Edgar Lee Masters

23 August 1868 – 5 March 1950 / Kansas / United States


Glorious daughter of time! Thou of the mild blue eye --
Thou of the virginal forehead --pallid, unfurrowed of tears--
Thou of the strong white hands with fingers dipped in the dye
Of the blood that quickened the fathers of thee, in the ancient years,
Leave thou the path of the beasts. Return thou again to the hills,
Forsake thou the deserts of death, where ever the burning thirst,
Flames in the throat for blood, for the vile desire that kills,
Where the treacherous sands by the rebel cerastes are cursed,
And the wastes are strewn with the bones of folly and hate.
Return! where the sunlight gladdens the places of green,
Where the stars comes forth, the heralds of faith and fate,
And the winds of eternity breathe from a day unseen.

Thou! what hast thou to do with a time burnt out and done?
With the old Serbonian bog-- the marshes where nations were lost?
Where wailings are heard of the dead, of the slaughtered Roman and Hun,
And phosphorent lights arise in the hands of a stricken ghost,
Dreaming of splendors of battle that glanced from a million shields,
When the C¾sars pillaged for lust of gold and hunger of power;
And the giants of Gothland festered and stank on the stretching fields,
And the gods of the living were cursed, too weak to reveal the hour,
When they should triumph and others should writhe in a dread defeat,
In the day of thy grace, O fair and false to thy fathers and time,
O thou whom the snares of kings already encompass thy feet,
With thy singing robes besprent with the old Egyptian slime.

But thou hast harkened to guile, to the cunning words of shame,
To the tempter with pieces of gold and the praise of the drunken throng.
Scornfully push from their hands the crown of a common fame,
Not made for thy peaceful brows, for thou wert not born for wrong.
Thou art the fruit of the groaning cycles of hope and love,
Told of by maddened prophets who never beheld thy face,
Who drew from the teeming earth and the fetterless sky above,
That man was made to be free, and to stamp under foot the mace.
How should thy innocent eyes ever leer with a reddened look?
Or thy hair be scented save of the measureless sea?
Or thy feet know the ways of deceit, wrote out in the murderous book,
By monarchs who shrank from the scourging and doom of thy strength and thee?

Beloved of time and of fate, cherished of justice and truth,
Yet thou art free to do, to choose the ill and to die;
To squander thy beauty for hire, to waste thy eternal youth --
For thou art eternal, if thou heedst them not, but pass by,
Pass and return to the mountains of freedom and peace,
Where heavenward flame the fires, where the torches may be relumed,
To girdle the world with the light that was kindled in olden Greece;
Or that the sparks may be scattered wherever injustice has doomed,
Darkness to be the portion of those who famish for light.
Be thou the great rock's shadow cast in a weary land,
Be thou a star of guidance true in a wintry night,
Be thou thyself, and thyself alone, as heaven hath planned.
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