John Hay , "Liberty" (1900)
Transcribed from pages 423-424 of The Poetry of
Freedom anthology (1945), edited by William Rose Benét and Norman
- What man is there so bold that he should say,
- Thus, and thus only, would I have the Sea ?
- For whether lying calm and beautiful,
- Clasping the earth in love, and throwing back
- The smile of Heaven from waves of amethyst;
- Or whether, freshened by the busy winds,
- It bears the trade and navies of the world
- To ends of use or stern activity;
- Or whether, lashed by tempests, it gives way
- To elemental fury, howls and roars
- At all its rocky barriers, in wild lust
- Of ruin drinks the blood of living things,
- And strews its wrecks oer leagues of desolate shore,—
- Always it is the Sea, and men bow down
- Before its vast and varied majesty.
- So all in vain will timorous ones essay
- To set the metes and bounds of Liberty.
- For Freedom is its own eternal law:
- It makes its own conditions, and in storm
- Or calm alike fulfils the unerring Will.
- Let us not then despise it when it lies
- Still as a sleeping lion, while a swarm
- Of gnat-like evils hover round its head;
- Nor doubt it when in mad, disjointed times
- It shakes the torch of terror, and its cry
- Shrills oer the quaking earth, and in the flame
- Of riot and war we see its awful form
- Rise by the scaffold, where the crimson axe
- Rings down its grooves the knell of shuddering kings.
- For ever in thine eyes, O Liberty,
- Shines that high light whereby the world is saved,
- And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee!