Lola Ridge ( )

The Song of Iron


Not yet hast Thou sounded
Thy clangorous music,
Whose strings are under the mountains
Not yet hast Thou spoken
The blooded, implacable Word

But I hear in the Iron singing -
In the triumphant roaring of the steam and pistons pounding -
Thy barbaric exhortation
And the blood leaps in my arteries, unreproved,
Answering Thy call
All my spirit is inundated with the tumultuous passion of Thy Voice,
And sings exultant with the Iron,
For now I know I too am of Thy Chosen

Oh fashioned in fire -
Needing flame for Thy ultimate word -
Behold me, a cupola
Poured to Thy use!

Heed not my tremulous body
That faints in the grip of Thy gauntlet.
Break it and cast it aside
But make of my spirit
That dares and endures
Thy crucible
Pour through my soul
Thy molten, world-whelming song.

 Here at Thy uttermost gate
Like a new Mary, I wait


Charge the blast furnace, workman
Open the valves -
Drive the fires high
(Night is above the gates).

How golden-hot the ore is
From the cupola spurting,
Tossing the flaming petals
Over the silt and furnace ash -
Blown leaves, devastating,
Falling about the world

Out of the furnace mouth -
Out of the giant mouth -
The raging, turgid, mouth -
Fall fiery blossoms
Gold with the gold of buttercups
In a field at sunset,
Or huskier gold of dandelions,
Warmed in sun-leavings,
Or changing to the paler hue
At the creamy hearts of primroses.

Charge the converter, workman -
Tired from the long night?
But the earth shall suck up darkness -
The earth that holds so much
And out of these molten flowers,
Shall shape the heavy fruit

Then open the valves -
Drive the fires high,
Your blossoms nurturing.
(Day is at the gates
And a young wind)

Put by your rod, comrade,
And look with me, shading your eyes
Do you not see -
Through the lucent haze
Out of the converter rising -
In the spirals of fire
Smiting and blinding,
A shadowy shape
White as a flame of sacrifice,
Like a lily swaying?


The ore leaping in the crucibles,
The ore communicant,
Sending faint thrills along the leads
Fire is running along the roots of the mountains
I feel the long recoil of earth
As under a mighty quickening
(Dawn is aglow in the light of the Iron)
All palpitant, I wait


Here ye, Dictators - late Lords of the Iron,
Shut in your council rooms, palsied, depowered -
The blooded, implacable Word?
Not whispered in cloture, one to the other,
(Brother in fear of the fear of his brother)
But chanted and thundered
On the brazen, articulate tongues of the Iron
Babbling in flame

Sung to the rhythm of prisons dismantled,
Manacles riven and ramparts defaced
(Hearts death-anointed yet hearing life calling)
Ankle chains bursting and gallows unbraced

Sung to the rhythm of arsenals burning
Clangor of iron smashing on iron,
Turmoil of metal and dissonant baying
Of mail-sided monsters shattered asunder

Hulks of black turbines all mangled and roaring,
Battering egress through ramparted walls
Mouthing of engines, made rabid with power,
Into the holocaust snorting and plunging

Mighty converters torn from their axis,
Flung to the furnaces, vomiting fire,
Jumbled in white-heaten masses disshapen
Writhing in flame-tortured levers of iron

Gnashing of steel serpents twisting and dying
Screeching of steam-glutted cauldrons rending
Shock of leviathans prone on each other
Scaled flanks touching, ore entering ore
Steel haunches closing and grappling and swaying
In the waltz of the mating locked mammoths of iron,
Tasting the turbulent fury of living,
Mad with a moment's exuberant living!
Crash of devastating hammers despoiling..
Hands inexorable, marring
What hands had so cunningly moulded

Structures of steel welded, subtily tempered,
Marvelous wrought of the wizards of ore,
Torn into octaves discordantly clashing,
Chords never final but onward progressing
In monstrous fusion of sound ever smiting on sound
in mad vortices whirling

Till the ear, tortured, shrieks for cessation
Of the raving inharmonies hatefully mingling
The fierce obligato the steel pipes are screaming
The blare of the rude molten music of Iron

Lola Ridge's other poems:
  1. Broadway
  2. East River
  3. Flotsam
  4. The Everlasting Return
  5. Brooklyn Bridge

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