Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

O Star Of France



O STAR of France!
The brightness of thy hope and strength and fame,
Like some proud ship that led the fleet so long,
Beseems to-day a wreck, driven by the gale--a mastless hulk;
And 'mid its teeming, madden'd, half-drown'd crowds,
Nor helm nor helmsman.


Dim, smitten star!
Orb not of France alone--pale symbol of my soul, its dearest hopes,
The struggle and the daring--rage divine for liberty,
Of aspirations toward the far ideal--enthusiast's dreams of
brotherhood, 10
Of terror to the tyrant and the priest.


Star crucified! by traitors sold!
Star panting o'er a land of death--heroic land!
Strange, passionate, mocking, frivolous land.

Miserable! yet for thy errors, vanities, sins, I will not now rebuke
thee;
Thy unexampled woes and pangs have quell'd them all,
And left thee sacred.

In that amid thy many faults, thou ever aimedest highly,
In that thou wouldst not really sell thyself, however great the
price,
In that thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg'd sleep, 20
In that alone, among thy sisters, thou, Giantess, didst rend the ones
that shamed thee,
In that thou couldst not, wouldst not, wear the usual chains,
This cross, thy livid face, thy pierced hands and feet,
The spear thrust in thy side.


O star! O ship of France, beat back and baffled long!
Bear up, O smitten orb! O ship, continue on!

Sure, as the ship of all, the Earth itself,
Product of deathly fire and turbulent chaos,
Forth from its spasms of fury and its poisons,
Issuing at last in perfect power and beauty, 30
Onward, beneath the sun, following its course,
So thee, O ship of France!

Finish'd the days, the clouds dispell'd,
The travail o'er, the long-sought extrication,
When lo! reborn, high o'er the European world,
(In gladness, answering thence, as face afar to face, reflecting
ours, Columbia,)
Again thy star, O France--fair, lustrous star,
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever,
Shall beam immortal.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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