Ambrose Bierce

(24 June 1842 - 26 December 1913 / Horse Cave Creek, Ohio)

Invocation - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

Goddess of Liberty! O thou
Whose tearless eyes behold the chain,
And look unmoved upon the slain,
Eternal peace upon thy brow,-


Before thy shrine the races press,
Thy perfect favor to implore-
The proudest tyrant asks no more,
The ironed anarchist no less.


Thine altar-coals that touch the lips
Of prophets kindle, too, the brand
By Discord flung with wanton hand
Among the houses and the ships.


Upon thy tranquil front the star
Burns bleak and passionless and white,
Its cold inclemency of light
More dreadful than the shadows are.


Thy name we do not here invoke
Our civic rites to sanctify:
Enthroned in thy remoter sky,
Thou heedest not our broken yoke.


Thou carest not for such as we:
Our millions die to serve the still
And secret purpose of thy will.
They perish-what is that to thee?


The light that fills the patriot's tomb
Is not of thee. The shining crown
Compassionately offered down
To those who falter in the gloom,


And fall, and call upon thy name,
And die desiring-'tis the sign
Of a diviner love than thine,
Rewarding with a richer fame.


To him alone let freemen cry
Who hears alike the victor's shout,
The song of faith, the moan of doubt,
And bends him from his nearer sky.


God of my country and my race!
So greater than the gods of old-
So fairer than the prophets told
Who dimly saw and feared thy face,-


Who didst but half reveal thy will
And gracious ends to their desire,
Behind the dawn's advancing fire
Thy tender day-beam veiling still,-


To whom the unceasing suns belong,
And cause is one with consequence,-
To whose divine, inclusive sense
The moan is blended with the song,-


Whose laws, imperfect and unjust,
Thy just and perfect purpose serve:
The needle, howsoe'er it swerve,
Still warranting the sailor's trust,-


God, lift thy hand and make us free
To crown the work thou hast designed.
O, strike away the chains that bind
Our souls to one idolatry!


The liberty thy love hath given
We thank thee for. We thank thee for
Our great dead fathers' holy war
Wherein our manacles were riven.


We thank thee for the stronger stroke
Ourselves delivered and incurred
When-thine incitement half unheard-
The chains we riveted we broke.


We thank thee that beyond the sea
Thy people, growing ever wise,
Turn to the west their serious eyes
And dumbly strive to be as we.


As when the sun's returning flame
Upon the Nileside statue shone,
And struck from the enchanted stone
The music of a mighty fame,


Let Man salute the rising day
Of Liberty, but not adore.
'Tis Opportunity-no more-
A useful, not a sacred, ray.


It bringeth good, it bringeth ill,
As he possessing shall elect.
He maketh it of none effect
Who walketh not within thy will.


Give thou more or less, as we
Shall serve the right or serve the wrong.
Confirm our freedom but so long
As we are worthy to be free.


But when (O, distant be the time!)
Majorities in passion draw
Insurgent swords to murder Law,
And all the land is red with crime;


Or-nearer menace!-when the band
Of feeble spirits cringe and plead
To the gigantic strength of Greed,
And fawn upon his iron hand;-


Nay, when the steps to state are worn
In hollows by the feet of thieves,
And Mammon sits among the sheaves
And chuckles while the reapers mourn:


Then stay thy miracle!-replace
The broken throne, repair the chain,
Restore the interrupted reign
And veil again thy patient face.


Lo! here upon the world's extreme
We stand with lifted arms and dare
By thine eternal name to swear
Our country, which so fair we deem-


Upon whose hills, a bannered throng,
The spirits of the sun display
Their flashing lances day by day
And hear the sea's pacific song-


Shall be so ruled in right and grace
That men shall say: 'O, drive afield
The lawless eagle from the shield,
And call an angel to the place!'


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010



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