Memorial Day, 1901

By George Sterling

To each the city of his dream!
    Far lifts the purple of its walls,
And pure its domes eternal gleam
    Above the promise of its halls.

Unto each soul her chosen ways
    And travail upward from the night.
Enough, that from her dark of days
    She have in quest the trusted light.

Tho' in futility she hold,
    To heights eternally afar,
Eyes that the waited morning's gold
    Bless never—she hath stood a star.

Weary the ways whereon we strive
    To heirdom of the ends of strife:
Sabre and cannon, lance and gyve
    Prepare the after-peace of life.

Irrevocable, fraught with dread,
    The mandates of the cosmic plan
Await in tracereies of red
    The men that frame the House of Man,

Whereof as holly lies the stone
    Deep in obscurieis of dust
As that whereby the years shall own
    The far fulfillment of the Trust.

Ah, dream of unavailing eyes!
    Ah, glory of the lucent cross
By hope foreseen on future skies,
    To hush the memory of loss!

The cannon take their pall of rust,
    Its gentler harvests wait the sword,
The deep of war's recurrent lust
    Submissive to a deeper Word.

As honored by that farther day
    Shall be the warrior as the bard;
And equal, shall its wisdom say,
    The hands that build, the hands that guard,

Large writ in blood their annals burn,
    And hallowed, tho' the morning star
Of Peace arise, and races earn
    The red affranchisement of war.

O vision of a nation crowned
    With purer light by lasting Peace,
'Neath altered skies whence Battle frowned
    And Pain had terrible release!

Deep in our dark of strife and wrong,
    Blinded we loose a sanguine flood,
Entreating from our Fates ere long
    The guerdon of the holy blood-

Diviner cities wrought anew
    In all that Love and Art may lend,
And heights of freedom whereunto
    We deem the toiling ages trend.

Pleasant, O Love, thy garden-close
    And murmur of the untroubled dove,
But sterner walls constrain thy foes,
    And other sounds than thine, O Love!—

Incitement of the whining fife
    And mutter of the troubled drum,
Clamor of life that reels from life,
    Cannon that smite all clamor dumb!

Supreme, O Art! thy splendors blaze,
    And fair the shrine thy sons attain;
But ruder hands on darker ways
    Ensure the incomparable fane.

(So gently came the feet of Spring
    Along the wintry ways afar,
So rich with song the valleys ring,
    We deem we have but dreamt of war.)

And we, above the war-won graves,
    Stand conscious of their homage due;
We wander where the cypress waves,
    Sad for the dead we never knew—

From whom we gathered, in regret,
    Tribute of unregretful breath;
On whom the panoply we set
    That molders on the road of Death.

So now their time held consecrate
    We greet in hall and temple, or
Where Summer, calling at the gate,
    Has thrown her blossoms in before.

And rose and marble clasp the dead,
    And gleam about the ghostly court,
To quieter camp the soldier led,
    The seaman to a farther port.

How deep they lie from voice or tear!
    With silence how supremely blest!—
So far in peace they cannot hear
    The grieving pines above their rest.

Tho' strongly on their holy place
    The cumbrous nations prove their might,
Unheard the battle-thunders pace
    Above the nations of the night.

A sense of this their dreamlessness
    Arises to the mortal brow.
We deem their quietudes confess
    To war's futility, that now

Above the dust so swift to slay
    Alight the lily's tender snows,
And on the long-forgiven clay
    Its foeman's children loose the rose.

Set to duration of the bronze,
    The soldier stands all ages' guest:
Harness of high renown he dons,
    But sweeter fame the flowers attest.

                          * * *

Content, as though for valor crowned,
    Austere, untroubled, rest the dead—-
The citadel of silence found,
    And all its armament of dread.

Before whose Imminence we pause
    And question far the nightward posts,
And seek with darkened eyes the cause
    Of menace to the mortal hosts:

Upon Whose war our foe Is sent;
    What purpose his invasions prove;
Or issues of the dim intent
    Wherewith his ghostly legions move.

But never answer dayward ran,
    Nor message from the eternal scouts,
Resolving to our anxious van
    The riddle of the dark redoubts.

Perchance they know the secret sought,
    (Tidings we reach from Time to share;
That bought with life were cheaply bought),
    But find the message dread to bear.

Perchance, to that imputed night
    The future lies too sadly clear;
Perchance the soldier's better sight
    Confirms the Prophecy of Fear,

Revealing, to the spirit's quest,
    The Mother in whose need the swords
He faced with unregarded breast,
    In vassalage to monstrous lords.

For in the prophet's light of dream,
    She stands immanacled in gold,
Disclosing, as the sages deem,
    Decadence from the worth of old.

O vision of insurgent doom,
    And thunders holden to that day!
Portentous in that farther gloom
    The Titans bend above their prey.

And all that sky is dark with wings
    That bear to feasts of infamy
And shame of miconjectured things
    The vampire brood of luxury.

Lo! Power, with encrimsoned hands,
    The blood-draught of his shambles sips;
And Justice at her altar stands
    And stammers with polluted lips;

Lo! man to Man as alien seems,
    Nor seeks, for serfdom to delight,
Divergence of the chartered streams
    That sate the languid parasite;

But sits the throne of privilege,
    And claims all lordship of the soil,
And wrings from penury the pledge
    Of lifelong servitude to toil,

Forgetting, in the lust for pow'r,
    The peoples faithless to their trust,
Who joined, at Time's avenging hour,
    The nations touched by Time to dust. . . .

So dark the doom our sages feel
    Impendent; but the Fates have stood
Unknown of man, nor deign to seal
    The auguries of likelihood.

For peril that the seer foresees,
    Perils transcending intervene;
Transition holds her mysteries
    Accordant to the unforeseen.

And evil comes with good allied,
    Nor hath supremacy of scope.
The Builder and the Plan abide.
    We hope, who are the sons of Hope.

                          * * *

O timeless Light beyond the years,
    Illume Thy mysteries of fate!
Absolve the future of its fears,
    And loose us from the law of hate!

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