Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

Through Liberty To Light - Poem by Alfred Austin

Fixed is my Faith, the lingering dawn despite,
That still we move through Liberty to Light.
The Human Tragedy.

When God out of chaos primeval divided the day from the night,
And moved on the face of the waters, ordaining,
``Let there be Light!''
And commanded the creatures that perish to people wave, wood, and wind,
Then fashioned Man after His image, and gave him the godlike mind,
He said, ``I, the Lord, now make you lord of the earth, and the air, and sea,
And I lend you My will to work My will, and now behold! you are free!

``Free to be strong or feeble, free to be false or true,
To withhold you from evil-doing, or, what I shall ban, to do;
Free to be crooked and craven, or fearless, and frank, and brave,
To love as yourself your brother, or make him your bond and slave;
To hallow the world with freedom, or fetter your fellow-men;
But, as you shall do, at the Judgment Day My
Justice will judge you then.''

Then the sons of men multiplied gladly, and, proud of the boon of birth,
They teemed over main and mountain to the uttermost bounds of earth:
They built up cities and Empires, Common-wealth, Throne, and State,
And some were pillared on force and fraud, and some upon fear and hate.
For the strong cared but to enjoy their strength, the mighty to use their might,
And the vanquished were lashed to the victor's car, wherever his sword could smite.

But out of the mist of the Northern Sea a blended race arose,
Whose blood was warmed by the wind and the wave, and braced by the Winter snows;
A race with the wisdom of long-linked years, yet the hopeful heart of youth,
Who hated the lie and the liar, and dared both to speak and hear the truth;
Who loved the Light for the Light's own sake, and, as none but who love it can,
Kept the Torch of Liberty still aflame, and passed it from man to man.

And they circled the sea, and they girded the earth, and they spread round the rounded world,
And the sound of their clarions never ceased, and never their flag was furled,
And, wherever those shrilled, or this was seen, men sprang to their feet, and cried,
``Now the Tyrant shall quake on his throne for fear, and the lash no more be plied;
For the winds of Justice propel their sails, and
Liberty steers their keel,
And none but the lawless shall tremble now, and none but the haughty kneel.

``At home in their white-cliffed, green-grassed
Isle, where the woods and the waters meet,
The King is honoured upon his throne, and the
Judge revered in his seat,
And each man's own is his own to keep, and safe from the robber's clutch,
And the lowliest hearth hath sacred rights nor sceptre nor sword dare touch;
And, as it doth on the Northern strand, so it doth in the Southern sea,
And it says, as God said to Man at birth, `And now behold! you are free.'''

But apart in the Southern sea there dwelt a race, though of Northern strain,
With narrow foreheads and narrower hearts, who cherished the thong and chain,
So long as these left their own limbs free to do as their brute wills list,
To fetter and flog the sons of Ham, and to tether the stranger's wrist,
Boasting, ``Rather than not be free to make these hew for us, delve, and drudge,
Let the hellhounds of War be all unleashed, and the battle-bolts be judge!''

Then the Land of the Northern mist waxed wroth, and said, ``Now their hour has come.
Too long to their deeds have mine ears been deaf, too long my voice been dumb.
I will wrench the rod from their boorish grasp, their lash will I snatch and seize,
Till low on their knees they grovel down, and for mercy clasp my knees.
They have called on the sword, they shall bide by the sword, and mine will I never sheathe,
Till to dwellers in darkness it bring the Light, and Freedom to all who breathe.''

Then manly to tender kissed farewell, but never a tear was shed,
And over the wave, and along with the wind, to the Southern zone they sped,
The roughly-nurtured, the gently-bred, all bound on the self-same track,
To storm the steeps and defiles of death, but never to turn them back;
And their sons that on Austral or Western shores exult in their sires' renown,
Shouted, ``Barrel and blade, we'll come to you, and gallop the despots down.''

Shame, shame on you, Gaul and Teuton! that, seeing this noble deed,
You have hardened your hearts for envy, and been false to your vaunted Creed;
Should juggle with truth, should welcome the lie, should garble and gird for spite,
Pray Heaven to favour the tyrants' cause, pray
Heaven to hinder the Light.
Hark, hark to the greeting of free-born men from the Land of the Setting Sun,
``God prosper you, dear old England! It is rightly and nobly done.''

Wherever our sails have quivered, wherever our keels have ploughed,
We have carried the Flag of Freedom, unfurled it from mast and shroud.
It hath weathered the storm of battle, it guardeth the paths of peace,
And will watch over Right both day and night, till the day and the night shall cease;
And, while there's a chain to shatter, and, while there's a wrong to right,
Its watchword shall be God's gift to man,
``Through Liberty, on to Light!''


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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