Katharine Lee Bates

(1859-1929 / United States)

Out Of Siberia - Poem by Katharine Lee Bates

SHAKERAGS, cripples, gaunt and dazed,
Prison-broken hosts on hosts,
Torture-scarred and dungeon-crazed,
Down the convict road they pour,
More and more and myriads more,
Terrible as ghosts.
Shuffling feet that miss the chain,
Shoulders welted, faces hoar,
Sightless eyes that stare in vain,
Writhen limbs and idiot tongue—
They are old who were so young
When they passed before.
Grimy from the mines, a stain
And a horror on the white
Sweep of the Siberian plain,
These, grotesque and piteous, these
Fill the earth with jubilees,
Flood the skies with light.
While each squalid tatter spins
At the sport of wind and snow,
Russia hails her paladins,
And with cheer or sob proclaims
Long unspoken hero names,
Names they hardly know.
They unto themselves are vague,
Even as they tear the bread
That their famished fingers beg;
They themselves are specters, who
Melt into their retinue
Of unnumbered dead.
From the shackles, from the whips,
Over frozen steppes they stream,
Quavering songs on ghastly lips,
Haggard, holy caravan,
Saviours of the soul of man,
Martyrs of a dream;
Martyrs of a dream fulfilled,
Givers who have paid the price,
Homing now to hearths long chilled,
Guests exalted over all
At glad Freedom's festival,
Saints of sacrifice.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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