John Boyle O'Reilly

(28 June 1844 - 10 August 1890 / Dowth Castle, County Meath)

From The Earth, A Cry - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly

CAN the earth have a voice? Can the clods have speech,
To murmur and rail at the demigods?
Trample them! Grind their vulgar faces in the clay!

The earth was made for lords and the makers of law;
For the conquerors and the social priest;
For traders who feed on and foster the complex life;
For the shrewd and the selfish who plan and keep;
For the heirs who squander the hoard that bears
The face of the king, and the blood of the serf,
And the curse of the darkened souls!

O Christ! and O Christ! In thy name the law!
In thy mouth the mandate! In thy loving hand the whip!
They have taken thee down from thy cross and sent thee to scourge the people;
They have shod thy feet with spikes and jointed thy dead knees with iron,
And pushed thee, hiding behind, to trample the poor dumb faces!

The spheres make music in space. They swing
Like fiery cherubim on their paths, circling their suns,
Mysterious, weaving the irrevealable,
Full of the peace of unity—sphere and its life at one—
Humming their lives of love through the limitless waste of creation.

God! thou hast made man a test of Thyself!
Thou hast set in him a heart that bleeds at the cry of the helpless:
Through Thine infinite seas one world rolls silent,
Moaning at times with quivers and fissures of blood;
Divided, unhappy, accursed; the lower life good,
But the higher life wasted and split, like grain with a cankered root.
Is there health in thy gift of life, Almighty?
Is there grief or compassion anywhere for the poor?
If these be, there is guerdon for those who hate the wrong
And leap naked on the spears, that blood may cry
For truth to come, and pity, and Thy peace.
The human sea is frozen like a swamp; and the kings
And the heirs and the owners ride on the ice and laugh.
Their war-forces, orders, and laws are the crusted field of a crater,
And they stamp on the fearful rind, deriding its flesh-like shudder.

Lightning! the air is split, the crater bursts, and the breathing
Of those below is the fume and fire of hatred.
The thrones are stayed with the courage of shotted guns.
The warning dies.
But queens are dragged to the block, and the knife of the guillotine sinks
In the garbage of pampered flesh that gluts its bed and its hinges.

Silence again, and sunshine. The gaping lips are closed on the crater.
The dead are below, and the landless, and those who live to labor
And grind forever in gloom that the privileged few may live.

But the silence is sullen, not restful. It heaves like a sea, and frets,
And beats at the roof till it finds another vent for its fury.
Again the valve is burst and the pitch-cloud rushes,—the old seam rends anew—
Where the kings were killed before, their names are hewed from the granite—
Paris, mad hope of the slave-shops, flames to the petroleuse!
Tiger that tasted blood—Paris that tasted freedom!
Never, while steel is cheap and sharp, shall thy kinglings sleep without dreaming— Never, while souls have flame, shall their palaces crush the hovels.

Insects and vermin, ye, the starving and dangerous myriads,
List to the murmur that grows and growls! Come from your mines and mills,
Pale-faced girls and women with ragged and hard-eyed children,
Pour from your dens of toil and filth, out to the air of heaven—
Breathe it deep, and hearken! A Cry from the cloud or beyond it,
A Cry to the toilers to rise, to be high as the highest that rules them,
To own the earth in their lifetime and hand it down to their children!

Emperors, stand to the bar! Chancellors, halt at the barracks!
Landlords and Lawlords and Tradelords, the specters you conjured have risen—
Communists, Socialists, Nihilists, Rent-rebels, Strikers, behold!
They are fruit of the seed you have sown—God has prospered your planting. They come From the earth, like the army of death. You have sowed the teeth of the dragon!
Hark to the bay of the leader! You shall hear the roar of the pack
As sure as the stream goes seaward. The crust on the crater beneath you
Shall crack and crumble and sink, with your laws and rules
That breed the million to toil for the luxury of the ten—
That grind the rent from the tiller's blood for drones to spend—
That hold the teeming planet as a garden plot for a thousand—
That draw the crowds to the cities from the healthful fields and woods—
That copulate with greed and beget disease and crime—
That join these two and their offspring, till the world is filled with fear,
And falsehood wins from truth, and the vile and cunning succeed,
And manhood and love are dwarfed, and virtue and friendship sick,
And the law of Christ is a cloak for the corpse that stands for Justice! —
As sure as the Spirit of God is Truth, this Truth shall reign,
And the trees and lowly brutes shall cease to be higher than men.
God purifies slowly by peace, but urgently by fire.


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Poem Submitted: Sunday, May 20, 2012



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