Of America

By George Sterling

January 1st, 1908

Cry some, in seeming wisdom of the hour:
"Not Babylon, nor Karnak in her pomp,
Knew fairer paths to doom than thou. Thy skies
Are gentleness. Incessantly the Fates
Hold thee in kindest scrutiny. Thy feet
Tread sunward, God being wroth with thee at last,
Alloting thee no more His sterner ways
And cleanly times of war. For now He grants
The recompense of battle—pleasant years,
And such reward as age discerns. Grown soft,
Thy hands reach out for mercenary joys;
Thy heart desires dishonorable loves
And baser dreams. Yearly the golden chain
Is weightier at thy wrists, and fostered Pow'rs
Plan in their dusk of tyranny thy tomb;
And in that shadow Mammon's eyes grow fierce,
And half thy sons adore him. Now the land
Grows vile, and all thy statehood is a mart. . . .
So passed the elder empires. So thy might—
O thou too blesséd in immediate wealth!—
Ebbs with the day, till night behold thy doom,
Nor feels the menace of that lethal time
When sinks the day-star of senescent realms,
Slow-westering In splendors of decay."

Let men arraign thy worth; yet Man has found
Till now no ampler heavens than thine, nor years
Made safe for purer purpose to the race.
Our fathers builded well, and tho' our walls,
To children of the fairer days to come,
Be seen the least foundation of the plinth
Wherefrom, assoiled, our sons to be shall rear
That final Temple to confront the skies,
Nathless, to each his own, to every age
Its war: their dust is equal at the last!
And thou, thou hast the daylight still in dow'r;
The dews are young upon thy leafy crown;
We love thee for thy youth, believing still
That nobler mornings wait thy sovereign eyes;
That Time, in expiation, yet shall crown
The sordid years with Brotherhood, and we
Walk sane at last, nor strive as wolves or swine
Each for his glut, and heedless each of all.
We trust thy Fates, nor dread the hidden years,
Beholding radiance about thy brow—
Beautiful light, whose rays reveal thy strength,
And yet shall consecrate that strength to Man.

Thus hope we, though the vatic past appal, And
Wisdom whisper but dismay; so trust,
Being as voyagers whose mist-held eyne
See not the Star, yet know the Star abides.

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