Litany of the Heroes

Would that young Amenophis Fourth returned
Prince Hamlet and the Poet Keats in one,
He mocked at fraud, even his own crown,
He loved all classic beauty in the town,
He rode abroad to build his lotus tomb,
Praising one god, and that one god, the sun.
The idol-worshippers chipped out his name
From wall and obelisk, to end his fame.

Still let that brave, flower-loving King of Time
Be throned in your deep hearts, to raise for you
The hopes the prince and his mother Thi, well knew,
Filling these barren days with Mystery,
With Life, and Death, and Immortality,
The devouring ages, the triumphant Sun.
God keep us brooding on eternal things,
God make us wizard-kings.

Then let us raise that Egypt-nurtured youth,
Son of a Hebrew, with the dauntless scorn
And hate for bleating gods Egyptian-born,
Showing with signs to stubborn Mizraim
" God is one God, the God of Abraham, "
He who in the beginning made the Sun.
God send us Moses from his hidden grave,
God help us to be brave.

Would we were scholars of Confucius' time
Watching the feudal China crumbling down,
Frightening our master, shaking many a crown,
Until he makes more firm the father sages,
Restoring custom from the earliest ages
With prudent sayings, golden as the sun.
Lord, show us safe, august, established ways,
Fill us with yesterdays.

Would that by Hindu magic we became
Dark monks of jewelled India long ago,
Sitting at Prince Siddartha's feet to know
The foolishness of gold and love and station,
The gospel of the Great Renunciation,
The ragged cloak, the staff, the rain and sun,
The beggar's life, with far Nirvana gleaming:
Lord, make us Buddhas, dreaming.

Would that the joy of living came to-day,
Even as sculptured on Athena's shrine
In sunny conclave of serene design,
Maidens and men, procession flute and feast,
By Phidias, the ivory-hearted priest
Of beauty absolute, whose eyes the sun
Showed goodlier forms than our desires can guess
And more of happiness.

Would I might waken in you Alexander,
Murdering the nations wickedly,
Flooding his time with blood remorselessly,
Sowing new Empires, where the Athenian light,
Knowledge and music, slay the Asian night,
And men behold Apollo in the sun.
God make us splendid, though by grievous wrong.
God make us fierce and strong.

Would I might rouse the Caesar in you all
(That which men hail as king, and bow them down,
Till you are crowned, or you refuse the crown
Would I might wake the valor and the pride
The eagle soul with which he soared and died
Entering grandly then the fearful grave
God help us build the world, like master-man,
God help us to be brave.

Behold the Pharisees, proud, rich, and damned,
Boasting themselves in lost Jerusalem,
Gathered a weeping woman to condemn,
Then watching curiously, without a sound
The God of Mercy, writing on the ground.
How looked his sunburned face beneath the sun
Flushed with his Father's mighty angel-wine?
God make us all divine.

Would I might free St. Paul, singing in chains
In your deep hearts. New heavenly love shall fight
And slay the subtle gods of Greek delight
And dreadful Roman gods, and light the world
With words of flame, till those false powers are hurled
Burning to ashes in the avenging grave.
" St. Paul " our battle-cry, and faith our shield,
God help us to be brave.

Yea, give the world no peace, till all men kneel,
Seeking with tears the grace of Christ our God.
Make us like Augustine beneath Thy rod.
Give us no other joy but Thy repentance,
Thunder our just, hereditary sentence
Till shame and fear of Hell blot out the sun.
Christ help us hold Thy blood-redemption dear.
Christ, give us holy fear.

Nay, let us have the marble peace of Rome,
Recorded in the Code Justinian,
Till Pagan Justice shelters man from man.
Fanatics snarl like mongrel dogs; the code
Will build each custom like a Roman Road,
Direct as daylight, clear-eyed as the sun.
God grant all crazy world-disturbers cease.
God give us honest peace.

Would that on horses swifter than desire
We rode behind Mohammed 'round the zones
With swords unceasing, sowing fields of bones,
Till New America, ancient Mizraim,
Cry: " Allah is the God of Abraham. "
God make our host relentless as the sun,
Each soul your spear, your banner and your slave,
God help us to be brave.

Would I might wake St. Francis in you all,
Brother of birds and trees, God's Troubadour,
Blinded with weeping for the sad and poor;
Our wealth undone, all strict Franciscan men,
Come, let us chant the canticle again
Of mother earth and the enduring sun.
God make each soul the lonely leper's slave;
God make us saints, and brave.

Would we were lean and grim, and shaken with hate
Like Dante, fugitive, o'er-wrought with cares,
And climbing bitterly the stranger's stairs,
Yet Love, Love, Love, divining: finding still
Beyond dark Hell the penitential hill,
And blessed Beatrice beyond the grave.
Jehovah lead us through the wilderness:
God make our wandering brave.

Would that we had the fortunes of Columbus.
Sailing his caravels a trackless way,
He found a Universe — he sought Cathay.
God give such dawns as when, his venture o'er,
The Sailor looked upon San Salvador.
God lead us past the setting of the sun
To wizard islands, of august surprise;
God make our blunders wise.

Would that such hills and cities round us sang,
Such vistas of the actual earth and man
As kindled Titian when his life began;
Would that this latter Greek could put his gold,
Wisdom and splendor in our brushes bold
Till Greece and Venice, children of the sun,
Become our everyday, and we aspire
To colors fairer far, and glories higher.

Would I might wake in you the whirlwind soul
Of Michelangelo, who hewed the stone
And Night and Day revealed, whose arm alone
Could draw the face of God, the titan high
Whose genius smote like lightning from the sky —
And shall he mold like dead leaves in the grave?
Nay, he is in us! Let us dare and dare.
God help us to be brave.

Would that in body and spirit Shakespeare came
Visible emperor of the deeds of Time,
With Justice still the genius of his rhyme,
Giving each man his due, each passion grace,
Impartial as the rain from Heaven's face
Or sunshine from the Heaven-enthroned sun.
Sweet Swan of Avon, come to us again.
Teach us to write, and writing, to be men.

Would we were blind with Milton, and we sang
With him of uttermost Heaven in a new song,
That men might see again the angel-throng,
And newborn hopes, true to this age, would rise,
Pictures to make men weep for paradise,
All glorious things beyond the defeated grave.
God smite us blind, and give us bolder wings;
God help us to be brave.

Would that the cold adventurous Corsican
Woke with new hope of glory, strong from sleep,
Instructed how to conquer and to keep
More justly, having dreamed awhile, yea crowned
With shining flowers, God-given; while the sound
Of singing continents, following the sun,
Calls freeborn men to guard Napoleon's throne
Who makes the eternal hopes of man his own.

Would that the dry hot wind called Science came,
Forerunner of a higher mystic day,
Though vile machine-made commerce clear the way —
Though nature losing shame should lose her veil,
And ghosts of buried angel-warriors wail
The fall of Heaven, and the relentless Sun
Smile on, as Abraham's God forever dies —
Lord, give us Darwin's eyes!

Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God's tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still gleam,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire —
Fire that freed the slave.

Then let us seek out shining Emerson
Teacher of Whitman, and better priest of man,
The self-reliant granite American.
Give us his Heaven-sent right to strike and spare,
Give us the wools and hair-shirts prophets wear,
Then Adam's freedom in the Eden-sun.
God help us make each state an Eden-flower,
And blaze long trails to power.

These were the spacious days of Roosevelt.
Would that among you chiefs like him arose
To win the wrath of our united foes,
To chain King Mammon in the donjon-keep,
To rouse our godly citizens that sleep
Till, as one soul, we shout up to the sun
The battle-yell of freedom and the right —
" Lord, let good men unite. "

Nay, I would have you lonely and despised.
Statesmen whom only statesmen understand,
Artists whom only artists can command,
Sages whom all but sages scorn, whose fame
Dies down in lies, in synonyms for shame
With the best populace beneath the sun.
God give us tasks that martyrs can revere,
Still too much hated to be whispered here.

Yea, I would have you like stern Woodrow Wilson
Drinking his cup, as such proud men have done
Since Amenophis Fourth addressed the sun.
Staking his last strength and his final fight
That cost him all, to set the old world right.
The League of Nations course is yet to run.
The Idol-worshippers would end its fame,
And cut from every wall its builder's name.

Would we might drink, with knowledge high and kind,
The hemlock cup of Socrates the king,
Knowing right well we know not anything,
With full life done, bowing before the law,
Binding young thinkers' hearts with loyal awe,
And fealty fixed as the ever-enduring sun —
God let us live, seeking the highest light,
God help us die aright.

Nay, I would have you grand, and still forgotten,
Hid like the stars at noon, as he who set
The Egyptian magic of man's alphabet;
Or that Egyptian, first to dream in pain
That dauntless souls cannot by death be slain —
Conquering for all men then, the fearful grave.
God keep us hid, yet vaster far than death.
God help us to be brave.
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