Ode: Panama, the Mastery of Man

Text of the rolling years that who shall scan!
Handwriting of a day that knew no sun,
Rich palimpsest, through whose full lines appear
The records of an earlier day fordone:
Writing in stone, a future deed God wrought
And folded it away until the year
When, counting all our yesterdays as naught,
His creature, Man, partaking of His power,
Should read that purpose, and set free the hour
Which marks completion of His ancient plan.

For there has been a Workman great and good:
Fathom on fathom laid He in the slime
The unbreached links that chain the world in one.
He made, and swung the pendulum of time,
White magic at His word grew gathered light;
What golden jungle could have laired the sun?
He saw the Day upon the brow of Night
Lay the first kiss that trembled into stars:—
Here opening pleasances, there setting bars,
The Worker in His power's plenitude.

What lesser Being could have sired the sea
Whose waters prove him nursling of the sky,
Finding his cradle in the various earth,
The ocean's hollow or the cowslip's eye,
But ever passing up and down a stair—
Procession of continual rebirth—
The silken ladder of the sunbeams' hair:
Behold the sea, how hath the mothering moon
Some lullaby for him that she doth croon
While slumbering his breast heaves peacefully.

Who zoned the worlds with greater worlds of air,
A trackless footing where the lightnings run,
The day's broad rampart and its rendezvous
Since chaos first was raided by the sun,—
Titanic battles that have left no scar
On all the frontier of its quiet blue
Where soar our wingèd ships: the sentry star
That sees them sudden rise, then disappear,
To all their challenging but answers, “Here
Is empery that God may not forswear.”

Not from the star-veined heavens comes our gold,
Nor in the flashing skies is struck our fire,
Doth any field of sunset give us bread?
Swollen with pride and loud with vain desire,
Of old men were who vowed assault on heaven,
Threatening with trowelled hand the day-spring's head:
And Babel's very tongue is perished even,
The sun shines down a mockery of their pain
And there is laughter of them in the rain,—
The earth is our inheritance, behold!

The earth that is the sister of the sea,
The earth that is the daughter of the stars,
The mother of the myriad race of men:
Gaze with Columbus over ocean bars,
Drink with Balboa in thy thirsting eye
The waters that he quaffed on Darien,
With them turn homeward, loaded with new sky:
Catch, if thou mayest, the lightning of the gleam
That crowns their brow of continents a-dream,
And thou hast neighbored immortality.

Thy conquest is the taking of the world,
The world that is and can not be but good
Since God first looked upon His labors done.
Canst thou forget Whose awful Feet have stood
Even as Man upon the strand of time?
The Orient He, but till the West is won,
The furthest footing of the utmost clime,
His message has a meaning and His law
Compulsion of obedience and awe
In Whom the racial destiny is furled.

Westward and farther west till west is east,
The oar, the spur, the spade, the axe, the cross,
Humanity and Christ move onward one.
And be it counted to mankind for loss
If on this day no word be said or sung
For him who took the highways of the sun,
A pilgrim scrip about his shoulders flung,
Glad robber of the roads that lead to death,
Who stole men's souls, unto his latest breath,
Conquistador for God, the mission priest.

Ye men for whom our bannered song is flung,
Whose muscles have a magic that the sea
And earth obey, yours is the conqueror's mind.
Ye are the sons of olden chivalry,
Yea, ye are sons of that high lineage
Whose records written in the rock ye find;
Ye are the sons of Him, the Primal Mage,
Whose might in yours has wrought till Panama
Outrolls the latest workings of the Law
Whose earliest deeds the stars of morning sung.
Then let the morning and the night as one,
Let East and West and all the lands between,
North worlds and south together find a voice
Acclaiming what this day our eyes have seen.
Until the heavens are folded like a tent
Will all the thoughts of coming time rejoice
Our swords were into yeoman plowshares bent,
And while this year on half the nations fell
The lightnings and the cursing rains of hell,
The last great wonder of the world was done.
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