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Poem by Mathilde Blind
OH torrent, roaring in thy giant fall, And thund'ring grandly o'er th' opposing blocks, Thy voice, far louder than the lion's call, Through trackless forests shakes the heart of rocks, Runs through the marrow of the earth with shocks, Lashes the clouds with terror, for they fly Along the high wide blue with streaming locks, And round thee foam white dazzling flashes high And with forked water-flames half licks the central sky. Oh, what a storm of waters! Oh, what chasms Of foam! what seething hills! what whirling rain! Billows on billows press, though torn by spasms; Wounded and bleeding, yet defying pain! They grappled with the stones, that gnash in vain Their cruel teeth, for smarting wounds they brave, And toss in scorn their wildly flowing mane, When with exulting cries big wave on wave Rolls with a mighty sweep o'er a slain foeman's grave. Roll on, great torrent, with triumphal song, Through caverned cliff, through rock and mountain roll; Force all the barriers that around thee throng, Thou know'st th' eternal ocean for thy goal. Hence thine impetuous rush, and roar, and roll; Hence thy wild heavings as thou flow'st amain; Hence thy far-reaching and tempestuous call For stream and river, brook and rill and rain, Thou on thy Titan breast would'st carry to the main. Roll on! The heavens are with thee, for they fling Their lovely rainbows round thy gleaming brow; Rainbows, that like the crown of heroes cling For ever round thee with their magic glow; Or like the wondrous halo which will flow Around the martyr's head; for those sweet hues, They hover round thee in thy weal and woe, Like love, that with its tender tears bedews And heals the bitter pain of ev'ry earthly bruise! Roll on! with a white heat upon thy way! Lo yon, a little tiny woodland bird Flits on wet wing through all the surf and spray, And settles on a jagged rock unscared, Round whose grim base a billowy din is heard; A bright amazèd ray from its black eyes It darts around, and listens not afeared-- Then diamond-powdered to the woods it flies, And sings to forest ears the mighty melodies. E'en thus thou art! for that Titanic stream But a material symbol was of thee! A dim reflection of thy being did seem Thou man, high-souled as son of man can be! Into whose mind, vast, noble, pure, and free, Flash awful revelations light-like in: Unveiling spiritual laws to thee; Great central truths, that glow all life within, That move the nations on, and make the planets spin. Thou hero! for through prejudice's walls, That lock up earth against the quick'ning floods, And 'gainst the fresh regenerating falls Of young ideas, that in sprouting mood Seethe like new wine, stirred by the grape's hot blood, In the old bottles; thou, oh, brave and bold! Didst force thy way, crushing night's deathly brood, As George the sainted, in the days of old-- The dragon, who beneath his footstep writhing roll'd. Dragons, alas! still darken the green earth, War with the good, the beautiful, the wise; From gulfs of ancient night they've issued forth, And with their shadowy wings blot out the skies; Old creeds that gasp forth curses, tyrannies All foul with feeding on their own decay, Old cramping forms, and crippling social lies, Whose venomous breathing with corruption slay, Like loathsome rattlesnakes that glut upon their prey. But thou assail'st them, fearless, though they spurt Their reeking poison in thy smarting face; And careless of thy bruises and thy hurt, Thou still press'st on with an undaunted pace; A bold path-finder for the coming race, And in thy faith, strong as the morning star, Piercing the welt'ring clouds with lucent rays; Thy voice, a light above time's din and war, Proclaimeth to mankind the rosy dawn afar! Thou martyr! for the world it knows thee not, Scoffs at thee, scorns thee, rails and laughs and sneers; With barbèd darts embitters thy hard lot, As oft of old to prophets and to seers; With its bleared sight the veil it cannot pierce, And see the future rise upon the days! Thus persecutes with hatred blind and fierce, And, 'stead of crowns plucked from the living bays, It binds thy brows with thorns--thorns that will turn to rays! Still from thy heart's vast deeps the shouts arise, And swell along, a rushing lava stream-- A lava stream of burning melodies, Shaking thy brethren from a sluggish dream, To strive and be the thing they fain would seem; With thee, false custom's cramping bounds to leap, To trust the rising of the virgin beam, And at thy call through death and danger sweep Towards the free, the pure, the renovating deep. And still around thee, thro' the battle's roar, Shimmers in splendour and unfading bloom, Brighter than moonlight on the seething shore, Sweeter than roses clust'ring round the tomb, Born of the struggle with the fatal gloom; A subtle gleam, fleeting 'mid tears and ruth, A dewy prophecy of days to come, When one great rainbow, love, and light and truth, Encircle will the world with an eternal youth! But I, behold, like to the tiny thing, The forest bird; I feel a magic spell, That draws me strongly on uncertain wing Away from all the violet woodland smell, To hear the words that from thy spirit well: Enchained, entranced, oh! let me list, while flame And dazzling light in billows round me swell; Then flying back to shades from whence I came I will heroic deeds, prophetic words, proclaim.
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