George Edward Woodberry

(1855-1930 / United States)

From My Country


O DESTINED Land, unto thy citadel,
What founding fates even now doth peace compel,
That through the world thy name is sweet to tell!
O thronëd Freedom, unto thee is brought
Empire; nor falsehood nor blood-payment asked;
Who never through deceit thy ends hast sought,
Nor toiling millions for ambition tasked;
Unlike the fools who build the throne
On fraud, and wrong, and woe;
For man at last will take his own,
Nor count the overthrow;
But far from these is set thy continent,
Nor fears the Revolution in man’s rise;
On laws that with the weal of all consent,
And saving truths that make the people wise:
For thou art founded in the eternal fact
That every man doth greaten with the act
Of freedom; and doth strengthen with the weight
Of duty; and diviner moulds his fate,
By sharp experience taught the thing he lacked,
God’s pupil; thy large maxim framed, though late,
Who masters best himself best serves the State.
This wisdom is thy Corner: next the stone
Of Bounty; thou hast given all; thy store,
Free as the air, and broadcast as the light,
Thou flingest; and the fair and gracious sight,
More rich, doth teach thy sons this happy lore:
That no man lives who takes not priceless gifts
Both of thy substance and thy laws, whereto
He may not plead desert, but holds of thee
A childhood title, shared with all who grew,
His brethren of the hearth; whence no man lifts
Above the common right his claim; nor dares
To fence his pastures of the common good:
For common are thy fields; common the toil;
Common the charter of prosperity,
That gives to each that all may blessed be.
This is the very counsel of thy soil.
Therefore, if any thrive, mean-souled he spares
The alms he took; let him not think subdued
The State’s first law, that civic rights are strong
But while the fruits of all to all belong;
Although he heir the fortune of the earth,
Let him not hoard, nor spend it for his mirth,
But match his private means with public worth.
That man in whom the people’s riches lie
Is the great citizen, in his country’s eye.
Justice, the third great base, that shall secure
To each his earnings, howsoever poor,
From each his duties, howsoever great.
She bids the future for the past atone.
Behold her symbols on the hoary stone—
The awful scales and that war-hammered beam
Which whoso thinks to break doth fondly dream,
Or Czars who tyrannize or mobs that rage;
These are her charge, and heaven’s eternal law.
She from old fountains doth new judgment draw.
Till, word by word, the ancient order swerves
To the true course more nigh; in every age
A little she creates, but more preserves.
Hope stands the last, a mighty prop of fate.
These thy foundations are, O firm-set State!

Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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