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Emma Lazarus (Эмма Лазарус)

On the Proposal to Erect a Monument in England to Lord Byron

The grass of fifty Aprils hath waved green
  Above the spent heart, the Olympian head,
The hands crost idly, the shut eyes unseen,
  Unseeing, the locked lips whose song hath fled;
Yet mystic-lived, like some rich, tropic flower,
His fame puts forth fresh blossoms hour by hour;
Wide spread the laden branches dropping dew
  On the low, laureled brow misunderstood,
  That bent not, neither bowed, until subdued
By the last foe who crowned while he o'erthrew.

Fair was the Easter Sabbath morn when first
  Men heard he had not wakened to its light:
The end had come, and time had done its worst,
  For the black cloud had fallen of endless night.
Then in the town, as Greek accosted Greek,
'T was not the wonted festal words to speak,
"Christ is arisen," but "Our chief is gone,"
  With such wan aspect and grief-smitten head
  As when the awful cry of "Pan is dead!"
Filled echoing hill and valley with its moan.

"I am more fit for death than the world deems,"
  So spake he as life's light was growing dim,
And turned to sleep as unto soothing dreams.
  What terrors could its darkness hold for him,
Familiar with all anguish, but with fear
Still unacquainted?  On his martial bier
They laid a sword, a helmet, and a crown—
  Meed of the warrior, but not these among
  His voiceless lyre, whose silent chords unstrung
Shall wait—how long?—for touches like his own.

An alien country mourned him as her son,
  And hailed him hero: his sole, fitting tomb
Were Theseus' temple or the Parthenon,
  Fondly she deemed.  His brethren bare him home,
Their exiled glory, past the guarded gate
Where England's Abbey shelters England's great.
Afar he rests whose very name hath shed
  New lustre on her with the song he sings.
  So Shakespeare rests who scorned to lie with kings,
Sleeping at peace midst the unhonored dead.

And fifty years suffice to overgrow
  With gentle memories the foul weeds of hate
That shamed his grave.  The world begins to know
  Her loss, and view with other eyes his fate.
Even as the cunning workman brings to pass
The sculptor's thought from out the unwieldy mass
Of shapeless marble, so Time lops away
  The stony crust of falsehood that concealed
  His just proportions, and, at last revealed,
The statue issues to the light of day,

Most beautiful, most human.  Let them fling
  The first stone who are tempted even as he,
And have not swerved.  When did that rare soul sing
  The victim's shame, the tyrant's eulogy,
The great belittle, or exalt the small,
Or grudge his gift, his blood, to disenthrall
The slaves of tyranny or ignorance?
  Stung by fierce tongues himself, whose rightful fame
  Hath he reviled?  Upon what noble name
Did the winged arrows of the barbed wit glance?

The years' thick, clinging curtains backward pull,
  And show him as he is, crowned with bright beams,
"Beauteous, and yet not all as beautiful
  As he hath been or might be; Sorrow seems
Half of his immortality."*  He needs
No monument whose name and song and deeds
Are graven in all foreign hearts; but she
  His mother, England, slow and last to wake,
  Needs raise the votive shaft for her fame's sake:
Hers is the shame if such forgotten be!

  May, 1875.

  *"Cain," Act I. Scene 1.

Emma Lazarus's other poems:
  1. Sic Semper Liberatoribus!
  2. Magnetism
  3. Agamemnon's Tomb
  4. August Moon
  5. Youth and Death

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