil summers!

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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